Career Paths into Accounting
Accountancy is at the forefront of business growth and decision making. If you are looking for a skilled career with continual professional development, accountancy may well be the career for you.
By definition, a Chartered accountant is able to advise on financial matters, audit accounts, manage insolvency, financial records and taxation. Other responsibilities also include managing the payroll and advising on business expansion.
Accountants have an exciting role that drives financial reasoning, strategy and analysis. It is the ideal job for a graduate looking to enter a prosperous industry that has both training and leadership as potential outcomes of future development. With such high demand in the industry, skilled accountants are highly valued.
Many businesses will take on graduates who then work alongside studying to achieve the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Accounting Qualification. This allows prospective accountants to gain relevant experience simultaneously to gaining the necessary qualifications whilst learning on the job. In the UK, the three main accountancy bodies you are likely to encounter along your journey are:
- Chartered Accountants Ireland (oversees both Ireland and Northern Ireland)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Being such highly-regarded qualifications, the above will assist in obtaining future job opportunities.
For new graduates, salary expectations start at around £25K and is less for those working an entry-level role without a degree. Upwards of £50K is achievable with companies offering bonus schemes. It’s worth noting that to qualify as a Chartered Accountant, it usually takes between three to five years with some companies offering training contacts. Throughout this period of training it is difficult to gain seniority until chartered status is obtained.
Being an accountant is a financial specialism that includes corporate finance and consultancy. Accountancy is widely in demand in various forms, even unexpected industries such as police work,require forensic accountants in order to investigate embezzlement, fraud and the finances of criminal organisations for use in legal proceedings.
It’s worth noting that the positioning of accountancy is ever-changing to meet business requirements. Currently the industry career paths have four main pillars of accountancy specialisms. These being financial accounting, management accounting, internal auditing and group accounting; Although all of these areas require their own particular skill set, there is also much overlap in skills.
Soft skills required for accountants include:
- Reading the financial sections and having an awareness business developments
- Ability to study in the evenings after a day at work
- Knowing Excel inside out
- Problem-solving data
- Leadership skills for those with management in mind
Accountancy firms are often more interested in the qualifications held rather than the board that awarded them. There are guides available to the main qualification required for each pillar, a new easy to digest guide being from global recruitment specialists, Randstad.
Working towards a chartered status takes roughly four years. There are a variety of junior roles that can be filled prior to achieving chartered status from accounts assistants, financial analysists and accounting technicians to clerks;all of which can develop into a very strategic position focussed on business growth. These positions are largely in-house.
Masters Association of Accounting Technicians status (MAAT) Qualifications from MAAT can put you on track to becoming a finance director.
Starting out as a junior accountant or internal auditor is an opening for both non-graduates and graduates. Degrees in maths, finance or accounting are perfect stepping stones into this sector.
As your career progresses you can expect your role to have a commercial decision-making focus considering company growth. Strategy is also a key skill that will likely develop with training and experience, along with delivering C-level reports.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) provide training looking at tax, business efficiencies and working across business teams to provide insight into profitability and growth.
The most valuable training for this role happens within the accounts department. The development of in-house requirements for Newly qualified accountants often begins whilst in a junior auditor position. Sitting beneath the senior auditor, senior management and directorships are achievable.
Skilled auditors are an asset to the business, measuring success against risk in the development of growth opportunities. Internal auditors have a strategic overview. Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) qualifications can lead to a senior management role or audit directorship.
As well as gaining experience in-house, working in a chartered accountancy practice can provide invaluable external auditing experience.
This is generally a head office role managing all accounting procedures and deployment. Like many of the roles in this industry, profit and performance are a key focus helping the C-level decision makers to achieve their financial objectives.
Companies often recruit group accountants who are studying their professional accountancy exams. Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or ICAEW exams are the membership qualifications associated with group accounting.
The Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA) qualification is the main one in this branch of accounting leading to senior management and financial director roles.
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