All You Need to Know to Kick Start Your Career as an Accountant
The world will always need accountants, and if you’ve got a head for numbers and a methodical mind, it could be the perfect career for you.
The 21st century jobs market is filled with new opportunities, but one career that provides just as rewarding and successful a career as it has always done is the field of accountancy. If you have the necessary skills and attributes, and back these up with the right qualifications, there is a wide variety of career paths to explore.
Ultimately, whether you work for a major multinational in the city, a firm of local Rochford accountants or set up in business on your own is down to you. Here, we take a look at the first steps on pursuing a career in accountancy.
When they talk about accountancy careers, most people immediately start talking about academic and professional qualifications. Of course, these are important, but there are also some personal skills you need, which cannot be learned from a text book. These include the following:
- Motivation – it is a long path to becoming qualified, can you go the distance?
- Integrity – this is a cornerstone of any career in finance
- Interest in business – an accountant is a core part of any management team.
- Organisational skills – you will be constantly working to deadlines
- Teamworking ability – accountants do not operate in a vacuum
- Good interpersonal skills – you need to be able to talk to clients
- IT proficiency and the ability to learn new software quickly
- Good analytical and problem solving skills
- Numeracy – you won’t get far if you’re not good with numbers
Most accountants have a university degree, but it is not a prerequisite. To become an accountant, you will need a professional qualification, and the one you go for will, in part, depend on your academic background.
The easiest entry point is the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians). No degree is necessary, and you will gain experience through a blend of theoretical and work-based activities. It is very much the foundation level.
If you want to become a charted accountant, you will need to study for the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) certificate. You’ll then have three to five years of work experience and further learning ahead of you before you become fully qualified.
Where to specialise
There are numerous branches to accountancy, and as a general rule, it pays to keep your options open in the earlier stages of your studies. You will naturally find yourself drawn in a certain direction after a while. Areas of specialisation include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Corporate finance
- Management accounting
- Internal and external audit
- Tax accounting
- Forensic accounting
On the job experience
The most important part of training to be an accountant is real life experience, and the majority of trainee accountants study for their qualifications while working for an accountancy firm in a junior role. Entering the world of work as soon as possible obviously provides financial benefits, too, but you will need real dedication to put in the necessary hours and combine working with study.
The AAT also runs apprenticeship programmes, which can be ideal for providing that all important step onto the first rung of the accountancy careers ladder.