I Want To Work In ..... Accountancy
- Career Profiles
- Careers Information
- Professional Accountancy Bodies
- Vacancy Information
- Chartered Accountancy Firms
- Accountancy Training in the Public Sector
- Accountancy Training in Industry and Commerce
- Accountancy PRACTICE INTERVIEW (separate page)
You do not have to have a degree in accountancy to become an accountant (but if you are studying accountancy you will find our page “What Can I Do With My Accounting and Finance Degree?” useful www.kent.ac.uk/careers/accountancy.htm )
Neither do you need a degree in business administration, maths or any other specific subject – graduates in all subjects, from Anthropology to Zoology can and do become successful accountants.
What you do need is a good academic record, particularly at A-level (two Bs and a C is the minimum standard for most firms); good communication and teamworking skills; determination and motivation. Numeracy is, of course, important but most employers require no more than a good GSCE in Maths and a good standard in the numeracy tests which are likely to form part of their selection process (see our pages on psychometric tests www.kent.ac.uk/careers/psychotests.htm for some examples)
Accountancy is a career which offers a graduate environment, variety, people contact, a professional qualification, high salaries and opportunities to work internationally. (Who said accountancy was boring?). Many accountants use their qualification to move into general management or to set up their own business
Accountants work in all areas of business, plus the public and voluntary sector. Many work in firms of chartered or certified accountants (this is referred to as working in “private practice” or, confusingly, as “public practice”). Others are employed by banks, manufacturing companies, local authorities, charities, publishers, film companies, hospital trusts, insurance companies, universities – you name it!
Top Reasons for Applying to Accountancy
|Opportunities for professional qualifications
|Good long-term career prospects||32%|
|Quality of training and development||31%|
|Availability of jobs||25%|
|Excellent starting salaries||25%|
|Able to use your degree subject||
|Interested in content of work||24%|
|Work is intellectually demanding||22%|
|Good job security||19%|
|Good work-life balance||14%|
Source: The UK Graduate Careers Survey 2010 AGR/The Times
Work in private practice is centered on audit: visiting clients
as part of an audit team and reviewing their business operations and financial
records to establish the validity of the company's accounts. Auditing gives you a chance to visit 10 or 20 companies a year, examine their finances and strategies and and ask questions about the way they work. You see what makes some profitable, some fail, some good places to work and others bad: after 3 years training you have a unique insight into what makes a business successful.
Other work includes tax consultancy, business advice and insolvency work. This gives a broad insight into many different businesses and areas of business, which is why many accountants choose to qualify in private practice before moving into industry and other areas. If you train in private practice you will qualify with one of the chartered accountancy institutes or with the Association of Chartered Certifed Accountants (ACCA)
Accountants in industry and commerce use their financial expertise to inform management decision-making, to advise other departments within their organisation and to maximise its profitability and effectiveness. In the public sector they perform a similar role but with the emphasis on ensuring value for money.
There are several different professional bodies which regulate the training and work of accountants in the UK (see below) but, as a general rule, qualifying as an accountant will involve three years of study, exams and relevant employment. Training for professional exams is provided by employers. Early responsibility and fast promotion is available if your work and exam results are satisfactory.
Visiting clients as part of an audit team; reviewing their business operations & financial records to establish the validity of the company's accounts.
PROFILE: Chartered Public & Finance Accountant (CIPFA)
Managing financial services such as income collection; providing budgeting information & advice to management; being directly involved in the management of a multi-million pound organisation.
PROFILE: Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA)
Manages accounting systems. Audits financial records and investigates anomalies. Prepares financial statements/management information. Improves procedures & processes. Advises clients on tax and other financial issues.
Provides the financial information required for the financial protection & future planning of companies. Maintains & reconciles accounting records. Prepares financial statements/management information. Improves procedures and processes. Selects, implements & develops management systems.
The most important word in the title is management rather than accountant. Financial management and analysis, (preparation and interpretation of financial data) is part of the CIMA training but CIMA managers are not “number crunchers” but managers with a broader ranging brief and a wider range of specialist outlets. CIMA is about the management and planning of the future (as opposed to audit & assurance which is about examining past records): real life, practical management rather than theory, for doers rather than people who "just know".
CIMA is about partnership management: working with other business partners, working on planning, strategic development, business decision taking, risk assessment, leadership, change management and driving business forward. Typical job titles for CIMA graduates are: Management Accountant, CFO, Financial Controller, Finance Director, Information Analyst, IT Director, Project Specialist, CEO.
EMPLOYERS: Almost any type of company e.g. manufacturing, retail, energy, banking etc.
The difference between Management Accountancy (CIMA) and Certified Accountancy (ACCA)
Management Accountancy (CIMA)
Focused on business and uniquely covers:
CIMA puts emphasis on:
Focuses on broad business management skills: equips trainees to deal with decisions and changes that affect the whole organisation.
Certified Accountancy (ACCA)
Focused on professional practice and uniquely covers:
ACCA puts emphasis on:
- Prospects Sector Briefing – Professional, Financial and Accounting Services www.prospects.ac.uk/links/ProfessionalSB
- Inside Careers www.insidecareers.co.uk Chartered Accountancy, Tax and Management Consultancy careers sections with vacancies
- Accountancy Students www.accountancystudents.co.uk - for anybody contemplating a career in accountancy, actively studying for a qualification, wanting to learn more about accountancy, or just looking for the words of the infamous Monty Python accountancy sketch
- Accountancy Profession www.accountancyprofession.com news aggregation site created by accountants for accountants - latest accounting news and headlines.
- Audit market competition plans unveiled
A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
On an application for an accountancy position: "I was closely involved in every aspect of my former company, right up to its bankruptcy".
Developed and recommended an annual operating expense fudget.
Proven ability to track down and correct erors.
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) includes training vacancies www.icaew.com/careers
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland www.icas.org.uk you can obtain a Scottish qualification with employers throughout the UK
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland www.icai.ie covers the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) www.accaglobal.com/gb/en/student.html The ACCA qualification; employer and jobs; graduate magazine and videos; case studies.
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) www.cimaglobal.com includes "Directory of Opportunities"
Public Finance Accountancy
- The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy www.cipfa.org.uk/eandt includes training vacancies; an 'Ask the Tutor' service and an interactive map of the colleges that teach CIPFA
- Around 80% of CIPFA training vacancies come from the public sector: local and central government, health, education, the police and the housing authorities, fire authorities and charity sector. The charity sector often use their own CCFA (Certificate in Charity Finance and Accountancy) qualifications to train staff which are administered by CIPFA. Around 20% of vacancies come from the private sector with companies typically with practice firms doing work for the public sector such as the big four but also other organisations such as Grant Thornton and BDO.
- Some councils have taken part in joint schemes to recruit graduates – for example, the Society of London Treasurers run a graduate scheme which aims to recruit graduates to work in a number of boroughs across London. CIPFA also worked with Nottinghamshire County Council who took on graduates to work across different districts and boroughs which has worked well. New areas such as Cornwall and Bournemouth are taking on graduates in CIPFA but there is also an increasing trend for local government to only recruit graduates actually from the local area.
- The area of public finance does seem to be recovering and more organisations seem to be taking on graduates both in the public sector and private sector. However, the planning of these is often less structured. Many companies still continue to recruit graduates will do this on an ad hoc basis rather than fitting in with a regular yearly graduate scheme. With the demise of the audit commission, a lot of work has been passed on to the private sector and Grant Thornton in particular deal with a lot of this work.
- The actual requirements for CIPFA are lower than other qualification routes and are 3 GCSEs including English and Maths and 2 A-levels although obviously individual employing organisation requirements vary. However, some firms may be more flexible with this if candidates have relevant work experience.
- Although many employers specify a minimum 2:1 or 2:2 degree for their applicants, the private sector organisations tend to be more likely to specify particular UCAS points. They don’t always offer exemptions for graduates with accounting related degrees and these are usually done on a case by case basis. The advantage of the CIPFA qualification is that it’s very specific to the public sector and students working in the sector can apply what they’ve learnt straight away. Some organisations such as health give trainees a choice of what qualification they do so they don’t always choose to do CIPFA but it is often the preferred qualification for public services.
- The qualification also includes leadership and management modules and modules on governance and policy which may help with career progression. The qualification is generally done by day release (usually 2 days a week) and there are centres throughout the UK which administer the training. Much of the training can also now be done online. Public sector employers are also often more flexible with exams than those in the private sector.
My journey began at A Level where I decided against Economics despite my interest. I went on to study English and American Literature at Kent because it was something I enjoyed and I had no plan in terms of career after my degree. Journalism and teaching didn’t appeal to me so I went to the CES at the end of my Second year to get some advice. When Accountancy was suggested I was surprised as I had always thought Accountancy was limited to Finance and Business degrees. Instead I discovered that Accountancy firms are often keen to hear from BA students as they like the variety of insight and creativity they bring. With this in mind I spent my Summer looking at vacancies and then at the start of my Third Year I began applying.Getting in to Accountancy isn’t straightforward. For the Big Four and Medium sized firms the process is typically:
- Online Application
- Online Tests
- Phone Interview
- Assessment centre
- Final Interview
The most common stage for failure is the second stage; the online tests are usually a timed numerical test and then either a non verbal reasoning test or an in-tray exercise. I practised the tests before I took them and I was informed swiftly that I would have a telephone interview. This tends to be competency based; the STAR technique is best for tackling the questions asked and preparation is important. Look at the company website and check what competencies they are looking for. They don’t always have to be work related as long as you clearly explain the situation, the task, your action and the result in a concise manner. After the phone interview I found out I had been successful and I was invited to an Assessment Centre at the London offices for PWC.
Assessment Centres are actually quite fun. The people I met were all very nice and although I was the only BA student there were people who were doing science degrees instead of business/finance subjects. The assessment centre involved a written exercise, another set of numerical and non verbal tests and a group exercise. My advice for this would be to stay calm, be friendly and keep yourself aware of what they want you to do. After the Assessment Centre I was invited to a Partner interview, the final stage of the process. I prepared for this by researching the company, looking at practice videos on the CES website and keeping track of financial news via BBC news and the Financial Times. The interview itself was straightforward with a brief chat about why I was looking to do Accountancy and then some more competency questions. I heard back the next day with the wonderful news that I had been successful.
Accountancy is accessible to BA students as long as you do your research and understand what the job involves. It isn’t the easiest of jobs at the start as you typically do a 3 year qualification such as the ACA or CTA but after this you are fully qualified as a Chartered Accountant. After that the world is your oyster!
- The benefits of working in the public sector such as flexible working are often a big pull.
- VACANCY SOURCES. Check the trainee vacancy page on the CIPFA website www.cipfa.org/recruitment/cipfa-trainee-vacancies This has details of organisations who have recruited both in the past and present. . You can also sign up to email alerts to find out about new vacancies.Vacancies can also be found using the usual graduate sources, local government's www.lgjobs.com and individual organisations’ websites.
Work Abroad. There are partnerships with CPA in Australia and the CMA in Canada.
- Chartered Institute of Taxation www.tax.org.uk the ATII examination provides an alternative, or an additional, qualification to accountancy for tax specialists
- TaxWorking www.TaxWorking.org job opportunities in the tax profession
Most vacancies for trainees can be found on the websites of the professional bodies, but the following may also be useful:
- AccountancyAgeJobs www.accountancyagejobs.com UK Financial & Accounting job opportunities ranging from Graduate and Trainee to Finance Director vacancies.
- Accountant Careers www.accountantcareers.co.uk specialist jobs board servicing Accounting and Finance Professionals throughout the UK and Ireland. Opportunities for graduates and partly qualified professionals in the accounting/finance industry.
- Randstad www.randstadfp.com financial recruitment specialists
Audit Jobs & Careers www.careersinaudit.com Careers in Audit is a specialist site offering hundreds of careers within the audit industry
The "Big Four"
- Deloitte http://mycareer.deloitte.com/uk/en/university/graduate-opportunities
- Ernst and Young www.ey.com/UK/en/Careers/Students
- KPMG www.kpmgcareers.co.uk
- PriceWaterhouseCoopers www.pwc.co.uk/careers
Some other firms:
- Adams & Moore www.adamsandmoore.co.uk Chartered Certified accountants based in Dartford
- Baker Tilly http://careers.bakertilly.co.uk
- Barnes Roffe www.barnes-roffe.co.uk Dartford-based firm specialising in advising family companies
- BDO www.bdo.uk.com/careers
- Burgess Hodgson www.burgesshodgson.co.uk/main.htm Canterbury firm
- Chantrey Vellacott DFK www.cvdfk.com
- Chavereys www.chavereys.co.uk Ashford firm specialising in agriculture and rural businesses
- Crowe Clark Whitehill www.crowehorwath.net/UK/careers/Start_your_career.aspx
- Dendy Neville www.dendyneville.co.uk Maidstone firm
- Grant Thornton www.grant-thornton.co.uk/Careers
- H.W.Fisher www.hwfisher.co.uk top 25 firm based in London
- Hazlewoods www.hazlewoods.co.uk/recruitment/graduates.aspx Gloucestershire firm recruiting trainee chartered and certified accountants
- Jeffreys Henry LLP www.jeffreyshenry.com/about-us/careers recruits 4/5 graduates annually in London. Ranked top 12 audit firms by Hemscott.
- Kingston Smith www.kingstonsmith.co.uk/careers
- PKF Littlejohn http://pkf-littlejohn.com/careers.php
- Mazars www.mazars.co.uk UK firm of Europe-wide partnership
- MHA MacIntyre Hudson www.macintyrehudson.co.uk/careers top 20 UK accountancy firm with 10 offices around the country, including North and Central London plus small office in Rochester.
- Moore Stephens www.moorestephens.co.uk/careers.aspx
- Reeves www.reeves.co (this is correct: no .uk at the end!) one of the largest independent firms of Chartered Accountants with offices throughout Kent
- Smith & Williamson www.smithandwilliamsontrainees.co.uk 11 offices in the UK and Ireland
- Wilkins Kennedy www.wilkinskennedy.com/join-wk Top 30 firm in the UK with 50 partners in London and the South East – plus an office in the Falkland Islands
For a comprehensive list of firms recruiting trainees, see the Institute of Chartered Accountants website www.icaew.co.uk/tv
- National Audit Office www.nao.org.uk train as a chartered accountant with the independent "financial watchdog" monitoring government spending.
- NHS Financial Management Training Scheme www.isthenhsforme.co.uk Leads to a choice of professional qualifications - CIPFA, CIMA, ACCA or ICAEW
The ACCA and CIMA websites list training vacancies. Many graduate training schemes are also listed on graduate websites such as Prospects, & Target – see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/graddirectories.htm for details.
Last fully updated 2012