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. They are also business experts and can 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?
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.
After that your options are:
- Head straight into training for a Certificate in Finance Accounting and Business, which gives you a foundation in the basics. Several major accountancy firms also offer intermediate or advanced accountancy apprenticeships for school leavers.
- Choose A-level maths and at least one other subject. You can also study for an NVQ in accounting.
- 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.
Finally, you’ll need to complete another 3-5 years training to become a chartered accountant. 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.
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 strategy board games like Settlers of Catan or Carcassone - or even 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, Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales.
- Certified accountant: ACCA, Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
- Chartered management accountant: ACMA, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
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?
About a quarter of all the chairs or CEOs at the top 100 companies listed on the London Stock Exchange have an accounting background.
For more accountancy careers advice, have a look at our jobs board, which lists all our latest work experience and internship opportunities.