Are chartered accountant jobs easy or difficult

After the difficult test comes the career!

“There is no such thing as a typical work week. Today I'm with the client in Frankfurt, tomorrow in the office in Munich. The activities also change constantly. That's pretty exciting and the daily grind is a foreign word. «Bernd Schlapka raves about his job.

The 28-year-old works as a manager in the Audit - Middle Market department at Deloitte in Munich. He has achieved what many a business student or graduate dream of: Bernd Schlapka is an auditor.

The main task of an auditor - the name suggests it - is the business audit. This is necessary because many companies, for example stock corporations, are obliged to do so and have not only economic but also social responsibility towards their stakeholders. "The range of activities of auditors is very broad," explains Erik Barndt, tax advisor and auditor at the consulting firm Axis.

"The focus is not only on final audits, but also audit assignments, profitability and credit checks, company evaluations and advice on all tax and business issues."

In plain language: auditors are not only auditors, they are also allowed to act as tax advisors. This means that they have the right to represent their clients before the tax authorities and courts. In addition, auditors advise companies on business matters, for example by accompanying company transactions for which the financial situation of the merger or takeover candidate must be explored in advance. Like hardly any other professional group, auditors get a deep look into the company and are in close contact with employees, department heads, board members or supervisory boards. Depending on the size of the company, the main areas of activity are distributed differently, as Manfred Hamannt, executive board member of the Institute of Auditors in Germany (IDW), adds:

»In the so-called 'Big Four companies', ie Deloitte, PwC, KPMG and Ernst & Young, the audit, advice and taxes are organized separately. The clients are often large international companies. Working in a smaller company, on the other hand, is more generalized and more national. Your clients - mostly medium-sized companies - expect personal advice in different areas. "

Career path as an auditor - long and rocky!

Auditors. The way there is - let's just say it as it is - long and rocky. There are several ways to get to the finish line safely. One leads through a completed degree. The subject does not initially play a role, but many companies still prefer business administration graduates.

“We are mainly looking for graduates in economics,” confirms Gerd Eggemann, auditor and assurance business partner for human capital at the consulting company PwC, “but career changers also have good opportunities in the consulting area. Newcomers get the best insights when they first complete an internship and then start straight away. "

However, it takes time until the auditor exam: bachelors have to work as examination assistants for at least four years before they can take the auditor exam. But there is another way: "Do your master's and only then start your professional life," advises Eckhard Johanning, Head of Human Resources at the auditing company Curacon. If you come to an auditing firm with a master’s degree, you only have to wait three years before you can take the long-awaited exam. Decisive plus point: With the choice of certain master’s courses, which are mentioned in §8a of the auditing regulations, three of the seven exams required for the title of auditor are already written during the course. But it doesn't matter which degree is on the certificate - for prospective auditors who have just graduated from university, starting as an examination assistant is always "a jump into deep water," as Bernd Schlapka confirms. According to the whole gray unit theory, work on the job is urgently needed, after all, practical experience is an absolute must for prospective auditors. Specialist training courses offered in the company complement practical knowledge and give newcomers security, also with regard to the exam.

Demanding auditor exam:

Despite all the practical experience - the preparation for the auditor exam cannot simply take place on the side. Erik Barndt, who is not only a chartered accountant at Axis, but also passed the tax advisor exam, knows that from his own experience.

"Due to the variety of examination areas, the abundance of knowledge required and the complexity of the topics, enormous self-discipline is required to pass."

In order to increase the chances of being successful in the exam, it is therefore advisable to attend special courses with the help of which the extensive and complex material is taught and repeated. Such seminars are offered throughout Germany and usually take place in blocks or on weekends.

"Those who prefer to acquire the necessary knowledge in self-study can also have lesson letters sent to them," adds Barndt. »The primary goal in preparation is to be optimally prepared in terms of both technical depth and breadth of topics. The variety and details of the exam topics require a preparation time of up to two years. "

Gerd Eggemann from PwC has another tip: "In addition, it is helpful to take as many test exams as possible and prepare for the exam in working groups or revision courses." Courses or self-study - the exact preparation for the auditor exam is individual, one thing is but indispensable for Eckhard Johanning from Curacon: "In any case, sufficient preparation time in the form of an exemption phase must be guaranteed."

Then, after all the hard and long preparation time, the time has come: One of the most difficult exams in our educational system can be taken. The seven individual exams from the subjects of examinations, business administration / economics, taxes and business law each take between four and six hours, plus an oral part. For some candidates who seem to have been prepared so thoroughly, the exam is an almost insurmountable hurdle. For years, the failure rate has been around 50 percent. Why it is like that? Opinions differ here. "After even very good people have failed their exams, it is an absolute black box. In practice," says Bernd Schlapka from Deloitte, "the wisdom is that one third of ability, one third of nerves and one third of luck needs to exist. So you have to work hard on at least the first two components. "

Exam assistants and their numerous responsibilities:

Those who are one of the lucky 50 percent who have made it after the exam can now adorn themselves with the title of auditor. Previously only in the role of audit assistant, newly qualified auditors are given a whole mountain of responsibility - including the chance to climb a steep career ladder to become a partner in the auditing company. Even new auditors are allowed to lead audit teams, answer complex questions and be responsible for the audit results. This usually does not happen from the desk of the consulting company, but happens directly at the client's. "During the exam week, our examiners and their team spend three to four days with the client and one or two days in the office in one of our branches," describes Gerd Eggemann. On site, the main thing is to check the information in the client's figures. "

“That always means making a target / actual comparison. In order to find out the current situation, discussions are held with the responsible employees of the client, calculations and other documents are obtained. This process step - obtaining information - is sometimes quite laborious, depending on the client, «says Manfred Hamannt from IDW.

All results must then be clearly and meticulously documented in the audit report and in the working papers. This is usually done on Friday in the home office. "And so," says Hamannt, "the week goes by with client discussions, factual assessments, documentation and coordination processes." As an auditor, it never gets boring.

That applies even more to the so-called ›busy season‹. It starts in late autumn and lasts until April. The annual financial statements are audited in these months. It can get later in the evening. Gerd Eggemann from PwC doesn't think that's a bad thing: "In return, there is more time for vacation and the reduction of overtime in the quiet summer months." Nevertheless, as for business consultants, the work-life balance must not be completely disregarded for auditors to let. Here every examiner has his own tips and tricks. In general, explains Manfred Hamannt, “auditing companies often work with individual part-time models, annual working time accounts or flexible leave options that guarantee appropriate time off”. “For the auditors at Curacon,” continues Eckhard Johannig, “there are regular team days on which the optimization of internal processes and the possibilities of reducing unnecessary stress in everyday work are discussed. We also offer a number of seminars that deal with relevant topics such as stress management or back training. "Laptops and smartphones help Gerd Eggemann to reconcile work and private life," for example, every employee is independent of his place of work fully operational from home «. Bernd Schlapka rather recommends exercise to switch off from annual financial statements and the like after work: “When I'm in the office in Munich, I go to Deloitte indoor football and when I travel I always pack my running shoes. That brings the necessary balance. "