No matter the economic climate, jobs in accountancy have always been stable and can be a great career choice for those who have a knack with numbers and a good eye for detail. Here, we are going to break down the key steps to pursuing a career in accountancy.
First off, in order to work towards gaining the relevant skills and expertise to pursue a career in accounting, it’s important to understand exactly what accountants do in order to figure out if it’s the right fit for you. So, what is an accountant and what does their day-to-day look like? An accountant is behind the money in any business, whether it’s a large corporation or a small business. The accountant is responsible for monitoring the cash flow in the company and ensuring that all money transactions made through the business are legal and follow current guidelines. An accountant uses data and financial statements to determine how well an organisation or client is doing financially over a period of time. They do this by using their skills in math, finance, law and accounting. Accountants can also choose to work for a private client or for a large or small business on a contractual basis depending on the needs of the company or client.
How to get into Accountancy
Develop your skills
To get into accountancy you will need to build on your current skills as well as develop new relevant skills for accountancy. Accountants need to be numerically literate and have an excellent eye for detail as well as be extremely organised and keep to deadlines especially when working with different clients. Accountants tend to help make the financial decisions for their clients so on top of the skills you have, it’s important to also develop commercial awareness and understanding of different businesses and any information and data that comes your way as an accountant. You would also need great communication skills when dealing with clients and to communicate your findings and analysis to them.
Choose what you want to specialise in
There are two types of areas in accountancy careers, management accounting which is where the accountant provides information to people within a company and financial accounting where accountants provide information outside of a company such as with shareholders. Most graduates get into accounting through financial accountancy which offers a wide range of career opportunities such as accounting in audit, tax, corporate finance, insolvency as well as forensic accounting. In each of these specialisms, graduates can then choose to work either in the public or private sector. Find out more about the different areas in accountancy here.
Get the right qualifications
In the UK, you don’t need a degree to pursue a career as an accountant, though it is desirable to some employers and can be advantageous if you have a degree and A-levels in math and economics. However, that’s not the only way; depending on the type of accountancy you want to specialise in and the type of accountant you want to become, you can obtain an AAT (The Association of Accounting Technicians) qualification, which is the minimum you would need to work in accounting. Or you can become a chartered accountant where you would have to complete specific training with a professional body such as ICAEW to obtain an ACA qualification. If you do want to pursue management accountancy however, you would need to train with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountant (CIMA). Before pursuing a qualification, it may a good idea to have a career in mind and look into the qualifications and work experience you would need to pursue that; whether it be a specific role with a company or a preferred specialism you may want to get into.
Apprenticeship or work experience
After getting the qualifications, there are various routes you can take on your journey to becoming an accountant. Many companies offer apprenticeships straight out of school as an alternative route to going to university. They are a great way to get on-the-job experience whilst also working towards your accountancy qualifications. This can be a great option if you know what type of accountancy you want to get into or if you have your eye on a great company to work for.
Another way is to get work experience which can range from two weeks to a year long and this way you can find out which specialism you may want to pursue and get first hand experience working with accountants. Find great opportunities on our jobs board here.
If you then want to explore other options such as setting up your own accountancy business you would then need to get a practicing certificate which can be obtained through ACCA (Association of Charted Certified Accountants) or ICAEW. This way you can work with your own set of clients whether it’s public or private work and have control over your business.
Want to pursue a career in accountancy? Check out our careers advice for more information on the different types of areas you can work in industry.