Accountancy careers – where do I start?

Accountancy is an increasingly popular choice for young adults looking for an interesting and rewarding career with excellent promotion prospects and earning potential. 2020 showed us that the finance sector is very resilient and gives better job security than many other career options.

Gareth John is a Director of First Intuition where many aspiring finance leaders study for their accountancy qualification exams after leaving college. In this article, he lays out his answers to some of the questions he is often asked by college students.

Accountancy Careers

Accountancy careers – where do I start?

Accountancy is an increasingly popular choice for young adults looking for an interesting and rewarding career with excellent promotion prospects and earning potential. 2020 showed us that the finance sector is very resilient and gives better job security than many other career options.

Gareth John is a Director of First Intuition where many aspiring finance leaders study for their accountancy qualification exams after leaving college. In this article, he lays out his answers to some of the questions he is often asked by college students.

What sort of jobs do accountants do?

Accountants work in every single type of organisation in every single country in the world; from local accountancy firms to global multinationals, from charities to NHS hospitals.

One of the great things about choosing a career in accountancy is the incredibly wide range of jobs that accountants work in at all levels of business. Here are just a few examples of job titles:

  • Bookkeeper, Purchase Ledger Clerk or Treasurer
  • Financial Accountant, Auditor or Financial Reporting Manager
  • Management Accountant or Commercial Business Partner
  • Financial Controller or Finance Manager
  • Chief Financial Officer and even Chief Executive Officer

Training as an accountant leads many people into successful careers in closely related areas. These include business analysis, insolvency, tax advice, corporate finance and merchant banking.

You can find a video here of a session I ran looking in detail at a few of the common entry-level roles into careers in accountancy. You can also find more information about the different career paths of accountancy here.

What are the main accountancy qualifications?

School leavers often start their careers in accounting studying for the AAT qualification (Association of Accounting Technicians). This qualification gives excellent fundamental skills and is highly valued by employers. If you are interested in finding out a bit more about why the AAT qualification is such a great start to a career in accountancy and finance you can watch a video discussion here.

Graduates normally start with ACCA, CIMA or ICAEW which lead to full qualification as a professional accountant within three years. ACCA and ICAEW are more common in accounting practice firms. CIMA tends to be studied by individuals working in finance departments. For example, commercial businesses and public sector organisations such as the NHS. You can find out more about these higher-level qualifications here.

What are the key skills needed to be a good accountant?

Firstly I would stress that you do not need to be brilliant at maths to be an accountant. These days computers and software packages do most of the ‘number crunching’. This means you just need to be able to add up and multiply on a calculator.

The more crucial skills include analytical ability, problem solving and decision-making. It is also important to develop strong transferable interpersonal skills such as communication and leadership. These are all skills that you may have already started to build. You can see me discussing some of these skills in-depth and how to develop them here.

How can I start a career in accountancy?

It is very common nowadays to enter a career in accountancy straight from school or college, but plenty of individuals go to university first. Even the largest accountancy firms tend to support both entry routes into their training programmes:

A lot of major employers are already advertising for their Autumn 2021 entry-level positions so this is a great time to start applying. Find some great ideas on where to find that crucial first role in accountancy here.

I recently hosted a session with expert speakers talking about writing your CV and preparing for your first interviews. You can find it here.

Is an apprenticeship a good way to start a career in accountancy?

Apprenticeships are an excellent way to start at all levels. Recent changes to the rules for apprenticeships have meant that larger numbers of both school leavers and graduates are studying under apprenticeship programmes. Apprenticeships help trainees to develop a wider range of important career skills in addition to the technical knowledge to be an accountant.

About 65% of the accountancy students at First intuition are on apprenticeships and many of my most capable students are apprentices so it’s definitely not a ‘second-class’ route.

You can find a great student guide to apprenticeships in accountancy here.

Do I need to go to university if I want to become an accountant?

Absolutely not! Many employers have well-established school-leaver programmes for recruiting into entry-level positions. This can lead to incredible success at the highest levels. In fact, the Managing Partner of the largest independent firm based in Cambridge is a great example that school leavers can go on to achieve success at the highest levels of the profession:

You can read about Warren’s own career story here.

A little about First Intuition

First Intuition has been training accountants for over ten years, working with many large employers such as NHS England, Deloitte, PEM, Larking Gowen, TUI Group, Bidwells and BGL Group.

First Intuition offer classroom and distance learning courses for all of the main accountancy qualifications; AAT, ACCA, CIMA and ICAEW.

Visit www.firstintuition.co.uk or call your nearest centre if you want to find out more or contact Gareth on garethjohn@fi.co.uk if you have any questions he can help you with.

To register your interest in our Accountancy Academy please click here.

Gareth and Warren Tilbury is Managing Partner with PEM

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