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Commercial arena - Three Accounting Courses
October, 13th 2009

A mountain of debt, a sea of corporate laws, and in their midst, the ebb and flow of the Indian stock market the commercial world is truly a man-made wonder. However, for the vast team of professionals, who systematically dissect these figures and laws, and run this hub of activity, its all in a days work. The education environment that governs the commercial arena of these professionals comprises three major professional courses Chartered Accountancy (CA), Company Secretary (CS) and Cost and Works Accountancy (CWA).

Chartered Accountancy (CA)
Perhaps, its the fat pay cheque that CAs can command, or the idea of a prestigious professional degree, but the fact is, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) has always successfully drawn young students, fresh out of class XII, back into the world of academics in less than two months. What makes an ideal CA candidate? Nandita Parekh, Partner, A J Shah and Co, Chartered Accountants, enumerates, To me, an ideal CA student must have passion, an interest in understanding the economic environment, and a commitment to render excellent professional service, wherever they choose to work.

Work wise: In essence, a chartered accountant is involved with the work of financial reporting, and for this purpose, his job is to scrutinise financial transactions and records. A CA in the role of an auditor can carry out three main branches of audit work statutory audit, tax audit and internal audit. While traditionally, CAs have set up practice or joined firms that were involved in audit work, currently, the scope of a CAs job profile has expanded into other financial services.

However, many believe that students with an MBA degree are better suited than CAs for other financial services. Still, Parekh, who is a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) and also has an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management Studies, Chicago, disagrees. She asserts, I think a CA brings greater content knowledge and disciplined work methodology to the table, whereas an MBA graduate brings breadth and flair. There is room for both of these in the financial services sector.

Course connect: The course, which is intensely gruelling, covers a mix of subjects that includes advanced accountancy, law, audit, taxation, cost accounting, financial management and information technology. However, one of its unique features is its in-built provision of a three-year internship period, known as the articleship, which prompts a student to go beyond the realm of academic knowledge. Practising chartered accountants consider the articleship a useful tool to mould future employees, and students also give this provision a thumbs-up, as it allows them to test their knowledge in a protected, but practical environment.

Test talk: The course stretches to roughly four years, which include three levels of examinations:
The entrance level: Common Proficiency Test
The inter CA level: Integrated Professional Competency Examination
The final CA examination: Money matters: A charted accountant can expect anything between Rs 3,60,000 per annum to Rs 6,00,000 per annum, when he/she initially starts out.

Company Secretary (CS)

The company secretary course is a career option that commerce students with a legal bend of mind, can consider. The CS course involves working on various legal compliances to be obtained by a company. It is a statutory requirement for a company, with a paid up share capital above Rs five crore to appoint a company secretary, ensuring that theres never a dearth of jobs for these professionals.

However, Manish Sheth, a final CS student, cautions those who take up the course, in addition to another professional courses like CA, saying, Some students tend to register for the course with the hope that it will beef up their resume. While the CS degree is rather valuable on its own, if you do study for a CA, as well as a CS, its not going to score you major points on the job front. The reason for this is that both courses are rather different from the core. Thus, it would be advisable to pursue an add-on course that branches out into either one of the fields.

Work wise: A CS is expected to look into the legal aspect of a companys functioning. Statutory requirements, in compliance with the Companies Act, have to be met by a company at all times, and a CS is appointed to ensure the same. A CS also forms a link between the shareholders and board of directors, by ensuring timely holding of meetings and appropriate documentation of the same. His/her work also comes into focus at the time of listing of a company. During the course, a CS student is tested on language skills. However, emphasis is on a candidates knowledge of legal language, and thus, a student with average communication skills need not cross out the CS route for his career.

Course connect: The course comprises three levels foundation, executive and professional level. A student, who has completed his graduation, can skip the foundation and begin from the executive level. The course also involves 15 months of practical training, where one is trained under a practising CS and gathers an understanding of the nuances of the work involved.

Money matters: A qualified CS, at the start of the career, can expect a package above Rs 3,60,000 per annum.

Cost and works accounting (CWA)

One of the most dreaded subjects for students pursuing a career in the commercial sector is cost accounting, thus, those who choose to make a career out of their expertise in the subject are very few, and hence, highly sought-after. Nisha Nair, a final-year cost accountancy student, reveals, The number of practising cost accountants is very small in comparison to those practising CA or CS. This is probably because many students prefer to switch to core accountancy, rather than continue to practice as cost accountants. However, with the course structure now including a three-year practical training programme, students have begun to understand the course in a practical environment, and are pursuing the course with a view to practising the profession.

Work wise: Cost accounting essentially involves breaking down the various costs that go into a particular product or service, and arriving at the final cost. A cost accountants views are prudent at the time of formulating an organisations budget and feasibility reports. A cost accountant could also set up his own practice; his clientele would include private and public companies, industrial, commercial and service undertakings.

Course connect: The course, which comprises three levels the foundation, intermediate and final levels prepares students in subjects like cost and management accounts, commercial and industrial law, audit, direct and indirect taxation and information systems.

However, unlike other professional courses, there isnt any particularly well-known coaching class to guide students, and therefore, they often rely on their seniors and practising cost and works accountants to help with coursework.

Money matters: A qualified cost and works/management accountant with sufficient work experience can expect a starting package of anything above Rs 2,50,000 per annum.

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