Accountancy is one of the most lucrative professions in South Africa, making an accounting degree a very attractive option for matriculants. An accounting degree is a passport into a career that has a high demand for specialist accountants, offering a high earning potential for those within the field.
Accounting graduates also have several career choices to choose from, as one can choose to practice as a general accountant or to specialize in areas such as auditing, tax, corporate finance, or forensic accounting.
If you are considering to study accounting in South Africa, there are many institutions to choose from, and one may be wondering which are the best universities to study for an accounting degree.
This article lists the seven best accounting universities in South Africa, as well as everything you need to know about what it takes to become an accountant in South Africa.
For most people in the accounting field, becoming a Chartered Accountant is the ultimate career goal. This is a challenging and exciting career that is in high demand both locally and internationally.
The first step to qualify as a Chartered accountant and receive the privilege of using the CA title behind your name, is to complete a Bachelor of Accounting Degree or an equivalent CA undergraduate degree program that is accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA).
Most universities generally offer one of two choices – a four-year Accounting Honours Degree or a three-year bachelor’s degree, after which one has to enroll for an Honours in Accounting for a further year.
After completing your undergraduate degree, the second step in the journey to becoming a Chartered Accountant is to complete a Certificate in the Theory of Accounting (CTA). This post-graduate qualification is taken over a minimum duration of one year and must be completed at an institution that is accredited by SAICA.
Following the completion of the CTA, you will then be considered into a 3-year learnership program with a Registered Training Office (RTO) for Chartered Accountancy.
Thereafter you should complete the first part of the Qualifying Examination, then complete a specialist course in either auditing or financial management. The final step towards qualification is completing the second part of the Qualifying Examination in the relevant area of practice (in either auditing or financial management).
It is also possible to qualify as a Chartered Accountant without enrolling in a full-time degree. The part-time route is attractive to those who may consider earning and gaining work experience from an early age. However, this is a more challenging route to become a CA as one should balance work, life, and school at the same time.
For students that are studying towards a CA qualification on a part-time basis, one should be contracted with a Registered Training Office for a five-year training period.
Upon completion of the training contract, you should have completed both a Bachelor of Accounting degree (or an equivalent CA undergraduate qualification) and the CTA qualification.
UNISA is the most popular university for part-time students, and the entry requirements are the same as for a full-time study.
Other than the CA route, a degree in accounting offers other professional routes such as general accountants, management accountants, chief financial officers amongst others.
Generally, professional accountants have to be registered with one of the professional accounting bodies in South Africa.
To be considered as a member, one should have attained a degree at an institution accredited by the relevant professional body.
As previously mentioned, in order to enter into the accounting profession in South Africa, one should complete a BCom Accounting degree or equivalent degree that is accredited by one of the professional accounting bodies in South Africa.
In general, applicants should meet the minimum admission requirements to be admitted to a degree program at a university. The minimum admission requirements into a degree program are the South African National Senior Certificate (NSC) with a bachelor’s pass or an equivalent qualification with a matriculation exemption.
According to the new matric pass framework for the NSC announced by the Department of Basic Education, for a bachelors pass, a student should pass at least 6 out of seven matric subjects, including a minimum 40% mark in your home language, a minimum of 50% mark in four other subjects and at least 30% mark in the language of teaching and learning at the tertiary institution of choice.
It is however critical to note that each university has its specific admission requirements for the accounting degree, hence the above-mentioned requirements serve as the minimum requirements for eligibility to study at a university and do not guarantee admission into the accounting degree program. Prospective students should enquire with the specific faculty for the minimum requirements for the desired degree.
In South Africa, one can study accounting at any of the 23 institutions that are accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). Of the 23 institutions on this list, five of them are private institutions (IIE MSA, Varsity College, Institute Accounting Science, Milpark Education, and the Regent Business School).
The rest of the institutions are the well-known public and private universities which include the University of Cape Town, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, University of KwaZulu Natal, University of Western Cape, University of Johannesburg, University of South Africa, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Free State, University of Venda, etc.
The QS World University Rankings rates South Africa’s oldest university on top of this list. The college of Accounting at UCT has educated accounting professionals who have gone to become leaders in various business fields for over a century now. The UCT College of Accounting also runs the Learn Accounting website, a free online learning resource with learning materials in various accounting subjects.
The second university on the list is located in the industrial capital of South Africa (Johannesburg), Gauteng province. the University of Withwatersrand.
The university has an unquestionable reputation for producing the top ten performers in the national SAICA CTA examinations.
Additionally, this institution contributes massively to the black accountant’s Society of South Africa’s business arena. Competition for admission at Wits is tough, requiring a minimum APS of 39 along with Mathematics and English.
Popularly known as UJ, this institution has 4 campuses located in Johannesburg. UJ is one of the leading accounting schools in the country that has consistently produced a high pass rate and large numbers of top achievers in the CTA exams over the years.
Although the minimum admission requirements for a three-year accounting degree at UJ are one of the lowest in the country, (an APS of 28 with level 4 English and level 4 Mathematics), competition for places is very stiff given the reputation of a leading accounting school university at one of the fastest-growing universities in the world.
This is another Cape Town based university. Stellenbosch University is rated as the 4th University to study accounting in South Africa (according to QS World Rankings).
The school of accounting has been in existence since 1925 and is the largest school under the Faculty of Economics and Management Science with more than 3300 undergraduate students as well as 480 postgraduate students.
Minimum admission requirements for the BAcc and BAccLLB degree is an NSC average of at least 70% excluding Life Orientation with a mark of at least 60% in Mathematics, 70% in Accounting, and 60% for English or any additional home language.
The University of Pretoria, (UP) is one of the oldest universities in the country. The UP School of Accounting and Auditing was founded in 1924, making it one of the oldest.
The school employs highly qualified personnel, most of whom are registered with the accounting professional boards. The accounting department at UP is regarded as the largest residential department in South Africa, accommodating multitudes of full-time learners.
The minimum admission requirements for an Accounting degree at UP is an APS of 34, Mathematics level 6, and English Home Language or English First Language level 5.
The North-West University also makes it into the list of the 7 best accounting universities in South Africa. The University offers accounting degree programmes in all fields of study in accounting.
Chartered accountancy, management accountancy, and financial accountancy are all offered on all three campuses, namely Potchefstroom, Vaal Campus in Vanderbijlpark, and Mahikeng.
In addition to these qualifications, the university also offers a degree in general accountancy at Vanderbijlpark and a degree in forensic accounting at Potchefstroom.
The admission requirements into the accounting programmes vary depending on the chosen qualification.
A BCom degree in forensic accountancy has stricter admission requirements, requiring a minimum APS of 36. An APS of 30 is required for the BCOM degrees in Chartered Accountancy and Management Accountancy, 28 is required for Financial Accountancy, and 24 for the General Accountancy degree.
Last but not least, the University of Kwazulu-Natal, UKZN is the 7th best university to study accounting in South Africa.
The UKZN School of Accounting, Economics, and Finance is accredited to offer BCom Accounting Degrees and the CTA. Despite being one of the youngest universities in the country.
The university has been producing a pass rate of at least 90% in the CTA exams for the past three years, evidence of the university’s commitment to high academic excellence.
Giving reference to QS World University Rankings, these are the best 3 universities in the world.
One of the most prestigious universities in the world, Harvard University ranks as the best university to study accounting in the world. The university is renowned for producing alumni that have gone to become global leaders in the business world, taking prestigious positions in governments and international corporations.
MIT University is one of the best there is In the world (QS World Rankings 2020)and it is rated the second-best to study accounting in the world.
Stanford University is well known for its excellence in research and teaching in the field of accounting.
Stanford University is rated as the 3rd best university to study accounting in the world, according to QS World rankings.
JobVine Insight (2019) ranks top accounting firms based on actual employee reviews in South Africa.
Established in 1982 in Bela-Bela (Warmbaths) and provides services to individuals, trusts, companies, and close corporates.
Numeri employs accountants with expertise in different services other than accounting to include company secretarial services, estate planning, tax consultancy, auditing, and training.
A company that believes everyone needs professional accounting and tax services as there may not be any particular difference between a big firm and an organized individual in their eyes.
They boost about individual and company tax requirements as they are a registered tax advisory practitioner with SARS.
This firm was born out of a merger between SizweNtsaluba VSP and Gobodo in 2011. It is the largest black-owned accounting enterprise in South Africa and has the largest clientele base that includes IDC, Transnet, Stanlib among others.
SNG prides itself as the number one firm in the field of accounting and auditing as they offer SAP Business Management software solutions via SNG systems.
A relatively mid-sized accounting firm with a muscle to compete with larger firms as it is a confirmed member of the BDO. BDO is the world’s largest auditing and accounting network.
The company is regarded as agile, innovative, and dynamic. They provide a distinctive level of service, the firm has built exceptional relationships and a deep understanding of the accounting and auditing world. The company also provides wealthy management, outsourced accounting, and payroll services.
The head office is in Port Elizabeth, Deloitte is a decorated brand across the world that provides financial tax, consulting, advisory, risk management among others. Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) has members across the world and each member should abide by the national laws. Each member firm is regarded as an independent entity.
Chartered Accountants are the most in demand in South Africa. SAICA projects that there is a demand for 22000 more chartered accountants in the South African market.
Specialized accountants such as taxation accountants, financial accountants, and management accountants are also in high demand due to the high business activity in the economy.
According to Payscale, the salary range for accountants is between R117000 to R487000 per annum, with an average of R278000.
Specialized accountants can earn even more, depending on the role and the type of employer.
Accounting school is relatively challenging, and even more challenging for those who chose the Chartered Accountancy stream.
In the CTA stream, students have to remain focused and stay focused in order to pass the CTA Initial Test of Competency, ITC, an exam that normally has low pass rates.
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