A Guide to Moving Abroad for Newly Qualified Accountants … Australia

Moving abroad to live and work requires significant thought, not to mention resources, and you’d be foolish not to give the move and its impact on your career proper consideration before purchasing your plane ticket.

That’s why we recently joined together with CASSI to bring you a webinar for trainee and recently qualified accountants considering a move to Australia, Canada, Cayman, Dubai or the UK, with the aim of giving you THE best advice about moving abroad after you qualify.

Here Brian O’Connor ACA, Senior Associate with Barden and expert in recently qualified accountants careers, spoke with Ed Heffernan, Managing Partner at Barden, who shares THE best advice when moving to Australia.

First off, how did you get your insights into the Australian market? 

I spoke with a few different consultants I know from my time in Sydney just to try and get a balanced feel for what is going on on the ground there.

What is the market ACTUALLY like in Australia at the moment?

In Australia, the market is quite buoyant but it is a premium destination for Irish accounting talent, so people are seeing a little more competition for roles than they did perhaps 12 months ago as borders were only opening up. These days it’s probably best to keep your options open when you land rather than being hyper focused on a type of company or role. As we now approach year-end, which is June 2023 for most Australian companies, a lot more roles will become available which suit working holiday visa holders such as your typical year-end contracting roles in Group Finance functions.

What kind of roles do qualified accountants typically move into when they go to Australia?

The typical roles include Financial Accountant, Financial Analyst, Senior Financial Accountant, Finance Business Partner and Management Accountant roles. These roles exist right across the Financial Services and Industry sectors, so It depends on your preferences.

Do people typically take on permanent or contract jobs when they move over?

Typically, candidates will arrive on a 417 working holiday visa, which means they do not have permanent working rights and will usually secure 3-6 month contracting roles that may roll on.  If a candidate is fortunate enough to be sponsored, they will switch on to the 482 temporary skills visa and will be offered a permanent position within that particular company. This usually does not happen off the bat but only after someone has proven themselves on a contract.

Is there anything from a VISA point of view that I should be aware of?

There were some processing delays for holiday visas in the past year, but these appear to have been resolved.  You’ll have 12 months from getting the visa to having to land on the ground there so to be safe it’s best to get it done at least 3-4 months out from your expected trip.  It will only activate once you land in Australia and you will have the 12 months then from there so better safe than sorry. There were also some temporary measures related to Covid about not changing employer and being able to work longer term with one employer but I’d go to source in terms of the immigration/visa website to get the latest on that.

The structure of a normal 417 visa is as follows:

A candidate can work up to 6 months with one company and if in that time, sponsorship has not been made available through the 482 temporary skills visa, the candidate must move on and secure another contract position for the remainder of their visa. If by roughly 10 months into the visa, a candidate is yet to secure sponsorship, they will need to consider doing the Australian Farm work (this is for 3 months) to secure the 2nd year 417 visa. For more info please refer to this link.

Should I try to get a job before I move over or when I arrive? How long does it usually take to get a job in Australia?

This is all down to personal preference. A lot of people want to arrive with the security of having a role whereas some people are keen to do a little bit of travel first and then settle in to looking for a job.  It is possible to get a job offer before you move but given the roles will likely be contract and they will want a close to an immediate start you would start looking a 3-4 weeks before you fly out.

The typical turn around for getting a job would roughly be 1 – 3 weeks, depending on the avenues you go down. For example:

  • If you work with a recruiter, they will have direct access to the hiring managers. Turnaround from this point can be anywhere from 1 – 2 weeks.
  • When you arrive, and if you’re yet to secure a job, it can roughly take 1 – 3 weeks to potentially get a role.
  • If you were to try and apply directly from home, a lot of Companies will not consider CVs based on the simple fact of them not knowing that you can make it out to Australia. Your CV is also included in a pool of potentially up to 50 – 200 other candidates so a greater likelihood of It slipping through the cracks.

What is the likelihood of sponsorship if you wanted to stay for more than one year?

Sponsorship is currently still one of those things that is up in the air. It’s very rare to get straight off the bat, as employers can only tell so much from an interview and they ideally would like to work with you for a period of time before committing to sponsorship;

The hesitation from employers to sponsor is still around the actual cost to sponsor, as well as pressure on them to hire locally.

To be sponsored, a company must advertise a position for up to one month and prove to the government that no local hires could fit the requirements.

What experience is seen as being particularly valuable for companies taking on qualified accountants moving to Australia? Is experience outside practice useful?

Big 4/Top 10 training is the type of experience hiring managers look for. However, if someone does have that 1 year experience outside of practice, it’s definitely desirable as it shows ability to hit the ground running.

Aside from the experience factor, candidates who are trying to upskill across different areas like excel, data visualisation tools, SQL knowledge etc., – this will always stand out from the everyday accountant.

What is the average pay rate for a recently qualified accountant in Australia?

Generally speaking, for a newly qualified accountant making their first move out of the Big 4 or a similar graduate program, they can expect to come in at the level of a Financial Accountant, Financial Analyst or Management Accountant. They can expect anywhere from $95k base – $110k base + Superannuation* (all depending on the size of the company, the industry etc.).

For those who may have 1 year experience outside of a graduate program, typically you could still fit into the above role categories, or you can expect to be on the ‘Senior’ end of these positions. Salaries can vary from $105k base – $120k base + Superannuation.

*Superannuation is the pension scheme in Australia and all employees are required to contribute to the fund. Right now the rate is set at 10%, but can vary based on company to company.

What 3 tips would you give to a recently qualified accountant looking to relocate to Australia from Ireland?

  1. Differentiate yourself from every other newly qualified accountant e.g., on your CV, try to make your CV as different to others as possible.
  2. INTERVIEW PREPARATION – Make sure you put In the work. Being a chartered accountant alone and being able to “chat away” does not mean you’re guaranteed to get the job.

Also, don’t forget the basics of accounting! You’d be surprised at how many newly qualified accountants forget how to account for an Accrual or Prepayment or can’t actual explain what they are.

  1. Be open to different options which are provided and most importantly, enjoy the journey in Australia! It is a working HOLIDAY visa after all and the experience you’ll gain over the next year will stand to you regardless.


About Ed

Ed Heffernan is Managing Partner of Barden Ireland. In 2014 he founded Barden, with Elaine Brady. He has worked for many years in recruitment both locally  and internationally, within the accounting and tax space. Ed spent a number of years working overseas in Japan and Sydney and has worked with 1000s of accountants internationally on career moves and is a regular contributor to industry publications, including Accountancy Ireland & Accountancy Plus.


Contact Ed at ed.heffernan@barden.ie or via LinkedIn.



At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to hello@barden.ie and we will take it from there. Easy.

You might also like

No resources found