Experts share their views on current trends and the demand for CAs, even as students gear up for the IPCC and final examinations being held this November.

From the time when only graduates took the intermediate and final-level Chartered Accountancy examinations, the highly-valued and respected professional course has come a long way today.

Currently in the Common Proficiency Test (CPT) - Integrated Professional Competence Course (IPCC) - articleship - final examination format, the course which has different requirements at different levels, continues to have its traditional image of being rigorous and demanding. However those in the field say that for those who dream big and are determined, it is not all that difficult.

According to R. Nagarajan, chartered accountant and former chairman of the SIRC of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), the course now involves very intensive training in several components ranging from IT to communication and soft skills. It is mandatory for students to take these modules.

“There was a notion that while CAs had sound knowledge of concepts, they were not as good as MBAs when it came to communicating well or packaging their skills effectively. But now, the course has modules on such aspects too, making those who clear the examination professionals of a very high order,” says Mr. Nagarajan, who is also the course director at Sri Sankara Coaching Centre, Chennai.

According to him, there is a great demand for qualified CAs. “There is a government estimate that says we need about 8 lakh CAs. We are not anywhere close to getting there. So, there is a lot of scope and opportunity,” he says.

Vinay Kapur, director, Board of Studies, ICAI, agrees. With the economy and particularly the service sector growing at a fast pace, the demand for accounting professionals is only bound to go up, he notes. “It is not just CAs who will be in demand but also those accounting professionals who form the second layer.”

With the option of taking the Accounting Technician Course (ATC) now available for those who have cleared group one examinations — comprising the subjects Accounting; Law, Ethics and Communication; Cost Accounting and Financial Management, and Taxation — of the IPCC, a whole new layer of accounting professionals has been created. “They also have several opportunities in the industry today,” Mr. Kapur says.

The entry to the course is unrestrictive and aspirants only need to take the objective-type CPT. “It is only the exit that is a little uncertain and challenging. But those who are determined can easily crack it,” he adds.

Coaching for the CA has evolved over the years. It was once limited to a few books that were not very easily available. Now candidates can access multiple publications and compilations of past years' questions papers. “A student who is prepared to put in the effort this course warrants can be assured of completing it in about four years and then landing a job that would pay atleast Rs.10 lakh per annum,” Mr. Nagarajan says.

Commenting on the difficulty level and the not-very-high pass percentage across examinations, he says that the professional standards expected by the institute are very high and therefore, for those who expect it to be any less and correspondingly easier, it might seem difficult. “But it is definitely not,” Mr. Nagarajan emphasises.

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