Table of Contents
- Accountancy Job Placements
- Study the right accountancy qualifications
- Choose your accountancy specialisation
- Secure an Accountancy Job Placement or Accountancy Apprenticeship
- Accountancy Work Experience
According to the High Fliers report The Graduate Market, 32% of entry-level positions for graduates are filled by people who have already had Accountancy work experience with that employer through placements, internships and vacation work. Over half of recruiters warned that they were unlikely to offer a job to graduates with no work experience.
Accountancy Work experience, Accountancy Job placements and Accountancy internships have become an integral part of graduate recruitment for many leading employers. The recruitment process you go through to secure a work experience position is similar to those applying for graduate positions. Means you could already be partway to obtaining a graduate position by the time you start your placement or internship.
The number of places in Accountancy work experiences and the professional services industry is on the rise. Within the UK’s 100 best-known and most successful employers alone, 2,337 were on offer for 2016, an 11.3% rise from the previous year. Work experience is a great way to show employers you have the interest and ability to work as a chartered accountant. The experience can give you an understanding of the industry and help you to decide whether or not this is the career for you, as well as looking great on your CV, possibly helping you secure a graduate position.
The two main types of Accountancy work experience are internships and placements. Accountancy job Placements, also known as 'a year in industry' or 'a sandwich year', are opportunities available with specific degrees to take a year out of studying to work for a company in a related industry. Internships usually last 6-12 weeks, are not linked to a degree course and are typically undertaken in the summer months.
Accountancy Job Placements:
Accountancy, business and finance degree courses will give students the option to take a placement year as part of the degree. Some firms based locally to universities may offer Accountancy Job placements, especially if the school of study has useful business links. Larger national employers may offer these programmes too; over half of companies in the High Fliers survey offered industrial placements.
Placement years can help you to:
- Gain invaluable industry experience
- Increase subject knowledge, potentially helping with your course marks
- Build employability skills
- Apply the theory from your degree
- Earn money to support yourself through your studies
- Help secure a graduate position post-graduation.
- Most universities that offer placement years will have a dedicated department to assist your placement search, but students can also search for and contact employers. University careers fairs can be an excellent place to start.
If you've strong numeracy skills, an analytical mind and are good at managing money, discover all you need to know about becoming an accountant in the UK.
Accountancy perceived as an uneventful career by those outside of the industry, but it can be one of the most fulfilling - whether you choose to work in the private or public sector.
Analytical, interpretation and adaptability skills are required to communicate accurate financial information, put forward realistic targets and drive business growth. However, even if you've got the necessary attributes to be an accountant, you'll still need to decide which area of accountancy suits you and look into the preferred qualifications of that specialism.
Here are the steps you'll need to take if you plan to become an accountant in the UK.
- Study the right accountancy qualifications
The AAT qualification is typically the minimum level expected of an accountant, but to ultimately become a chartered accountant, you'll have to progress to the ACCA, ACA or CIMA qualifications. Although many accountants will hold a university degree, it's often desirable rather than essential. Even if it is a prerequisite for a role, the degree can usually be in any subject.
So, while maths and economics at A-level followed by an accounting degree may be advantageous, if you didn't go down this focused route you'd still be able to get the qualifications you need - as professional bodies provide courses for students and workers at all levels.
A variety of finance qualifications are available to those interested in accountancy careers, which can be confusing when searching for job opportunities.
To enhance proper initiation, the most popular accountant qualifications:
- AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) accountancy courses - made up of three qualifications across three levels, they combine industry knowledge and practical work skills.
- ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualifications - they comprise of two levels: Fundamentals and Professionals. The modules cover a variety of topics, from corporate and business law to audit and assurance.
- ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) chartered accountant status - also referred to as the ACA, this qualification consists of three to five years of practical work experience and the completion of 13 modules.
- CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) business finance award - oversees the widely-recognised CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant), which requires you to have already gained the postgraduate-level Certificate in Business Accounting.
Many accountancy firms will accept qualifications from any board. Still, if you have a definite career path in mind, it's worth taking a look into the preferred requirements of that specialism.
For example, if you're interested in becoming a chartered accountant, you'll need to have studied for the ACCA qualification and have three years' work experience in a relevant role. It usually takes around four years in total to become fully qualified.
If you're wondering whether you can become a chartered accountant without a degree, you can apply for the ACCA qualification with a combination of GCSEs and A-levels. However, already holding a degree or Masters in a particular subject, this may make you exempt from some exams. Even without any formal academic qualifications, you can enter the accountancy profession and study at the foundation level.
- Choose your accountancy specialisation:
Accountancy careers can split into two key areas: management accountancy and financial accountancy. Within these divisions are further specialist fields such as budget and financial analysis, and working as a controller.
The difference between management accountancy and financial accountancy is that the former provides information to people within a company. In contrast, financial accounting provides information to those outside of it, such as shareholders.
Unlike financial accountancy, management accountancy does not require by law and only covers particular products, while financial accountancy covers the entire organization. Most graduates will enter accounting through financial accountancy, which can provide a variety of career prospects such as:
- Business recovery and insolvency
- Corporate finance
- Forensic accounting
For each accountancy specialism, graduates also have the choice of whether to work in the public or private sector.
- Secure an Accountancy Job Placement or Accountancy Apprenticeship:
Despite the importance of qualifications to become established in the industry, the value of real-life accounting work experience placements cannot be underestimated. Study often complements work in a full-time position, presenting the perfect opportunity for graduates to build the necessary skills. Securing a training contract enables you to work while studying for a recognized accountancy qualification, allowing you to get into Accountancy Job Placement with guidance and support.
As an accountant, you'll be able to find work in any sector (public and private) and with both large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Over time, you'll be able to focus on your preferred working environment. Most vacancies are available direct from employers so look out for roles that you're eligible to apply for Accountancy job placement. You'll also find that finance graduate schemes are often structured with the opportunity to attain an accountancy qualification such as the ACCA or CGMA as one of the programmer’s objectives.
However, accountancy apprenticeships, such as those run by the AAT, are a viable alternative to university, and they provide a fast-track to achieving chartered status with the leading professional bodies, including ICAEW and ACCA. When you secure an apprenticeship, you can gain practical skills while earning a wage and receiving the same benefits (including a holiday allowance) as other employees at the company.
As a chartered accountant, you'll need to:
- manage financial systems and budgets
- undertake financial audits (an independent check of an organisation's financial position)
- provide financial advice
- liaise with clients (individuals or businesses) and provide financial information and advice
- review the company's systems and analyse risk
- perform tests to check financial information and systems
- advise clients on tax planning (within current legislation to enable them to minimise their tax liability) and tax issues associated with activities such as business acquisitions and mergers
- maintain accounting records and prepare accounts and management information for small businesses (accountancy)
- advise clients on business transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions (corporate finance)
- counsel clients on areas of business improvement, or dealing with insolvency
- detect and prevent fraud (forensic accounting)
- manage junior colleagues
- liaise with internal and external auditors (where applicable) and deal with any financial irregularities as they arise
- produce reports and recommendations following internal audits or public-sector audits
- prepare financial statements, including monthly and annual accounts
- arrange financial management reports, including financial planning and forecasting
- advise on tax and treasury issues
- negotiate terms with suppliers.
Starting salaries for accountants vary depending on the location, sector, size and type of firm. Graduates entering the career can expect to earn salaries of up to £30,000. During training, the average earning potential can be up to £60,000. The average annual wage for a chartered accountant is £84,500, with an average yearly bonus of £17,300. Careers in banking and capital markets tend to attract the highest salaries, and larger employers generally pay more than smaller ones.
Salary packages may include benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing schemes, medical insurance, pensions and car allowances—income data from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).
Working hours vary depending on the role and the organisation but typically aren't 9 am to 5 pm. Working extra hours in the evening and at weekends it is quite common to meet deadlines, particularly in larger firms. As a trainee, you'll usually be given time off instead of any overtime worked. Flexible working arrangements are typically possible after qualification. You could also work independently by setting up as a sole practitioner.
- Accountancy Work Experience:
Another way you can enter the industry is through a work placement or voluntary or part-time role. Even work-shadowing for a day can give you a feel for the kinds of accounting activities you might be involved.
Formal summer accounting internships with larger financial institutions, such as PwC or Deloitte, can be highly competitive for students, as they're usually oversubscribed. Still, any type of work experience accounting will boost your chances of landing a full-time job in an accounting role.
Check individual websites of companies you'd like to work for to see if they have any current vacancies. You may be able to land a work placement by sending speculative applications to local small to medium-sized employers (SMEs) in the financial sector.
If you're at university, consider volunteering to be the treasurer for a club or society, or look for a part-time job that will help you to develop skills in this area.
Depending on the size of the firm, you may get to work on real projects and manage your workload as you acquire essential accountancy work experience skills. Training provided to those engaging in work experience, and you'll get to make industry contacts that can aid your future career. As many employers will only support a trainee accountant in studying for their accountancy qualifications if they've previously undertaken relevant work experience, this will be a valuable addition to your CV and help you on your way to becoming a qualified accountant.
Explore how to go about securing either a work placement or internship. During the accountancy work experience placements, you will take the role of an accounts assistant and working on client files. You will be involved in accountancy duties including, but not limited to:-
- Nominal ledgers, Sales and Purchase ledgers,
- Adjustments, Journals and Bank reconciliation,
- Preparation of Profit & Loss, Trial Balance and Balance Sheet,
- Taxation including VAT, Corporation Tax, Income Tax,
- Setting up and managing Excel spreadsheets,
- Setting up new staff records and running payroll