Accounting, as a sector, offers so many opportunities, especially in terms of job security because accountants are always in need. It’s more focused on helping your clients and providing advice than just number crunching that other people assume. Expectations can be high and it is competitive to get into this sector, but if you have analytical skills and like jobs that require attention to detail, then this sector might be for you.
How to get into Accounting?
A common route when thinking about accounting is to apply for a Training Contract with an accounting firm, but within this there are a few different qualifications you could choose from. The 3 key professional qualifications providing a route into accounting is ACA, ACCA and CIMA. Each of these are globally recognised and can take a number of years to complete and are usually done in parallel to your new graduate job.
- ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant): in order to start your ACA qualification, you must first enter into a training agreement with an authorised employer and then you have 5 years to complete it. Briefly, the first 6 exams you’ll sit will be certificate level exams and largely computed based, the next 6 are professional level, and then finally there is the advanced stage which are usually written exams. You can find out more here.
- ACCA (Associate Chartered Certified Accountant): you can take this qualification as part of a training agreement or independently, meaning you don’t necessarily need an employers backing. This also means that while studying you can change employers and aren’t tied down. You also have 10 years to pass the exams, but also need 3 years of work experience. You can find out more here.
- CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountant): similarly to ACCA you can work towards this qualification independently or with your employer, there is also no limit to finishing these exams. As a CIMA accountant you are more likely to be hired by a business rather than an accountancy firm.
Different areas of Accountancy?
- Corporate Treasury
- Commercial Finance
- Internal Audit
- Management Accounting
- Public Sector Accounting
- Corporate Finance
- Risk Assessment
What skills do you need?
Obviously for accountancy jobs you will need numeracy and analytical skills, but there are other skills that employers also value that might not stand out, like communication skills, interpersonal skills, time management skills and collaboration skills. I have broken down the 8 key skills you will need to have and to demonstrate to your interviewer when applying for an accountancy role:
- Innovation. This is important because as the business world grows quickly, so does its accounting needs so they need people with fresh ideas ready to make an impact.
- Understanding. You need to understand the field you’re working in, in order to assimilate data, create proposals and do daily tasks. You also need to be able to understand information quickly and ask questions to further your own understanding.
- Communication. Part of most industries is communication skills, but for accountants you will need to convey complex information to clients or colleagues easily.
- Commercial Awareness. You need to understand how and why your business/firm fits into the market and how its affected by economic, social and political movements.
- Enthusiasm. Recruiters will always be looking for enthusiastic people that are eager to join the team because it demonstrates that you’re willing to learn and work to the best of your ability.
- Initiative. Similar to innovation and understanding but you need to have initiative. Your employers can’t be watching over you all the time and you need to earn trust and responsibility from them.
- Credibility. You will need people to trust you in order to secure clients and projects and in this industry, credibility is the currency you trade on. With more credibility comes more opportunities and you can lay foundations for your future career pathway.
- Resilience. The ability to work to tight deadlines under pressure, juggle multiple clients and remain positive can be tough so you need to stay resilience and put trust in your skillset.
Who are the leading employers for graduates in Accounting?
There are a large number of opportunities for graduates in the world of accounting, including gaining internships or even graduate schemes from The Big 4: Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC. The Big 4 is a nickname used to collectively refer to the 4 largest professional services networks in the world. They are often grouped together because they are generally comparable in terms of their size relative to the rest of the market, their client scope and their benefits for employees.
Other excellent employers are BDO, Mazars, the National Audit Office, RSM, Smith and Williamson or Willis Towers Watson.
What does applying for an Accountancy Grad Job look like?
Most employers will ask for an up-to-date CV and a cover letter tailored to them. If you impress them with this written application, it can lead to online tests, video interviews and then likely end in assessment centres. At the assessment centre they will likely have scheduled a range of tasks that test your competencies for the job, whilst also checking that you’d be a good fit to the team.
Remember that as a Henley Business School student you have access to careers support from Henley Careers, and 4 years of post-graduation support as a Henley Alumni, with Henley Live. There is a range of exclusive resources available to you from one-to-one appointments, resources online on Blackboard and careers events running throughout each term.