Introduction to Accountancy and Professional Services
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.
What roles are open to me?
Accountancy roles can generally be divided into three main tasks: recording, classifying and reporting. Day-to-day recording tasks include handling payroll (paying employees), 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’ profitability). Other specialist accountancy and professional services roles include:
- Auditing: checking records to prevent fraud and verify the accuracy of a company’s financial statements.
- Tax specialist: helping to minimise a company’s tax expenses.
- Consultancy: offering advice and guidance on a company’s insurance and investments.
- Advisory services: giving advice on acquisitions and mergers.
What qualifications and skills do I need?
Applicants for graduate roles at the Big 4 normally require a 2:1 degree. The exception to this is PricewaterhouseCoopers, who have recently dropped their graduate scheme’s UCAS points requirement and now allow 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:
- Communication skills
- Ability to meet deadlines and work in a high-pressure environment
- Ability to work well as part of a team
In order 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 in order to progress onto the next step:
- Application form
- Online aptitude tests (these generally focus on numerical and verbal reasoning, but may also include personality tests)
- First interview (may be face-to-face or via phone)
- Assessment centre aptitude tests (these will again focus on numerical and verbal reasoning and may also include simulated exercises and personality tests)
- Final interview
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, 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 experience earning an average of £71,000 plus bonus.
Are there any downsides?
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.
Is it right for me?
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. Visit our forum to find out more.
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