Accountants Working Abroad

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Two male accountants walk along a busy street in Europe as a red double-decker bus drives down the street.

As the world’s economy becomes increasingly global and interconnected, opportunities for American accountants to live and work abroad are on the rise. This is especially true at the “Big Four” accountancy firms – PwC, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young, and KPMG – which constantly look for people to do accounting for foreign branches. But plenty of opportunities exist for accountants outside of these companies as well.

“It’s a lot easier than it used to be because the middle-market companies are expanding into growth markets like China, India, Brazil and many other places around the world,” explains Jason Ramey, national managing partner in charge of international client services for Grant Thornton LLP.

Before landing an overseas position, one must obtain the necessary education and certifications to become an accountant. Enrolling in an academic accountancy program, such as University of North Dakota’s Master of Accountancy online, is the first step. Students can learn the baseline skills they need for an exciting foreign appointment, along with reaping the many other career benefits of accounting.

Benefits of Working Abroad

Living and working abroad can be a huge lifestyle change and a major disruption. It’s not for everyone, but accountants who crave this type of adventure can reap many professional benefits. According to job recruitment website Robert Half, these benefits may include:

  • More job choices. When you’re willing to work anywhere in the world, you can consider job options that might not exist in your home country. By the numbers alone, you’ll have a better chance of landing your dream job.
  • Confidence boost. Working abroad comes with challenges such as language barriers, changes in local culture and homesickness. Conquering these challenges leads to personal growth that will serve you well not only in your accounting career, but in all areas of your life.
  • Network building. Abroad, you will meet lots of adventurous people like yourself, as well as potentially influential work colleagues. These contacts may be invaluable throughout your accounting career, no matter where you end up working.
  • Career differentiation. Living and working abroad requires guts, and potential future employers know it. Overseas accounting work shows employers that you are dynamic, adaptable and enterprising. It helps you to stand out from the crowd and land plum jobs down the line.
  • The lifestyle. At work, you’ll be crunching numbers — but outside of work, you’ll be exploring a whole new culture with its unique foods, language and people. The personal rewards are incalculable and the experience will change you forever, in the best possible way.

Types of Jobs

As in domestic accounting, international accountants can choose from many diverse areas of practice. The website Top Accounting Degrees highlights the three most popular careers in international accounting:

  • Tax accounting. Every country has its own tax regulations. Accountants must understand them to track financial processes throughout the year, then prepare tax returns at the appropriate time. They will also participate in annual internal audits to make sure a company’s internal processes stay on track.
  • Managerial accounting. Managerial accountants examine the financial statements of foreign branches to gather big-picture information. They often work on asset management, performance evaluations and budgeting. Their work helps management make complex decisions with global implications.
  • International auditing. International auditors travel to foreign branches and perform audits of internal controls, data and systems. They must develop expertise on the rules and regulations of every country in which they operate. They will also be working with local accountants and financial professionals, which may require knowledge of the local language.

How to Land an Assignment

The bar for landing a foreign assignment is a bit higher than it is for getting a domestic position. The Journal of Accountancy points out that candidates should expect to have some additional resume points, including:

  • Experience with international financial regulations. Along with GAAP (U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), an attractive candidate might have a background in international regulations such as IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards), the FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act), or other locally relevant rules.
  • Knowledge of relevant foreign industries. An accountant who applies for an overseas job with, for example, an auto manufacturer should ideally have experience with that industry, not just general accounting skills.
  • Ability to speak the language. Although speaking the language of the intended country is not necessary, it is always a plus during the job application process.
  • General attitude. When it comes to overseas assignments, technical competence is not the only criteria. Applicants also need to have the right attitude for the job.

“[Employers] are going to look for openness and cultural awareness,” Pamela Parker-White, now group finance director at Moog Component Parts, notes. “People who have already shown a willingness to travel and a curiosity about other cultures will have an easier time adapting.”

This prospect will seem intimidating to some accountants and endlessly exciting to others. For accountants who fit the bill, working abroad can be an experience like no other, both professionally and personally.

University of North Dakota’s Master’s in Accountancy Online Degree

University of North Dakota’s Master of Accountancy (M.Acc.) online program helps students master accounting principles and the skills necessary to reap the career benefits of accounting at the highest levels.

UND is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, which only recognizes about 30% of business programs in the United States. The master’s in accountancy online program offers practitioner and fundamentals tracks. Coursework is done online, which allows busy professionals to study accountancy and earn their degree without disrupting their work or personal lives. For more information, contact UND today.


Global opportunities for accountants – Journal of Accountancy

Benefits of working abroad – Robert Half

Types of jobs – Top Accounting Degrees

How to land an assignment – Journal of Accountancy