How to Work in Accountancy
If you have a head for numbers, you're organised and good at time-management, as well as a team player and an adept problem-solver, the chances are that you'll make an excellent accountant. There are many opportunities to work in different areas of accountancy, which are open to people of all ages and backgrounds.
In recent years, the role of an accountant has changed somewhat, as many accountants now also work in a business advisory and development capacity, and undertake aspects of business and financial management and consultancy.
Where to Start?The road to becoming a fully qualified and employable accountant is a fairly long one, and requires a lot of time and dedication. If you are already working, you should be aware that you'd need to take a succession of up to 14 professional exams (although in some cases you may be exempt from around 9 of these), as well as a period of practical training. This can last up to three years in total. In addition to this, you'll also need to undertake something known as continuing professional development (CPD).
There are also different types of accountancy work that cover various aspects of finance and business management. Some qualified accountants work in private practices, supplying private sector clients and members of the public with accountancy and tax advice and financial services. Some accountants, however, will work within a particular organisation in a specific sector, such as commerce or the public sector, and work within more of a business and financial management role.
QualificationsTo start training as an accountant, you don't necessarily have to have a degree, but it does help with training, especially if the degree is in the area of maths or financial studies. You will definitely need to have at least two A-Levels and three good passes in GCSE (or equivalent), maths and English. You can gain accountancy qualifications from different organisational bodies in the UK. These include the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), and the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).
You should also be aware that if you wish to work as an auditor, you will have to undertake training and gain a qualification from a Recognised Qualifying Body (RQB) such as those mentioned above, as well as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). You can gain a BSc in Applied Accounting degree when studying with ACCA without attending university.
In most cases, your employer will foot the bill for your Practical Training, and you may even receive a fair and modest income to boot if you assist in the office with additional duties such as administration.
Working in AccountancyUnless working in a small-scale private practice or organisation, as a qualified accountant you may find yourself working for one of the 'Big Four' – KPMG, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) or Ernst & Young. These are the most prolific and well known of all accountancy firms, and they provide some of the biggest corporations in Britain and the EU with accountancy, financial and business services. These firms deal with a multitude of business and financial aspects, such as tax issues, helping ailing businesses to recover, auditing services as well as 'forensic accounting'.
The Big Four also seek to train their employees in specialised areas of financial management, analysis and accountancy, and will positively encourage training on the job. They are all well respected and regarded as excellent employers, and if you are lucky enough to land a job with any of these firms, your Career Development prospects should be promising.
It is still perfectly acceptable and respectable to work within smaller organisations and practices, which will most likely also support you in further training and specialisms. The likelihood is that in both scenarios, at some points you will have to undertake heavy workloads and long hours of work, often in stressful situations. The industry is slowly Recognising The Stress associated with working as an accountant, with many employers bringing in flexible working hours to assist with a Better Life-Work-Family Balance.