The demand for Junior Accountants is peaking again, especially in accountancy firms according to recent research done by staffing specialist Walters People. As soon as hotels, restaurant and bars reopen and the event sector and their suppliers relaunch their activities, the workload in accountancy firms will increase significantly.

"An excellent opportunity for starting accountants" says Sharon Blomme, Senior Consultant and specialist in recruiting accountants. She tells us what exactly a Junior Accountant does and why now is the ideal time to start applying for a first job in accounting.

Sharon Blomme, Walters People

What does a Junior Accountant do exactly?

Sharon: "The exact job description of a Junior Accountant depends a bit on whether he ends up in an accountancy firm or in the finance team of an organisation. As a Junior Accountant in an accountancy firm, you are in fact the assistant to the Senior Accountant and you carry out operational tasks such as booking invoices, entering bank statements and performing cash register operations. General bookkeeping is also part of the job. Especially in these Corona times, the Junior Accountant is the person who will take care of premium requests and do the necessary follow-up.

In addition, the Junior Accountant will also ensure that everything is ready for the submission of the VAT return and the preparation of the annual accounts. In the beginning this is done together with a Senior Accountant, and usually they begin with one-man businesses, because that’s easier. Once this goes well, the Junior Accountant starts doing this more independently, and also for SME companies. So as a Junior Accountant, you learn a great deal in a relatively short period of time in an accountancy firm.

If, as a starting accountant, you end up in an organisation's finance team, the range of tasks is more limited. Here, the focus will mainly be on bookkeeping and administrative preparation. The days here are a little quieter than at an accounting firm, because there are fewer short deadlines, of course."

What skills are important for a Junior Accountant?

"Regardless of where you start as a Junior Accountant, it is important to be analytical and results-oriented. The numbers must be correct, so working accurately and having an eye for detail is an absolute necessity. If you work in an accountancy firm, you must also be very flexible and stress-resistant. There are daily deadlines that have to be met, and this is only possible if you are a hard worker and a go-getter. To advance quickly in your career, it is also important to demonstrate that you’re eager to learn. After all, you get the chance to take regular trainings and participate in seminars about new legislation and regulations, for example, so your learning curve does not stop there," Sharon says.

If you work in the finance team of an international organisation or in an environment where several languages are spoken, strong language skills are obviously also a must. "Within an accountancy firm, you are in daily contact with your colleagues but also with customers. So it is important that you also have good communication skills. In time, you will be the point of contact for a number of clients, so they count on you to be able to help and advise them in a professional way."

What about the demand for Junior Accountants in the current labour market?

At the first lockdown last year, we noticed a drop in the demand for Accountants in general, but just before the summer there was a sudden peak in demand. Sharon: "Shops reopened and recent graduates entered the labour market for the first time. Especially at accountancy firms, we then noticed a strong increase in demand for Junior Accountants: the workload increased considerably, the holiday period started and some team members dropped out due to illness. In order to relieve the workload on the senior accountants, many Junior Accountants were therefore recruited."

Mid-September, again quite a few young professionals graduated, and this was visible in the number of vacancies: in October, there was another peak in demand. This is because many organisations like the Big4 are bringing new employees on board at that time who will be prepared to support the year-end, among other things.

2021 has also started very well. In the past two months, we have noticed that demand is even higher than in the same period last year. Early 2020, recruitment was mainly for permanent positions, but today we see that organisations choose to let Junior Accountants start on a temporary basis, and then move on to a permanent contract.

"At the moment, hotels, bars and restaurants are still closed, which can also be felt in the workload of the accountancy firms that have these type of businesses in their client portfolio. But as soon as they reopen and the event sector and their suppliers relaunch their activities, the workload of the accountancy firms will increase significantly. And they anticipate this by looking for new employees at the moment. If you are graduating soon, now is the ideal time to prepare your CV and start your job search. However, if you choose to wait until you have graduated, there is obviously more competition from other professionals entering the job market for the first time."

Is a temporary contract interesting for a Junior Accountant?

"Absolutely," says Sharon. "We notice that Junior Accountants do not always know exactly what to expect from their first job. They often prefer to start with a permanent contract because of the job security it brings, but a temporary contract also has many advantages. It offers flexibility and gives you the opportunity to get to know the ins and outs of many organisations and sectors in a relatively short period of time. You will learn a lot and discover what you like and dislike doing. This gives you the opportunity to search for a job that really suits you and help you advance in your career development plan.

If you choose to take up a temporary job with an accountancy firm immediately after graduating, you will learn a great deal in the short term. Every client is different, and you will have to deal with all aspects within accounting. "If you eventually want to specialise in a certain field, an accountancy firm has been an excellent learning experience, and you can look specifically for a job in that field, within an SME or a larger international organisation. Even if you start there as a temporary employee, there is a very good chance that you will soon be employed as a permanent employee and being able to grow within the organisation."

Finally, what salary can a Junior Accountant expect?

"As a Junior Accountant, you can expect a gross monthly salary of EUR 2000 - 2300 per month. In some companies, the gross salary is slightly lower, but then it is supplemented by a net allowance. On top of that salary, you usually get meal vouchers and a hospital and group insurance. A laptop is often given, especially when the organisation offers the possibility to work from home. Some accountancy firms also offer a company car, usually after a successful interim period or a positive performance appraisal. If a car is not part of the salary package, public transport costs are of course reimbursed. Some organisations also offer a bicycle allowance or even the possibility of leasing a bike. 

In the current labour market, salary costs are closely monitored. Extreme salary increases are not on the cards at the moment, but organisations do put a lot of effort into other benefits such as flexible working hours or the possibility of extra training courses if you show an interest in this. And that is always a plus, of course,” concludes Sharon.

Are you looking for your first job in accounting?

Have a look at our accounting jobs. Would you rather have a personal discussion with one of our specialists? Contact one of our offices. We will gladly help you!

Want to know more? Watch our webinar "The future role of the Accountant: trends & insights in Belgium".

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