You might be at that point in your life, maybe after university or even later, when you are considering and weighing the career options that you may take or turn down.
If you choose accountancy, you will be joining a workforce of more than 350,000 people in the UK.
However, you might still be at that crossroad, where uncertainty and the constraints of life can cripple your decision making power. So let's see why anyone would want to become an accountant.
First, you have to forget the preconceived notion that all accountants are maths genius. These days accountancy softwares do much of the number crunching for you.
Secondly, you have to understand that accountants are needed in every single industry existing on the planet. Finance professionals are required by everyone, from fashion designers to film-makers, from real-estate moguls to non-profit organisations.
Better than a passport, a membership to bodies such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, will offer you job opportunities everywhere in the world. Think about the major commercial hubs on the planet: New-York, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Zurich, Hong Kong, Chicago or Singapore.
Accountancy is also one of the rare profession that is not endangered by automation. Yes softwares and AI are getting better and reducing the time you spent crushing numbers, but this mainly means that you will have more time to meet and consult with your client, advising on financial strategies.
You will also have a secured job. Recessions in the past decades have taken their tolls in term of downsizing and company restructuration but the financial department, being the one that advises on how to go through such harsh times, is also the one that is the less emperiled when times are tough.
If you have not yet decided if becoming an accountant would be the right move for you, let's delve over the question further.
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The Qualifications to Become An Accountant
There are many different routes one can go to become an accountant, and most do not require to have a university degree or a degree in accounting.
The minimum requirement to become an accountant is the AAT or Association of Accounting Technicians course. The AAT qualification is made up of 3 different levels with 5 or 6 units in each.
This qualification can be obtained while working on an apprenticeship which will have the benefit of earning some money during your studies.
To become a chartered accountant, however, you will have to take one of three qualifications.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants certification is made up of two levels including varying courses on business law, audit international economics.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales chartered accountant status, shortened to ICAEW, can take three to five years to get and requires a practical work experience as well as the completion of 13 different modules.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants rules the Chartered Global Management Accountant which is recognised worldwide. To obtain this particular qualification, you will have to get a Postgraduate Certificate in Business Accounting.
Most companies and accountancy practices will accept any of the above qualifications. However, some accounting career paths may benefit from a certain certification more than another.
Remember that you do not need to hold an undergraduate university certification to get the ACCA qualification. A combination of GSCEs and A-levels are enough to start the course but a university degree, bachelor or masters, may exempt you from parts of the exams.
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How Long Does It Take To Become An Accountant?
Again it all depends on which path you choose to follow.
The Association of Accounting Technicians courses takes at least 18 months to complete. The combined 17 units required to get the certification can be fitted one at a time whenever you feel ready for them.
Each of the three levels takes from one semester to one year to complete, and most students will take about three years to gain their qualification. These accounting courses will give teach you all the accounting principles you need to know to kick off your career path.
If you are thinking of getting the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants qualification, you will have to successfully sit both levels (Fundamentals and Professional). This more advanced education is mainly to further your career in accounting.
You need at least five GSCEs and two A-levels to begin these courses. After that will have to get the nine fundamentals unit which will grant you a Diploma in Accounting and Business.
Later on, you will have five more units to complete after which you will receive an Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business.
Even though the ACCA gives you ten years to complete the full accreditation, most students only take four. Remember that you can only sit an exam during the twice-yearly sessions.
If when starting the ACCA course you already have the AAT qualification, you will be spared the first three exams, saving you at least half a year and if you already have a university business or accounting degree, you could skip the Fundamentals units altogether, saving you a couple of years.
What Salary Can You Expect As An Accountant?
A recent survey by Accountancy Age found that there is a considerable discrepancy in accountant salaries depending on gender, cities, level of qualification, company size and industry.
The survey found out that the average accountant salary for the UK is £62,042 a year, all criteria included. Put in perspective, the average UK salary is much lower at £27,271 a year.
Of course, it all depends on your experience and certification.
According to the salary database Payscale, entry-level accountant (understand accountant still in training) earn an average of £24,834 a year, below the national media.
This can quickly raise if you play your cards well and if you take further accountancy training. Once your formal accounting qualification obtained, expect to earn anywhere between £45,000 and £64,000, at least.
You could also consider to expatriate yourself for the first years of your career. Foreign companies are willing to pay top money for British Accredited accountant, and this usually includes and relocation package and a living allowance that could increase your available income by a fair amount.
According to the 2018 HSBC Expat Survey, top destinations for expatriate workers include Hong-Kong, Austria, Norway, Singapore, Germany as well as Switzerland, all countries with major economic centres or hi-tech multinational companies.
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Where Can You Work As An Accountant?
The answer to this question is EVERYWHERE.
Accountants are needed in pretty much all industries existing, from the small corner shop to the multinational conglomerate; all registered businesses need to at least file a yearly tax return with the national government. Every company is a potential employer.
If you work in the UK, all those tax returns will be sent to HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs), which by the way, employs thousands of public accountant to help the government calculate and collect taxes all around the country.
Besides governmental agencies, many UK businesses need accountants: colleges and universities, retail stores, health care providers or even the hospitality industry. Even self-employed people such as doctors, nurses, lawyers or actors may need your expertise in making sure that their tax return is accurate.
But working as an accountant is much more than filing tax-return, even though the end of the fiscal year period, from January to March, is known in the industry as the busy season.
These days accounting firms make most of their through consultancy. The job has evolved, accountants are no longer straightforward bookkeepers that make sure all invoices are issues, paid and filed.
Anyone can use an accounting program to do that but what most people and almost no software can do, is analysing reports and see what are of a company can be financially more efficient.
Forecasting, taxation, budgeting, payroll reporting, audit or financial reports, are all services any modern accounting firm will provide its customers meaning that each firm as many different specialisations.
For example, forensic accounting focuses on the examination of businesses financial records and statistics to ensure that no fraud has been committed, implying a thorough knowledge of government regulation. As a forensic accountant, you will be more likely to work for the government or law enforcement agencies.
Or you could specialise in corporate accounting if you hold the right accounting degrees and you would be in charge of preparation of their final accounts and cash flow statements and well as the analysis and interpretation of a company's financial results.
If you have a very analytical mind, maybe you would be more suited as a certified internal auditor, review a company global risk and control management and improving its financial reliability, compliance with regulation and overall effectiveness.
If you are looking for a job, remember the Big Four (accounting firms): Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Combined those four firms audit more than 96% of the 350 biggest British companies and employ more than one million people.
In any case, accounting might have changed from a simple bookkeeping role a century ago to a multi-national corporation valuation auditing effort today; it remains a pivotal profession to the world of business.