Updating Results

What can you do with an accounting degree other than being an accountant?

Ian Cooper

Career Counsellor
You’ve studied hard for your accounting degree, with a plan to find a position at a firm like KPMG, Deloitte, or BDO. But come graduation, you start to wonder if a traditional accounting job is the right fit.

Photo by StellrWeb on Unsplash

Maybe you’re a little more outgoing than some or you like to vary your workflow between different kinds of tasks. Maybe you want to learn more about other aspects of business and finance or pursue a career with higher earning potential. Maybe you just don’t want to spend all day staring at spreadsheets or filling out tax paperwork. 

Whatever your reasoning, rest assured: you’ve got options. Earning an accounting degree doesn’t lock you into a single career path, but instead opens doors to roles that may be a better fit for your passions or personality.

Plus, many of the same accounting giants you may have already planned to apply to offer a ton of other roles in professional services like consulting, mergers and acquisitions, and strategy. You won’t even have to change your list of top employers — just your area of specialisation. 

How do we know this? We anonymously surveyed thousands of grads to find out what those with accounting degrees were doing other than working as accountants. Almost 40 per cent were, no surprise, working in the banking and financial industry in one capacity or another — whether as bankers, traders, analysts, or something else. 

We used that information, plus an assessment of the most common graduate job titles reported on our survey, to come up with a list highlighting some of the options out there. You can use this as a starting point for considering your own career path!

Note: some of the job titles we’ve found in our data are extremely broad, like analyst, finance graduate, or associate. On our list below, we’ve given more specific examples of careers that can tie into those categories.

Most common non-accounting fields for accounting grads, based on our survey of 1280 graduates.

Most common job titles for accounting grads not working as accountants.

Check out these 10 common non-accounting careers for accounting grads

1. Business analyst 

Photo by Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Business analysts use data to help companies improve the quality of their decision-making. This role is similar to traditional accounting in that you’ll be heavily focused on numbers, but with an eye toward helping an organisation work more effectively.

In practice, this means you’ll do things like help develop an effective structure for a business, assist with budgeting, financial modelling, and forecasting needs, and grow your understanding of long-term strategy. You’ll need to work with large datasets and break down all that information into a clear picture that executives can use to guide their thinking.

You can expect to earn a starting salary of around $60,000 with little to no annual bonus. You’ll likely work 40-50 hours a week, although during busy periods that number can move upwards. 

An accounting grad who works at KordaMentha as a business analyst has good things to say about the experience. “​​The business development opportunities are unparalleled,” he writes. “The unique and interesting marketing and social events that you have exposure to are definitely an added bonus.”

2. Trader

Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash

As an accounting grad, your knowledge of finance can give you a leg up on moving into trading. As an entry-level trader working for a hedge fund, trading firm, or investment bank like Goldman Sachs, you’ll be given a front-row seat to witness how money moves and multiplies.

At first, your job will involve a heavy dose of shadowing senior or more experienced traders. You’ll be expected to learn how they operate and watch them execute trades. You’ll also do a lot of research — assessing the market, digging into new investment opportunities, developing growth strategies, and writing reports. Perform well though, and you may begin making trades of your own within a few months. 

Compensation tends to be strong. You might make roughly $80,000 to $85,000 in starting salary, but you can also expect to receive a bonus of up to $60,000 if you do well. You’ll have to work hard for it though, as 60 to 70-hour work weeks are common.

One accounting grad who now works for Amsterdam-based Flow Traders reports that the perks can be considerable. “Flow Traders allows employees to develop and deploy their ideas extremely quickly,” he says, while also noting that his office provides free lunch, snacks, an open bar after work, and all-expense-paid international travel to places like Sweden, Dominican Republic, and Ibiza.
3. Management trainee 
Many employers offer management training programs that can give select grads the chance to fast-track their climb up the corporate ladder. 

Score a spot in one, and you’ll get an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of your company. You may get to explore different departments — like project manager, analyst, or risk advisor — all with an eye towards finding your strongest niche and then giving you the tools to be a long-term leader in that area. In many of these roles, your accounting background will give you an eye for detail and an understanding of how to navigate complex information that will prove invaluable.

Now, just because you’ve got management in your title doesn’t mean your paycheck will impress. While some grads in management trainee programs report earning close to $90,000, more describe their pay as closer to $60,000 — and some say they earn less than that. Hours can vary too: Depending on your specific role, you might work anywhere between 40-60 hours a week.

A grad who entered a management training program at Qantas shares that her role is focused on monitoring and compliance, which puts her accounting skills to good use. She says she can sometimes feel frustrated with the way her high-profile company faces the “biassed perception of the public, plus complaints from family and friends,” but that she enjoys what she describes as a “fair and safe work environment with diverse career opportunities.”

4. Consultant

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

As so many top accounting firms are also consulting firms, the latter can be a smooth transition for someone trained in the former. 

Similar to strategic advisors, consultants work with companies to help them improve their performance both internally and in the marketplace. But while a strategic advisor is an in-house counsellor to executives, consultants serve outside clients, which means that the latter tend to see more variety than the former.

You’ll likely join a team of consultants assigned to advise one or more clients at a time. Your team will meet with client stakeholders to discuss the problem you’re there to solve, conduct interviews, crunch numbers, write reports, and present your findings. 

As a grad, you can expect to spend time supporting senior team members, answering client questions, assisting with interview sessions and analysing data. Much of what you do will be reviewed by managers or teammates before being shown to clients.

You’ll work close to 50 hours a week. Starting salary may be uninspiring, in the $65,000 range with no bonus. However, consulting can be much more lucrative if you’re willing to put in the time needed to climb the ladder.

For one grad who works as a consultant at EY, the overall experience has helped boost her knowledge base. “The focus seems to be on giving the employees skills for their careers,” she notes, “rather than just making a profit for the company.” 

5. Policy officer

So far, our list has focused on jobs that are primarily in the private sector (although consultants, for example, often work with governments or NGO clients as well). If you’re interested in public service, though, you may want to consider pursuing a career as a policy officer.

For those excited by digging into the details of how governments can help those they serve, this can be an appealing path. As a policy officer, you’ll help design and implement government policies by doing research, working with stakeholders to identify problem areas and develop solutions, and negotiating with other government officials. You may work directly for an elected official or be part of a government agency, but either way, over time, you’ll have the opportunity to make a real impact on your community.

Policy roles offer a better starting salary than some of the other options on this list. Many grads report earning up to $75,000 while typically working no more than 40 hours a week. However, working in public service doesn’t give you the same long-term salary growth that you could see in some private sector jobs.

We surveyed one grad who scored a coveted position working as a policy officer for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. She shared that overall, she finds the PM & C to be a “great agency to work for,” where she is getting the opportunity to learn a lot. She was less enthused about some of her colleagues, who she described as “not abiding by the APS values and code.”

6. Strategic advisor

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

As a strategic advisor, you’ll be charged with giving, well, strategic advice to your company’s senior leadership team. Big picture, this means that you’ll help create plans for growth and assist with business development. 

Of course, as a grad, you won’t be leading the charge. But you may have the opportunity to jump into doing high-impact work side by side with senior executives almost right away. You may be asked to write white papers analysing trends in international markets or among competitors and make recommendations to help your company gain an advantage. 

You could also be more internally focused with a mandate to assess operations, interview team members, and create reports aimed at helping your team improve performance.

Expect a considerable workload that often keeps you in the office for 50 to 60 hours a week. For your trouble, though, starting salary is usually above average and often in the $80,000 to $85,000 range. You may see a $10,000 to $15,000 bonus as well. 

One grad who works as a strategic advisor for Suncorp Group says that you should “expect to be thrown into the deep end” and to have to learn as you go. But she also observes that you’ll have a ton of “opportunities for development across various financial services,” and that diverse teams, flexible working arrangements, and appealing company cultures are common.

7. Digital marketer

Photo by Diggity Marketing on Unsplash

As a digital marketer, you’d help companies promote themselves to potential clients or customers. Gaining a foothold in this field can give you lots of options down the road, depending on your strengths and areas of interest.

If you’re taking a graduate position in digital marketing, you’ll likely get to explore different aspects of the field — direct response copy, content writing, SEO, ad campaigns, social media, strategy, and more. You’ll get to learn how different aspects of what’s called the marketing funnel come together to drive traffic to a business’s website and convince customers to take action to buy that company’s products or services. Here, your accountant’s brain will come in handy, as successful marketing campaigns often involve using mountains of data to figure out what customers want and how to sell it to them.

While some grads we surveyed report earning as much as $80,000 a year, most salaries in the marketing arena start at closer to $65,000. Workweeks are typically in the 40-50 hour range.

For one accounting grad who took a graduate marketing position with Optus, the role has been energising and given her the chance to spread her wings. “I've got the freedom to be responsible over my own areas of focus,” she says, “as well as have the flexibility to be involved in other projects that are out of my remit.”

8. Area manager

Given that almost 20 per cent of grads we surveyed are working in the retail sector, it’s no surprise that their number doesn’t just include analysts or strategists working at corporate headquarters, but those who are based in the field as well. As an area manager, you would be an on-the-ground leader responsible for overseeing the performance of several retail stores.

Becoming an area manager is one of the fastest ways to move into a management role at the beginning of your career (your degree will help you jump the queue here). Typically, you’ll have several store managers who report directly to you. You’ll also be indirectly responsible for as many as dozens of individual employees at the store level. Your job will be to make sure that all of the branches in your area meet KPIs, and may include everything from hiring, promoting, and firing to project management and auditing.

You’ll earn a good starting salary for your trouble. Even fresh grads can earn up to $100,000 a year in an area manager role, with more experienced managers seeing pay as high as $150,000 and above. Hours do tend to be long, though — most grads we surveyed reported working 50-60 hours a week, with some logging as many as 70. 

One accounting grad who works as an area manager for Aldi shares that she finds her work to be “challenging every day, with a never-ending learning curve.” However, she loves working with people, plus the responsibility and freedom that her position affords her.

9. Account manager

Account managers are the client-facing front of a business. While this position can sometimes involve a sales role, your primary job will be to keep existing clients happy and represent their interests to the rest of your team.

Typically, you’ll spend a big part of your day in client meetings, writing emails, or taking phone calls. You’ll also work closely with project managers or department leads within your own team to make sure that your clients are getting the attention that they need and are eager to stick around. You’ll likely be responsible for a roster of 8 or more clients (depending on your sector) so your accountant's sense of order and ability to keep lots of details straight will be major pluses.

Pay can start as high as $75,000, which is above average for many grad jobs. You may also enjoy the possibility of earning bonuses based on client retention, which can make your salary even more appealing. Most account managers we surveyed reported working 40-50 hours a week, although a few spent as many as 60 in the office.

An account manager role with Unilever has worked out well for one grad we surveyed. She says that her day is mostly spent “managing relationships with customers, owning the plans and sales of each of my accounts, and forecasting and planning promotions.” Her workload can be heavy at times, she notes, but she loves the responsibility and the feeling of making a real difference.

10. HR generalist

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

HR generalists are do-it-all workhorses who help keep a team running smoothly. As a fresh grad in the role, you might quickly find yourself working on everything from hiring (reviewing resumes, conducting interviews, and giving input on candidate selection) to answering payroll questions to supporting a healthy company culture.

Typically, an HR role draws upon a range of skills. You’ll need that detail-oriented accounting mind in order to navigate issues of company policy, employment law, and salary, but you’ll also need some serious people chops. (Humans are a big part of human resources, after all.) You may be a first point of contact for both potential new hires who are eager to impress and current team members who need to sort out a problem — and you’ll want to feel capable of deftly handling either.

Starting salaries in HR tend to average around $65,000. You’ll likely work roughly 40 hours a week — a lighter schedule than some. Since the role has no client-facing aspect, you’ll avoid the seasonal ups and downs that can add strain to some other positions.

One accounting grad who now works as an HR officer at the Bureau of Meteorology is enthusiastic about his career so far. “The people are great,” he says, sharing that he specialises in diversity and inclusion relating to indigenous employment. “Like all government departments there is some unnecessary red tape,” he adds, “but “everyone is very helpful and the atmosphere is laid back.”

Still not inspired!?

Fear not! Although we’ve offered up a few logical next steps, there’s really no limit to where you could take your career from here. Here’s a few ideas to get you thinking! 

Finance jobs
I could be a…

  • Stockbroker
  • Retail banker
  • Finance analyst
  • Financial advisor
  • Investor relations specialist
  • Investment banker
  • Mortgage broker

Business and entrepreneurial jobs
I could be a…

  • Entrepreneur
  • Business advisor
  • Business manager
  • Manager
  • Commercial director
  • Change analyst
  • Sales specialist
  • Management consultant
  • Data scientist
  • Economist

Other jobs
I could be a…

  • Human resource manager
  • Training and development specialist
  • Business development manager
  • Finance journalist
  • Business writer
  • Fundraising manager
  • Grants officer
  • Supply chain manager
  • Procurement manager
  • Brand manager
  • Cost estimator
  • Contract specialist

Changing the direction of your career doesn’t necessarily mean more painful and expensive years at uni. You’re already a highly qualified individual. It might require a sideways step as you focus on retraining, but your trajectory will be much faster if you love what you do. Promise.

Say yes to the road less taken

Nothing is set in stone. Just because you’ve studied accounting doesn’t mean you have to become a traditional accountant. 

If you find yourself drawn towards a nontraditional career path, use this list as a jumping off point. You’ve got a sharp accountant’s mind with an eye for detail. What else can you do with that?

Think about your skill set, interests, and personality. Do any of the roles above call to you? Do any of them seem especially unappealing? Either instinct can be useful information that may help give you clarity when making your first career choices. 

Now all that’s left to do is jump in the water and see what happens next!

Start your search the easy way

Prosple Australia makes it simple to find the newest listings from top employers.

  • Job postings only for fresh grads and students
  • Unlimited free applications
  • Fresh opportunities posted daily
  • Tailored searches that highlight your chosen sector and qualifications

View live openings for non-accounting roles that are hiring accounting grads today!