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Why you never know where you’ll end up with an accountancy qualification

Chuck Liddell - an unlikely accountant
6 min

Accountancy is part of Griffith College’s DNA. Our president, Diarmuid Hegarty started off giving accountancy grinds around his kitchen more than three decades ago and now we’ve got more than 7,500 students in three different campuses around Ireland.
But that’s where accountancy can bring you. Once you can understand the numbers – you understand the business. That’s why so many successful business people start out with accountancy. Once you’ve got the numbers mastered – the rest is a piece of cake.
But apart from the regular career path that accountants usually take - there are a a whole host of people you’d never think were accountants who’ve taken a very different path.

Pádraig Harrington

It may not come as a surprise to anyone used to seeing the Dubliner methodically weighing up his options on the greens – but before he became one of Ireland’s best-loved and most successful sportsmen (and three-time Major winner), Harrington was well on his way towards becoming an accountant.
He passed all his ACCA exams and only had to complete his “articles” (or work practice) to become a fully-fledged accountant. However, his burgeoning golf career interrupted. Seeing as a recent Business Insider article put Harrington’s career earnings at over $50 million (€40.5 in euro for those accountants with an appetite for foreign exchange!), it’s likely that Harrington hasn’t regretted that decision.

Michael O’Leary

Another figure whose background in accountancy makes sense is the CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary. The often-controversial airline boss studied Economic and Social Studies before starting as a trainee accountant with Stokes Kennedy Crowley (later to become KPMG).However, O’Leary’s entrepreneurial spirit lead him to quit his traineeship after 18 months to open two newsagents. But his time at Stokes Kennedy Crowley served him well as it was there that he came across Tony Ryan – the founder of Ryanair. O’Leary became his tax advisor and that’s how the partnership began. Today, O’Leary is said to be worth over €1 billion and we think it’s fair to say that accountancy played no small part in that.

Phil Knight

The founder of Nike – Phil Knight is by far the richest person on this list. His wealth is generally rumoured to be in the ball park of $30 billion and is, at the time of writing this article (February 2018), Knight is the 28th richest person on the planet.
Knight was working as an accountant in Portland when his shoe business took off (he actually started as a company that imported Onitsuka Tiger shoes to the US from Japan) but after a few years he started making his own trainers. Indeed, Knight’s financial acumen even extended to the logo for Nike. He paid a graphic designer $35 for the famous swoosh logo (though he later gave the designer stock options in Nike that are worth more than $1 million today).

Joan Burton

The former Tánaiste was one of Ireland’s very first female chartered accountants and lead a very unique accounting career before turning to politics. After qualifying, Burton moved to Tanzania to lecture in accounting between 1983 and 1986 at the University of Dar es Salaam.
Unlike the others on this list, Burton is the only one to have practiced as a qualified accountant but that was but a precursor to a political career in which she held four different ministries. The road to politics has been a well-worn one for accountants in Ireland – with former Taoisigh Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern coming from accountancy backgrounds as well as ministers like Charlie McCreevey and current TD Peter Burke.

Chuck Liddell

Maybe the least likely accountant on this entire list – the former MMA champion was maybe the most famous athlete in his sport before a certain Dubliner by the name of Conor McGregor came along. But before he went into the UFC octagon – Liddell studied accountancy at the California Polytechnic State University! Other stars that are connected with accountancy include Mick Jagger (who was studying accountancy when he ran into an old friend – Keith Richards – who convinced him to drop out and form a band), Janet Jackson and comedian Eddie Izzard also studied accountancy for a while. But we wanted to concentrate on those who finished their studies – or at least worked as accountants for a time.

Choose your own path

Anyway – these are just some people who used accountancy to further their careers in ways they’d never have thought before studying it. That’s the beauty of accountancy. And here at Griffith College, each year we’ve helped students propel themselves to the very top of the accountancy field (we are somewhat less successful with students who want to be the next UFC star - but we are working on it!).

Each year our students get the best marks in their ACCA exams in Ireland and indeed the world. We offer flexible ACCA courses that allow students to study at their own pace but with the support of the best and most successful lecturers in the business. We have full-time, part-time and online students and support each one towards their goal. If you are interested in taking the ACCA course here at Griffith College – then have a look at our information page and once you are willing to take the jump – then just click here to apply now. We are taking applications for our current intake until the 23rd of February – so act now before it’s too late!

Click here to explore your accounting options!

As you can see - an accountancy background can take you anywhere. Here at Griffith College - we regularly produce students who top the international results charts when it comes to ACCA results. Take a look at our courses and see which one suits you best.