At major firms, accountancy and professional services encompass auditing, tax, consultancy and advisory services. Outside of the big players, accountancy relates more specifically to the management of a business's incoming and outgoing payments, as well as cash flow.
Every company has an accounting and finance department. As a result, if you choose a career in this sector you will have the opportunity to work in a wide range of fields and industries, and with a variety of clients. You’ll find more information on the different roles below.
Accountancy roles can generally be divided into three main tasks: recording, classifying and reporting. Day-to-day recording tasks include handling payroll (paying employees), as well as issuing and paying invoices. Classifying data involves managing the above transactions in the general ledger and sub-ledgers (specific ledgers for frequent transactions). Reporting includes financial accounting (issuing financial statements based on the general ledger), and management accounting (finding ways to increase a business’s profitability). Other specialist accountancy and professional services roles include:
Major accountancy firms include PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Ernst & Young and KPMG, collectively known as the Big Four.
Applicants for graduate roles at the Big 4 normally require a 2:1 degree. The exception to this is PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has recently dropped its graduate scheme’s UCAS points requirement and now allows entry to graduates with a 2:2, provided they have done “something exceptional outside their degree”. Often, small companies will also accept a 2:2. It is not normally necessary for your degree to be in a subject related to finance or accounting.
GCSE Maths and English. A-Level Maths and 240 to 340 UCAS points may also be required for Big 4 school leavers’ programmes. Entry-level internships and apprenticeships do exist and are often tailored specifically for school or college leavers without degrees.
All candidates will need to display the following skills:
To develop your career in accountancy and achieve promotion, you will need to study and sit various exams. You will be given the opportunity to study for relevant qualifications and training on the job.
The application process for accountancy roles normally follows the steps below. You will need to complete each stage successfully to progress onto the next step:
The average salary varies depending on role and location.
Starting salary: the average starting salary is circa £25,000, but companies (particularly the Big 4) also offer a wide range of benefits including interest-free graduate loans, a pension scheme, health checks and lunch allowance.
Salary after qualification: your salary will generally increase the closer you get to qualifying – part-qualified students earn an average £31,000 plus bonus, while newly qualified accountants earn an average of £45,000. As you gain experience, your salary will continue to increase, with accountants with six to nine years of experience earning an average of £71,000 plus bonus.
A career in finance can be stressful, as you will often be working and studying at the same time. This stress is unlikely to diminish over time, as each new qualification generally results in promotion, more responsibility and new qualifications to achieve.
Although a career in accountancy can be stressful it can also be rewarding, especially in terms of remuneration, job satisfaction and opportunities for promotion. If you are looking for a role in the financial sector that allows you to work in a variety of industries and with a range of clients, and you’re comfortable juggling work and study, accountancy could be the field for you.
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