Working as a chartered accountant in Germany

Advice and ideas on what to expect

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londonnell
Hi

I'm currently living in London, but I'm contemplating moving to NRW to live with my german boyfriend. Although I'm currently taking a german language course, my skills are basic at best.

What sucess have other chartered accountants had in finding decent work, and without taking a huge step backwards in their career? From my research, the chartered qualification doesn't seem to mean too much in Germany.

I'd really love to get some feedback.
kkr13
I think your best bet will be applying with an international firm such as EY, KPMG, PwC, BDO, Deloitte, etc., as they regularly hire CA's who operate only in English. I am a U.S. CPA and I worked in the Düsseldorf office of one of the aforementioned firms. Although, I am on a rotational program from the U.S...so my circumstances are a bit different.

I think you would have better luck applying in bigger cities such as Frankfurt, Munich, or Berlin. Although, you might find a position in Düsseldorf or Cologne.

Regards,

Chris
Goeters
I was in a similar position to you. I have worked for Grant Thornton in South Africa, UK and Germany. So I am able to compare the same company but in 3 different countries. I can tell you that working in an auditing firm in Germany is similar yet very different to the "English speaking" world. I don't know what company you are working for now, but would strongly suggest you contact the same company in Germany to see whether they have openings.

However what I can't stress enough is that if you plan to work in a German accounting office, for longer than just a secondment timeperiod, you WILL need to learn German, there is no way around it. Although upper level management of clients can speak English, some of the people you will deal with at clients in lower level positions can't speak English and if you think about it you are offering a service to a client, therefore you need to speak the client's language. e.g. If a German person works in London they don't go to an audit client and start speaking German.

I will also be honest I had studied the language for 18 months before coming to Germany, but was still a shock to learn all the vocab in German, BUT on the positive side once you have gotten over the initial hurdle, you will have earned, in my opinion, a valuable qualification, ie being able to speak business German. When one is a native English speaker and can speak fluent German it opens many doors here in Germany.

As for the CA qualification its true, the Germans do not know it. I am a CA and they kept confusing it with a CPA. They know what a CPA is, but not a CA, unless you speak to persons who have travelled abroad. They think their qualification is the be all and end all. However they only qualify at around the age of 35.

Which city are you planning to be living in? Because another option is to work in the Netherlands, where language is not an issue, English is more widely spoken.

If you have further questions feel free to ask.
mellelisa
I am a UK CA and had no problem finding work here. I moved into Industry rather than staying in the Big 4 though which made it a bit more interesting! Learning German was not required in either of my jobs here but it has really helped. So far I have only worked for companies with a UK base which are therefore following UK legislation. If I am honest, the idea of working with HGB (German rules) is horrible. I work in an office with German accountants and their approach to the work is very different. The UK team take a far more interpretative approach than the German team who seem afraid to push the spectrum a bit.

I have heard from a colleague who also worked in a Big 4 company that after a few years they begin to expect you to retake your exams so that you have German quals. Might hinder your progress otherwise. (kind of defeats the purpose of all those years of UK training)

Oh and I meant to say, they will never believe our qualification is as good as theirs since we can do it in 3 years and it takes them about 8 :-)
Goeters
Mellelisa

That is the point I am trying to make, if you work in an auditing firm you need to know HGB and there is limited material available in English. Unlike IFRS, the HGB act is very thin, but in Germany they relieve on interpretations or commentary of the act for guidance as to how to implement it...and as you can imagine this is only available in German and in extremely technical German, that even Germans have problems reading! And the foundations of HGB and completely different to IFRS. Everything is about being extremely prudent and careful.

And yes ultimately they expected me to do the conversion exam to a German Wirtschaftpruefer, which I was not prepared to do, once was enough.

One way I would keep them quiet when they go on about the superiority of the German qualification was simply to ask in which countries outside of Germany the qualification was recognised. Answer none...okay maybe in Austria.

Then I would reply that our qualification is valid amongst all the commonwealth countries and the US...almost on every continent and that would quickly keep them quiet...no response :-)

May I ask for which company you work?
swimmer
You can find information on the recognition / transferability of your UK qualifications on wikipedia etc.

In the profession myself, and when i cam here I built up the impression that there are four big recognised quals in the field here in terms of "international quals (not German ones) - ACCA, CIMA, CIA and the US CPA. So UK CA and some other of the recognised UK a/c bodies are not on that list.

In my case, the expedient solution was to go ahead and get one of them. I was able to balanced it with selfemployed work, learning German etc.
Skye
I’m ACCA qualified and, when I arrived, had virtually no German language skills. I was lucky to find my current employer who was so desperate to find someone with USGAAP and IFRS consolidation experience that they were willing to accept my crappy language skills on the understanding that I learned as quickly as I can. I work in the head office of an international company so English is the “official language”, especially when dealing with overseas offices. But in practice German is used in meetings, in emails and generally in the office so I found it very tough for the first 18 months or so. The only positive is that a lot of documentation is in English.

My qualification helped me get my job I’m sure, but it was my experience that made the difference. As for where it took my in my career, my job is a sideways move in terms of salary, a step up in terms of technical experience, and a huge step forward in terms of being able to say I work in a German speaking environment.

My advice would be to learn as much German as you can before you come, supplement the course with as much other learning as you find time for. Shamelessly use every contact you have – with your current employer, clients, friends, neighbours, relatives, anyone you can think of – you never know who might know of the perfect job over here. Check the Jobpilot website to get a feel for what’s around, some adverts are in English which helps. Find out who the big employers are in the town you’re moving to and target them directly (companies don’t tend to use recruitment consultants as much here). Tailor your CV for each role/company you apply for accentuating your skills and playing down your lack of German. Last of all don’t give up – you’ll find something
Coffee
I am a CA in Canada and I am curious about salary of designated accountant in Germany. I would like to ask what kind of compensation that you are receiving as a Chartered Accountant or an AICPA in Germany. Thanks.
cl3232
Hello,
does anyone know of places and companies to look at to find work in Munich? I'm a CA from Canada and am heading over to Munich to find work. I speak french, english and I learnt german for a year and a half. If anyone knows of good places to work, it would be greatly appreciated.
Garmin
Position open for an accountant with 3-5 years experience located about 30 minutes outside of Dusseldorf. GAAP, IFRS, SOX; WP or CPA preferred. Fluent German & English
Christia26
Hello everyone! I have studied Business Administration in U.S.A. I have been in Germany since November. I have already done the foundation course of German Language up to B2 level. I am interested of doing my charter and become a charter accountant in Germany. Could you give me some information where I will be able to do that? Can anyone tell me whether I need the Testdaf C1 in order to be able to do my charter in a company in Germany? I speak German, English, Greek, and French. As well, can you tell me whether I can do ACCA or ACA in Germany? If not, are there any similar programs (in order to become someone a chartered accountant) that I can do in Germany? If yes, the examinations are in English Language or in German Language? Someone has written HGB and IFRS. To be honest, it's the first time in my life I heard of them and I really could use your help. What are these HGB and IFRS? One of you had also written: “ACCA, CIMA, CIA and the US CPA". Are all these for charter accountants? Am I able of finding and doing any of these in Germany? All of them (ACCA, CIMA, CIA and the US CPA" and GAAP, IFRS, SOX; WP or CPA) are the same? If not, what is the difference between them and which of them can I find in Germany to do? Last but not least important, I have found some information regarding “Steuerberater” in Germany. Is Steuerberater same with the chartered accountant in English? If yes, how can I become a Steuerberater in Germany?
Sorry for asking so many questions. But I am really in a very desperate position. I have no one to help me. My only help is information through the internet. But everyone knows that Internet is Chaos. Thank you a priori for your help and understanding. I look forward for your feedback.
Regards
Christia
Conquistador
What are your career goals? Are you planning to work in Germany for the rest of your career, or do you want the option of working internationally? Do you want to be a management accountant or a public accountant (auditor or tax accountant)? You need to answer that before trying to decide what sort of professional licensing you will need. Is your US degree in accounting (probably not since you apparently have no idea what GAAP, SOX and IFRS are)?

For information on ACCA, look at accaglobal.net, and CIMA at cimaglobal.com. Depending on the accounting courses you took in the US, you might be able to get some exemptions from some of their exams. The CPA is a US designation for public accountants.

I don't know anything about licensing/certification for German accountants, but common sense says that you would have to pass any exams in German, not English, since you would need to be familiar with and able to interpret documents and standards written in German. HGB = German GAAP, and IRFS = internationally accepted GAAP, which have been adopted in many countries and circumstances and IFRS and US GAAP are converging.
Christia26
I am planning to study and work in Germany for several years. However, I would like to have a professional licensing that is valid in Europe like ACCA. My US Degree is in Business Administration and I want to be a public accountant. Can you please give me some information regarding employment and training to become a chartered accountant in Germany?
Conquistador
ACA equivalents in Germany is a possible starting point for further research. How many accounting courses did you take as part of your degree?
engelchen
I have already done the foundation course of German Language up to B2 level. I am interested of doing my charter and become a charter accountant in Germany.
Considering the level of difficulty and the very high failure rate for the Steuerberater exam, B2 is not enough to be able to properly understand the materials. Furthermore, you'll probably need to complete a masters degree to be eligible to even write the exam (you'll have to contact your local Kammer for an evaluation).

Can you please give me some information regarding employment and training to become a chartered accountant in Germany?
You can find more info on the Bundessteuerberaterkammer website.

Given the difficulty of the exam and the time you'd need to improve your German, I don't think it is worth doing if you're only planning on staying a few years.
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