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 www.cimaglobal.com
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales www.icaew.co.uk
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy www.cipfa.org
Institute of Financial Accountants www.ifa.org.uk
Institute of Business Advisers www.iba.org.uk
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants www.accaglobal.com/uk
Olga, University of Nottingham
"Within two weeks of graduating from Nottingham University with a BA in International Economics, I landed a job with an international auditing firm in Russia and haven't looked back since. I have been working in audit for three years and not a single day is like the previous. Russia is growing very fast, demand for audit services is extremely high so there are opportunities all around to learn, meet people, work in some of the most amazing places and of course have a lot of fun.
Most of the time I am based in Moscow but travel is a big part of the job and so far I have crossed 8 time zones in a day, experienced extreme temperatures and have met some of the most extraordinary people on my travels. But apart from globetrotting, audit is also about communication and negotiation with clients as well as numbers and analysis so there is a lot of scope to use a range of skills. Everyone can apply themselves in this profession whether you are good with words or numbers but you need the drive and determination to deal with tight deadlines and late nights at the office, though with a great team who support you and are always there with some good advice this isn't a problem.
One of the perks for me is the inside look at what the companies I work with do and how they do it. You can learn a lot about business, its processes, its people, what makes a business successful and what will lead it to failure. It is the valuable experience working with the real sector that makes audit such an interesting profession. It is also a job that is highly based on ethical business practices. This is important for anyone who is looking to work in finance as audit makes you understand what good business practices are and acting with integrity, honesty and bringing value to you clients becomes second nature. Such knowledge and ability to apply it opens up many doors of opportunity for those who have career aspirations.
The company I work for, who supply audit services, is excellent as an employer in the field. They provide the work atmosphere where learning is a big part of the life you live. You are always striving to grow and to develop in a team of friendly and knowledgeable colleagues. This greatly contributes to the whole experience and helps when as a graduate you first sit down at your laptop, open up your ACCA books and meet you first client."