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Already giving your friends and family tips on how to look after their money? An accountancy career could add up for you.

What is an accountant?

Accountants are financial whizzes who make sure that businesses keep track of their money and pay their taxes. Accountants work for all kinds of people, from individuals to big corporate companies. As well as doing the accounts, they help decision-makers make key business decisions. They also give advice on how to shape up your finances. Learn more about what accountants do in this article.

What accountancy jobs can I do?

There are stacks of accountancy jobs to choose from, including:

  • Tax accountant: Working out ways for companies to pay their income tax and save money.
  • Forensic accountant: Giving expert evidence in law courts.
  • Auditor: Independently checking company accounts to make sure they‘re legit.
  • Management accountant: Helping businesses develop their financial plan.

There are plenty of opportunities for promotion too – accountants can rise up the ranks to become finance directors or even the head of a company.

As an accountant you can work for any kind of business: for a big name brand, a charity, a TV show, or even a football club. Lots of accountants also choose to become freelancers and sell their services to different clients.

Is a career in accountancy for me?

If you have a head for numbers, are good at solving puzzles and enjoy studying maths, accountancy could be the career for you.

Accountants need to be reliable and patient as well and good communicators – a big part of your job is explaining complex money issues to the people you work for.

This can be a career for creative types too, as you’ll need to think on your feet for new ways to deal with problems and improve your company’s bank balance.

How can I start a career in accountancy?

Becoming an accountant takes some training, but you don’t necessarily need a degree. You should aim to achieve chartership - this proves that you are fully trained and qualifies you to do every aspect of accountancy.

You will need at least a grade 4 in maths and English at GCSE, though some courses will ask for a higher grade. Then choose A-level maths and at least one other subject. You can also study for an NVQ in accounting.

After that your options are:

  • Begin an apprenticeship in accountancy. These are available at different levels. ICAEW - one of the global chartership bodies for accountants - offer higher and degree apprenticeships in accountancy.
  • Study any degree subject you like and aim for a 2.1. Accounting is a good place to start, but any degree discipline can lay the foundations for an accountancy career.

Once completing a degree or apprenticeship, you may need to complete further training to gain chartership. You can still work without it, but this qualification allows you to run a whole business's finances, sign off audits and generally rule the financial world.

The good news is that most of this training is done on the job so you’re still earning while you’re learning.

How to boost your chances

Find accountancy work experience in an office. An accountancy firm is ideal, but anywhere that offers you the chance to do admin work is good. This will help you develop important skills, like numeracy, communication and meeting deadlines, as well as giving you the feel of an office.

You could work on your problem-solving skills by taking the annual UK Maths Challenge. It'll show potential employers you're enthusiastic about maths and you'll be able to add a certificate to your CV too.

Playing board games or video games is another great way to improve your problem-solving.

What accountancy qualifications are available?

Some accountancy qualifications that you can gain include:

  • Chartered accountant: ACA, from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW).
  • Certified accountant: ACCA, from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
  • Chartered management accountant: ACMA, from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

Helpful note

The terms can get very confusing, but the only real difference between a chartered accountant and a certified accountant is the board that issues the qualification. Both qualifications are recognised internationally.

Did you know these accountancy facts?

Just under a fifth of all CEOs of the FTSE 100 companies have an accounting background.

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