If you want a career that gives you the opportunity to work in pretty much every industry sector, have a real influence, be challenged, have qualifications that are recognised worldwide, and receive good pay, then accountancy is worth considering.
Being a chartered accountant opens up a wide range of career opportunities – not just in the UK but around the world. Accountants used to be seen as number crunchers but there is much more to it than that, and there is a whole range of specialist areas within the profession, whether you end up working in an accountancy practice or in business.
Mark Protherough, is the Head of Operations, and Director of Learning and Professional Development, at The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), which has more than 130,000 members around the world. He says a recent survey shows just how dynamic the sector is with nearly 40 per cent of ACAs in business operating at board level, while accountants holding an ACA qualification on average receive a basic salary of £79,000, with an average bonus of £29,000. So it’s not surprising he is so enthusiastic about the profession. ‘In addition to job satisfaction and the opportunity to specialise in a field of particular interest – for example forensic accountancy, auditing, corporate finance, or tax – being a chartered accountant also means there are great opportunities for ongoing development,’ he says.
While you might think the downturn in the global economy will result in fewer jobs, many believe the recent turmoil will result in the opposite: that there will be a greater need for skilled accountants as regulations become stricter and rules more international. Apparently, the number of accountancy students is growing worldwide by nearly 7 per cent every year, and research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) last year showed the number of jobs for accountants and financial executives were due to increase from 338,400 to 342,000, with 2,800 new jobs being created in the accountancy sector.
Within the sector there are plenty of growth areas, including Forensic accounting as Mark explains: ‘Forensic accountants are expert witnesses who combine their accounting and auditing knowledge with investigative skills to help lawyers, insurance companies and other clients to resolve disputes. They must be able to communicate financial information in a clear and concise manner in the court, so presentation skills are also key.’ There is also plenty of room to move sideways. ‘It’s quite common to start working for one of the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms (KPMG, PwC LLP, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young) and to move onto working in business,’ says Mark. ‘The roles held by accountants in business are very diverse and it’s common to move between them throughout their career.’
‘The need for qualified accountants both in the UK and internationally is increasing, partly due to the recent introduction of more international accountancy standards and rules,’ says Mark. This has resulted in a ‘war for talent’, with companies aggressively pursuing the best candidates, and has pushed starting salaries for entry level positions up by nearly 21 per cent between 2006 and 2007. However, it also means companies are setting the bar ever higher in terms of what they are looking for in their employees. Mark says you need to have business awareness, numeracy, the ability to work as part of a team, good communication, leadership and networking skills, and great technical skills to be successful. ‘You need to be determined and a hard worker,’ he expalins, ‘and you should see your qualification as a gateway to a career at the highest levels of business.’
For more information on ACA go to www.icaew.com
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the largest and fastest-growing global professional accountancy body with 296,000 students and 115,000 members in 170 countries. It offers a highly respected route into accountancy. To find out more visit www.accaglobal.com/theview
CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) is a leading membership body that offers an internationally recognised professional qualification in management accountancy, which focuses on accounting for business. For more information go to www.cimaglobal.com