So you’re good with numbers and have a keen eye for detail. Struggling to think of what career might make you happy? Here’s our suggestion, but you have to promise to keep reading. Ready? Accounting. Yes, we said it, accounting. Stereotypically accountants are portrayed as boring, nerdy, and humourless, but in reality it can be a great career as accountants have their choice of several different fields and industries.
Every kind of business needs accountants, from investment banks to art galleries to hotels. Being an accountant can be interesting, well-paid, and provide job security where other positions can’t. So how do you land a nice accountancy job? Well first of all, you don’t need to have studied it at uni to gain an accounting qualification or get hired as an accountant. One thing is for certain: to be taken seriously by potential employers you will need some kind of accreditation. Here are the most popular ones in the UK and how those programmes work.
- ICAEW ACA Programme: The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) runs the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA) Programme. It’s a tough course but it really pays off afterwards. On completion you can apply for ICAEW membership and even use the acronym ACA after your name, which is not only cool, but will bump your CV up a few notches. The programme is long – three to five years (most people finish in three) – but they are spent actually working for a real company, not just in a classroom. The ICAEW has 2,500 companies who are certified with them to train chartered accountants, so you will be learning on the job, which is the best way to do it. Also, that means that while you’re learning and studying you’re getting paid too! You will also have to take some exams (14, which sounds like a lot, but that’s over three years) to pass the programme, but your employer is there to offer guidance and support on those. The companies who participate in the programme range from accountancy firms to banks to law firms and even not-for-profit companies. There are also training companies in a variety of countries such as Greece, Russia, and Singapore so you don’t even need to physically be in the UK to gain this accreditation.
- ACCA: The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has started a programme in the past few years that is gaining popularity. It has similarities to the ACA programme in that you take 14 exams over three years and work while you learn. The programme is comprised of three sections: exams, work experience, and an ethics module that you complete online. If you have studied accountancy at university you may be able to be exempt from taking a few of the exams but if you haven’t, don’t worry. A great part of the accreditation is that you don’t even need a degree to get into the programme. Many people whose highest level of schooling is A-levels have been accepted into the ACCA programme. The ACCA also operates internationally and has even more locations than the ACA programme, which is something to think about.
- CIMA: The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants accreditation takes a slightly different route than the programmes above. This is the accreditation for you if you are not so sure you want to be a bean counter auditing records, but you rather like thinking strategically about the financial health of a company. The CIMA programme is really more about financial management (hence the title) than about accounts. The different areas of study are: operational, management, strategic, and management accounting. This is not a learn-on-the job qualification, but classroom study only (you can also do the programme online). You can study at your own pace; some very keen students have been able to finish in three months, but on average students take a year to complete the accreditation. Though it is a great qualification to hold, you probably won’t be able to work while you do it so consider carefully if you can survive the length of the programme without getting paid. If you’re already employed and thinking about going for the CIMA accreditation, ask if you can work out some kind of leave for study package so you won’t be completely skint while going through the programme. You must pay a registration fee up front, then a separate fee for each exam, as well as a yearly subscription. CIMA has assessment centres all around the globe, and that’s where you go to sit your exams, as well as get help from tutors.
- CIPFA: The Chartered Public & Finance Accountant qualification does not have stringent requirements for entry, so if you didn’t get the best grades in uni, you can still get into this programme. This one is interesting because it focuses on the public sector and could land you a job working in local government, at the NHS, or even a charity. They offer a variety of certifications including International Treasury Management, Public Sector Financial Reporting, and Charity Finance. So if you’d want to use your maths skills to do good in the world, look into the CIPFA.
All of these accreditations are slightly different so really think about your ideal accounting job to choose the right programme for you. The training is long and it won’t be easy, but having one of these acronyms on your CV will do wonders for your eventual job search and will impress employers over and over again. Time to show the world that people who are good at maths and auditing accounts are more than just bean counters and number crunchers!