As long as there is business and finance, there will be a need for accountants. These highly specialised professionals are at the centre of businesses across the globe, working in all sectors. Opportunities abound at home and abroad.
Why Become a Chartered Accountant?
There are many good reasons to consider an accountancy career. Firstly, it’s relatively well paid, with graduates earning up to £50K in the first couple of years. It’s also a secure career, something of immense value in itself in these days of uncertainty. The world will always need chartered accountants.
If you need more reasons, you can find openings in whatever business sector interests you. If you like to travel, you could consider firms with branches around the world or apply directly to overseas companies. (The ACA chartered accountant qualification is recognised globally).
There are even opportunities now for specialist accountants to tackle the challenges of cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, Litecoin and Ethereum.
Pathways into Accountancy
A degree helps, but is not mandatory.
A-level school leavers who don’t want to go to university may find smaller companies offering accountancy training with a professional qualification at the end. Most of the most prestigious professional accountancy bodies do, however, ask for a university degree as an entry requirement.
What if you already have a degree but in an unrelated field? It shouldn’t be a problem as most accountancy firms simply want candidates who are educated to degree level. English or History degrees, for instance, are acceptable in many cases. Gaining a related degree in finance or accountancy has some advantages, though, and may exempt you from certain exams if you’re working under a training contract to gain a professional qualification.
Many companies will accept a 2:2 degree, although some stipulate a 2:1 providing the candidate has good UCAS points.
Gaining Experience while at Uni
Voluntary work is a great way of getting some practical experience to back up your degree. Ways of finding practical work experience include:
- Chatting with a recruitment agency consultant.
- Contacting companies and asking if they need voluntary (or paid) help.
- Offer to help charitable organisations.
Getting a temporary job puts you in a good position should a full-time vacancy crop up as you’ll have the advantage of familiarity.
Training and Qualifying – Living the Life
Graduates are well paid when they join firms as trainee accountants, with both study leave and a professional qualification often paid for by the training company. Early on, you can expect to take on some serious responsibility although you will, of course, have help and supervision. Types of roles you’ll be expected to perform may include:
- Leading teams
- Preparing accounts
- Meeting with clients
You may be asked to undertake some travelling, and will be expected to learn about managing people.
Once you’re qualified, a whole world of work in a vast range of industries opens up, from work in industry to working for government bodies.
Areas of accounting include:
- Financial and general management
- Forensic accounting
It’s possible to swap sectors over the course of your career in accountancy, widening your portfolio and broadening the scope of your experience.
The Application Process
If you’re determined to work for one of the big four accountancy firms (Deloitte, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, KPMG and Ernst & Young), you can expect a rigorous interview and assessment process. Competition to get into these firms can be fierce, so they can afford to be choosy when it comes to making job offers.
In most cases, you can expect:
- An online application form
- Reasoning tests administered online
- A first round interview
- A final assessment that may include an interview with a partner in the company.
You’ll need to be familiar with your own strengths and weaknesses and demonstrate the personal attributes the company is looking for.
With limited accountancy experience, you’ll also need to demonstrate a keen interest. Reading the business pages of good newspapers can keep you up-to-date with current industry happenings. Try building your own case studies on companies, such as devising ways underdeveloped companies could improve.
Other Chartered Accountancy Career Destinations
Experienced chartered accountants have myriad career openings beyond merely ‘doing the accounts’. Career destinations in the past have included:
- Company director
- FTSE 100 chief executive
- Football club financial controller
- Business owner
- Financial services manager
- Charity finance manager
A career in accountancy offers diversity unlike many other career paths. With multiple ways of gaining qualifications or training, it’s also relatively accessible.