American accountant with no CPA looking for a job in Germany
July 14, 2020 3:42 PM   Subscribe

I am planning to move to Germany with my fiancee, who is an EU citizen but not from Germany but she speaks German fluently. I am an accountant and I have around 8 years experience, but my title is still staff accountant, and I have no CPA. However, I do have a Masters in Accounting. I also do not currently speak German, but I have a strong interest to learn it since I like languages. I just want to know what the job market in Germany will be like for me with the credentials I listed above. Will I have a difficult time finding a job?
posted by Tuxtax to Travel & Transportation around Germany (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
My feeling is it won’t be easy. There are probably roles for non German speaking accountants with no localised technical knowledge but they will be few and far in between.

Your biggest hurdle will be language. Even in large multinationals they tend to expect the local hires in Germany to speak German and be able to operate fully in German. Middle management and up will speak English fluently but only with overseas contacts, all the local stuff will tend to be done in German. And at that level they would expect you to be fluent in German. The IT system would also tend to be in German.

In any reporting role, they would also tend to expect German GAAP and perhaps IFRS knowledge, US GAAP would be a small niche indeed, limited to US subsidiaries. But even in such a subsidiary the ledger clerks would not necessarily be fluent in English.

Note how I don’t even mention German tax code, which is a highly complex and specialised beast.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:04 PM on July 14, 2020 [3 favorites]


I agree with koahiatamadl, but there may be some opportunities in Frankfurt, and more coming with Brexit. An other option would be to live close to the border with the Netherlands and go in there to work.
posted by mumimor at 10:10 PM on July 14, 2020


Even in large multinationals they tend to expect the local hires in Germany to speak German and be able to operate fully in German.

That depends a bit on the "nationality" of the multinational, I think. I work for a French multinational in Frankfurt, and the company language is officially English. I mean, yeah, some meetings, and a lot of the "chat" is in German, but not speaking German is not really seen as a problem here. (Partly because a lot of the higher ups have been been brought in from outside and either don't speak German or aren't comfortable with it.)

It's probably different in German multinationals, though, and will also depend where in Germany you are planning to be based. A company in somewhere like Frankfurt is probably more likely to accept a non-German speaking employee than in some of the other cities, as there are a high amount of international companies with an office here, particularly in financial services, and it frequently ends up easier just insisting everyone in the company have English to start with.

I don't know enough about accountancy though to know how acceptable your credentials would be, but I could imagine that being a bigger issue than the language (again depending on where you are planning to go.)
posted by scorbet at 3:14 AM on July 15, 2020 [1 favorite]


I work for a German multinational and I don't speak any German. English is the official working language, however this company is very supportive of transfers to different offices around the world and not just Europe based so there just may be more openness to speaking English than a multinational without that focus. It will really depend on the company but not speaking German probably won't hold you back from the job search.

I would actually recommend working on the US accounting side for these multinationals. I work in insurance, not accounting, but any of these multinationals that have a presence in the US need US knowledge, and if you are working at a headquarters then they need that US knowledge here too.

The Big 4 are present here so that would probably be my first bet. I have friends that work or have worked for at least a couple of them and English is not a problem.

I think you'll run into the most hurdles with smaller companies and companies that have a 100% German market. You could also take this opportunity (although you probably won't have a choice as you'll be here) to learn both German tax/accounting rules and European ones.

(Also, I'm in Munich FYI, so it's not just Frankfurt or Berlin where English is accepted. Pretty much any of the big cities you'll be fine.)
posted by LizBoBiz at 2:08 AM on July 16, 2020


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