Skip to main content


Every business, whether they are a huge multinational or a small enterprise, needs an accountant. Generally accountants offer financial advice to clients by managing cash flow and monitoring profit and loss, but this is increasingly joined by the supply of financial information that could influence the strategic development of organisations. An accounting graduate career is modern and fast-moving. It uses the latest technology and attracts some of the most motivated and intelligent graduates from a wide variety of degree backgrounds.

Globally, the accountancy sector is dominated by the "Big Four" accountancy firms - PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, KPMG and Deloitte & Touche - and their thirst for new talent is a year-round strategy. The "Big Four" have extensive networks in the UK and they dominate the graduate recruitment market. More than 14% percent of all graduates vacancies are within accountancy roles, and a vast majority of them being within the Big Four.

Average Accounting Graduate Salary

Accounting Graduate Career Path

Whichever element of accountancy a graduate chooses to focus on, whether it be financial accounting, corporate finance, tax audit or assurance, the sector can provide a rewarding and far reaching career.In order to become an accountant in the UK, you have to pass (or be exempt from) a series of professional exams and undergo a period of relevant practical training. For this reason, graduates who begin their careers as accountants will usually start studying immediately.

There are several qualifications depending on the route a graduate chooses to take. CA, ACCA or ACA are usually attributed to accountants, while graduates who choose to go into management accountancy will take CIMA exams and those looking to go into tax may take the CTA. In the larger firms, there are a number of areas including forensic accounting, audit, tax and corporate finance that graduates can choose to specialise in after passing their exams. In smaller organisations, accountants are expected to cover a number of technical areas and cope with all aspects of a client's business affairs.

Once you have completed your accountancy qualification, which is a process of exams and work experience that usually takes three years to complete, the possibilities are endless. With almost every business requiring an accountant, you could work in any sector, anywhere in the world. These qualification also opens doors to general business management careers or creates the opportunity to set up independently as a sole practitioner.

With the high standard required to complete an accountancy qualification, you have to work and study incredibly hard but the benefits of becoming a professional accountant far outweigh the bad.For instance, many accountants will play a pivotal role in an organisation's business decision-making process, ensuring they are at the centre of all aspects of the company. Additionally, within large international firms, there are opportunities for global travel and secondments overseas.

Prospects within accountancy are very good with progression often being very seasoned and structured, opportunities for management can arise within two years after qualification and senior management three years after that. Progression to partnership is competitive, but achievable after eight to fifteen years.

Qualifications and Skills Needed

What proportion of candidates as a percent we place into Accounting graduate careers and the typical qualities graduate employers look for.

GRB Placements for Accounting by Degree

Typical Candidate Attributes

The large accountancy firms are competing more and more with banks and other financial establishments for graduates. With each of the Big Four taking on between 1,200 and 2,000 graduates a year, they are prepared to look at individuals from a variety of degree backgrounds. Strong, numerate graduates who are ambitious, analytical, logical, patient, and persistent are still very sought after. A graduates portfolio would also be improved with some relevant work experience with 58% of employers rating it as the most popular qualification.

The entry requirements vary between firms and many of them no longer have set academic requirements but will focus on your strengths and experience instead. Those that do have entry requirements will tend to look for circa 320 UCAS points and a 2:1 or above in any degree subject. Grades B/C in GCSE English and Maths are essential. You will also need to demonstrate:

  • Strong Excel and financial modelling skills
  • Good written and verbal communication skills
  • Excellent presentation skills
  • Self-motivation and commitment, in order to combine study while working
  • IT proficiency
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Good numeracy

Sources for Further Information

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
Institute of Financial Accountants
Institute of Business Advisers
Association of Chartered Certified