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Accounting and Bookkeeping

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Accounting and Bookkeeping sector, which is one component of the Financial Services industry, and includes accounting, accounting administration, clerical accounting and bookkeeping.

Workers in the Accounting and Bookkeeping sector provide a diverse range of services from traditional accounting and bookkeeping to payroll, auditing, processing taxes and financial reporting. The job roles are required in all industries in the Australian economy and may be provided from within an organisation or procured as specialist advice.

Vocational training can prepare workers for a variety of roles, usually process orientated, as Certified Accountants currently require a higher education degree, though there are VET-pathways to this qualification.

Nationally recognised training for Accounting and Bookkeeping is delivered under the FNS – Financial Services Training Package.

For information on other financial services, see the Financial Services cluster page.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

As detailed employment level and projection information is unavailable for Accounting Services, employment levels for Accounting Clerks and Bookkeepers have been used as an indication of the VET-related employment in this sector.

Employment levels for Accounting Clerks and Bookkeepers were variable between 2001 and 2021, with lows in 2005 and 2016. In 2021, there were 281,300 workers in this occupation, which is projected to decrease to 273,200 by 2025.

Accountants make up the largest proportion of the Accounting Services industry, with over half (51%) of all workers in this industry in this occupation. Bookkeepers also make up a sizable proportion of this industry, at 15%. An increase in employment is projected for Accountants (19%), General Clerks (13%), Accounting Clerks (5%), and Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers (3%) by 2025. A small decrease in employment is projected for Bookkeepers (2%) by 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Accounting and Bookkeeping-related qualifications have declined between 2016 and 2020. Enrolments peaked in 2016 at approximately 57,330 and fell to around 34,980 in 2020. Program completions fell each year between 2016 and 2020 except for 2018. There were roughly 9,410 completions in 2020.

For enrolments during 2020, training in Accounting and Bookkeeping-related qualifications took place at the certificate III level and above, with the largest number of enrolments at the certificate IV level. There were more enrolments in accounting than in accounts administration or bookkeeping. The main intended occupation was Bookkeeper, followed by Accounts Clerk and Accountant (General) (note: to be a Certified Accountant, a bachelor or higher degree is required).

In 2020, Accounting and Bookkeeping-related qualifications were mainly delivered by TAFE institutes (51%) and private training providers (41%). More than half of all training was funded by Commonwealth and state funding (59%), followed by international fee for service (21%) and domestic fee for service (19%). Funding sources for subjects was varied, though it was more common for training delivered by community education providers and private training providers to be funded through international fee for service. The largest proportion of students in Accounting and Bookkeeping-related qualifications were from New South Wales (27%), Victoria (22%) and overseas (21%).

More than two fifths of all training was delivered in New South Wales (41%), followed by Victoria with 27%.

Apprentice and trainee commencements in Accounting and Bookkeeping-related qualifications fell between 2012 and 2019 before rising sharply in 2020. Between 2019 and 2020, commencements more than doubled from 200 to 450. Apprentice and trainee completions fell overall between 2013 and 2020. Apprentices and trainees in this sector in 2020 had an intended occupation of Bookkeeper (79%) or Accounts Clerk (21%). In 2020, New South Wales reported the largest proportion of Accounting and Bookkeeping-related apprentices and trainees, with 47%, followed by Western Australia with 16%, and Victoria with 14%.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER's Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Financial Services IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast suggests the top priority skills for the Accounting and Bookkeeping sector include health and safety skills, teamwork and communication, and problem solving skills. This is in addition to sector specific technical and multi-disciplinary skills. The top three generic skills focus primarily on soft skills including customer service, critical thinking, and learning agility. Data analysis is rated as the fourth most important generic skill for the sector.

According to the job vacancy data, the top generic skills requested by employers were communication skills and problem solving. The most advertised occupations were Accountants followed by Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers. The top employers were Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and KPMG International. The top locations for job advertisements were New South Wales and Victoria.

According to the above Skills Forecast, Accountants and Bookkeepers need specific technical skills relating to:

  • Processing financial transactions
  • Assisting in formulating budgetary and accounting policies
  • Administering subsidiary accounts and ledgers
  • Operating a computerised accounting system
  • Establishing and maintaining payroll systems.

Technology driven automation of tasks will shape the employment outlook across occupations in the Accounting and Bookkeeping sector. There is expected to be a decreased demand for Accounting Clerks, Bookkeepers, and other administrative roles in the sector.

The Skills Forecast highlights that new technologies are also bringing incremental changes into the sector that require workers to be skilled in new tools and techniques in the immediate term. Examples of these include Web and cloud-based accounting systems such as Software as a Service ('SaaS') systems, allowing for real time collaboration between clients and Accountants, and accounting software, such as Xero, that facilitates a paperless system with more automation of tasks and higher accuracy.

The Bankwest Future of Business: Focus on Professional Services 2019 release states that accounting services continue to be one of the more consistent sectors in Australia, with employment, revenue, and wages all increasing at a steady rate. The report reveals that integrating technology into business processes to drive productivity is the biggest focus for accounting businesses. Accounting firms are increasingly seeking to streamline workflow and processes and leverage technology to make the firm more profitable and increase its value.

The report highlights a number of areas where significant opportunities and challenges lie for accounting services including:

  • The government will roll out its seven-year plan to restructure personal income tax, meaning personal Accountants and Lawyers will be far more active in the tax advice space as the population attempts to grasp these changes.
  • Cloud-based technology for accounting has taken market precedence, as more firms are buying into the efficiency, cost-reduction and ease that cloud-based accounting provides.
  • Artificial intelligence is also impacting the accounting sector, with tasks such as payroll, tax, audits, and even banking anticipated to be completely automated by 2020.
  • Cryptocurrency has the potential to completely disrupt the processes and general mechanisms of accounting.

The Benchmarking Group report, The Silent Disruption of the Accounting Industry, reiterates many of the above industry insights. It argues that disruption has not (yet) impacted the core role of the industry to provide accounting services such as auditing of accounting records, preparing financial statements, preparing tax returns and bookkeeping, because Financial Technology (FinTech) has always been designed for Accountants to do 'accounting'. Therefore, the accounting industry has required minimal reinvention and remains a necessary obligation for Australians. However, despite being resilient to change over the past decade, the Benchmarking Group forecast that administration and repetitive positions within the accounting industry will decline over the next five years.

In the article Educational Implications and the Changing Role of Accountants: a Conceptual Approach to Accounting Education, the authors state that professional accrediting bodies and accounting education reviews have long expressed concerns about student capabilities and learning outcomes, including the ability to apply knowledge and make reasoned judgements. In this study the authors report on a new design that uses a web of threshold concepts to guide curriculum development, with a focus on students' active learning designed to encourage students to critically engage with threshold concepts in accounting. While the study reports on a single Australian university trial, the methods could be replicated in other educational settings to improve student learning and outcomes.

In the article Future-proofing Accounting Professionals: Ensuring Graduate Employability and Future Readiness, the authors identify 24 capabilities, including six considered essential requirements for every professional seeking to work in accounting, finance, and related work roles:

  • Communication
  • Ethics and integrity
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Critical thinking and judgement
  • Adaptive mindset
  • Collaboration and relationships.

The research findings provide evidence that these capabilities, in contrast to recent reports suggesting employment opportunities for accounting graduates are in decline, can create opportunities for sustainable careers.

Acuity’s What Skills do Accountants of the Future Really Need?, argues that accounting professionals have an excellent base in terms of their financial skills but the skills they increasingly need as they progress their careers are quite different. Technological literacy is critical, but finance does not work in a silo, so two critical skills required are collaboration and influence. Collaboration skills help accountants gain information, and influencing skills enable them to achieve something with it.

CommBank’s Accounting Insights Report: The Culture of Learning and Future Skills Development, identifies the skills and capabilities that decision-makers seek to secure to ensure their organisation is future-fit. It highlights the importance of better balancing training and development between the organisation's needs and employees' desire to progress in their career. The report looks at the culture underlying staff training and development among accounting firms and the approaches that firms take to securing the skills they need. It also assesses the range of training programs offered and their effectiveness. An examination of what innovation-active firms are doing differently illustrates the value that accrues from getting workplace learning right.

The RMIT Online and Deloitte Access Economics report Ready, Set, Upskill: Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow, reminds us that economists, politicians and futurists have been talking about ‘the future of work’ for the better part of a decade. In August 2020, there were still an estimated 114,000 Bookkeepers employed in Australia – an occupation which, like Accounts Clerk, was predicted to be automated or replaced by technology. This has not happened as rapidly as forecast, in part, because businesses have been slow to change. And interestingly, the National Skills Commission’s Skills Priority List: June 2021, lists the occupations of Bookkeeper and Accounts Clerk as having ‘Moderate’ future demand. Research has not identified any significant difficulty filling vacancies for Bookkeepers or Accounts Clerks across Australia, except in New South Wales where there is a shortage of Bookkeepers.

COVID-19 impact

According to the CommBank Accounting Market Pulse, the Australian Accounting sector is experiencing renewed confidence in business conditions and ramping up growth opportunities, despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The uplift in confidence follows perceptions of business conditions reaching an all-time low in May 2020. Accounting firms continue to play a vital role in helping businesses navigate operating conditions as Australia emerges from the pandemic. This is fuelling strong demand which in turn has underpinned a dramatic rebound in confidence. The report found more than 70% of firms will be putting greater emphasis on diversifying their offering beyond traditional accounting services as they prepare for increased activity in tax consulting and compliance, as well as property advisory and cybersecurity consulting.

The investments that firms have been making in their people and in technology served them well during the upheaval of the pandemic. Accounting services remain in high demand so the battle for talent has only intensified. Firms continue to face challenges in finding and retaining strong talent, with all sizes of firms seeking to increase their recruitment activity at all levels of their businesses. The report found leading firms are more likely to be challenged when it comes to recruiting new employees. Those leading the market out of the pandemic are more intently focused on attracting and retaining good people and are investing in engagement and development initiatives accordingly. The research also indicates that firms are fast-tracking their plans for growth, hence the need to surround themselves with good people. These accelerated growth plans are also contributing to expectations of industry consolidation. Large firms, in particular, see acquisitions as a way to grow capabilities and staff numbers while mid-sized firms are seeking acquisitions that will expand their geographic footprint.

The Accounting sector is also projected to grow over the next five years by IBISWorld’s Accounting Services in Australia: Market Research Report. Growth in business confidence, private capital expenditure and the number of businesses is anticipated to increase demand for Accounting sector services as Australia recovers from the pandemic. Technological advancements are anticipated to improve efficiency and value-added services over the period.

CPA Australia has developed a suite of resources, guides and information to support accounting staff and their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and Skills Forecasts

Accounting and bookkeeping IRC

 

Relevant research

Accounting Insights Report: The Culture of Learning and Future Skills Development – CommBank

Accounting Services in Australia: Market Research Report – IBISWorld

Bankwest Future of Business: Focus on Professional Services – Bankwest

CommBank Accounting Market Pulse – CommBank

COVID-19: Impact, Resources and Support – CPA Australia

Educational Implications and the Changing Role of Accountants: A Conceptual Approach to Accounting Education – Greg van Mourik and Carla L. Wilkin

Future-proofing Accounting Professionals: Ensuring Graduate Employability and Future Readiness – Marcus Bowles, Samrat Ghosh and Lisa Thomas

Ready, Set, Upskill: Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow – RMIT Online and Deloitte Access Economics

Skills Priority List: June 2021 – National Skills Commission

The Silent Disruption of the Accounting Industry – Benchmarking Group

What Computer Skills Do Accountants Need? – EWM Accountants & Business Advisors

What Skills do Accountants of the Future Really Need? – Acuity

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

Association of Taxation and Management Accountants (ATMA)

Australian Bookkeepers Association (ABA)

CPA Australia

Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB)

Institute of Public Accountants (IPA)

 

Employee associations

Finance Sector Union (FSU)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • Accountants
    • Accounting Clerks
    • Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers
    • Bookkeepers
    • General Clerks.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 - EQ08, viewed 1 August 2021
https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021/EQ08.xlsx
 

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 & 4 digit Accounting Clerks and Bookkeepers, and Accountants, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by 4 digit Accounting Services Industry, and 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

 

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training packages or qualifications:

  • FNS and FNB Financial Services Training Packages
  • Accounting
    • FNS30310 - Certificate III in Accounts Administration
    • FNB30302 - Certificate III in Financial Services (Accounts Clerical)
    • FNS30304 - Certificate III in Financial Services (Accounts Clerical)
    • FNS40610 - Certificate IV in Accounting
    • FNS40611 - Certificate IV in Accounting
    • FNS40615 - Certificate IV in Accounting
    • FNB40602 - Certificate IV in Financial Services (Accounting)
    • FNS40604 - Certificate IV in Financial Services (Accounting)
    • FNB50202 - Diploma of Accounting
    • FNB50299 - Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS50204 - Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS50210 - Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS50215 - Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS50217 - Diploma of Accounting
    • FNB60299 - Advanced Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS60204 - Advanced Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS60210 - Advanced Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS60215 - Advanced Diploma of Accounting
    • FNS60217 - Advanced Diploma of Accounting.
  • Accounting and Bookkeeping
    • FNS40217 - Certificate IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping
  • Accounts Administration
    • FNS30311 - Certificate III in Accounts Administration
    • FNS30315 - Certificate III in Accounts Administration
    • FNS30317 - Certificate III in Accounts Administration.
  • Bookkeeping
    • FNS40210 - Certificate IV in Bookkeeping
    • FNS40211 - Certificate IV in Bookkeeping
    • FNS40215 - Certificate IV in Bookkeeping
    • FNS40207 - Certificate IV in Financial Services (Bookkeeping).

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

FNS and FNB Financial Services Training Packages apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills/Occupations
    • 6932 Accounting Services.
  • Employment
    • 2211 Accountants
    • 2212 Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers
    • 2247 Management and Organisation Analysts
    • 2223 Financial Investment Advisers and Managers
    • 2713 Solicitors
    • 6932 Accounting Services.
Updated: 25 Oct 2021
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