So, you want to be an accountant. While we’re not exactly unbiased, we’d still say that it’s a brilliant profession! The job does have a bad rap and comes with some unfortunate stereotypes (which by and large aren’t true anymore), but it’s also an essential part of the UK economy.

Although, how do you break into the world of accounting? Well, you can begin by reading this article!

Accountancy: the early days

If you’re in school but know accountancy is for you, you’ll need GCSEs (or equivalent) in grades 4 or above.

Firms used to like As and Bs at A level (or equivalent) and a 2:1 university degree, but that’s not a formal requirement anymore as accountants look for trainees with a broader set of experience and ability. Instead, you could search for an apprenticeship or start in a junior role straight out of school and work towards professional qualifications at the same time.

But that doesn’t mean a university degree is useless – it’s still a great way to learn and prove you can work independently to tight deadlines. Outside of formal accounting degrees, you could choose a maths, economics, business, management or finance degree.

Apart from the qualifications, enthusiasm and positivity are crucial attributes that can significantly enhance team dynamics, inspire innovation, and drive success in any professional setting, especially an accounting firm.

Entering work

There are multiple options available to you when you enter the workplace. Here are the main choices.

The Big Four

The Big Four – Deloitte, PwC, EY and KPMG – are the world’s largest and most recognisable accounting across the world, and they have a very strong presence in the UK. These programs are very competitive and, like so many jobs nowadays, you’ll need more than just good grades to secure a place.

Training at a smaller accounting firm

Smaller accounting firms may not be the Big Four, but many owners of these businesses used to work for the Big Four before striking out on their own.

Training with these firms can be more beneficial in some ways. Smaller accountancy practices are often more tight-knit, and you may have the opportunity to work closely with business leaders. They can often be found in small towns or even rely on a work-from-home approach. Some firms may be quieter, but others will be just as busy and fast-paced as PwC or Deloitte.

Smaller accounting firms may only hire a few graduates at a time, so you can expect a more standard application and interview process. Jobs may be advertised on these firms’ websites or websites like LinkedIn.

Finance departments of commercial or public sector organisations

Another option is to join a non-accounting organisation, such as a company or public department, and work within the finance team.

While this might seem like you’re straying from accounting, remember that a lot of accounting firms are trying to broaden their services and offer more general business advice to their clients.

So, one advantage of joining a finance department for a few years is that you could approach the Big Four or a smaller firm with practical business experience and a broader skill set.

Professional accountancy qualifications

The professional exams you take will depend on how you would like to specialise in the future and are often done in conjunction with regular work. Some options include:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). One of the standout features of the ACCA qualification is its flexibility and the opportunity it offers for specialisation at a later stage in one’s career. Initially, ACCA students are exposed to a wide range of subjects that lay a solid foundation in both the theory and practice of accounting. This broad approach ensures that ACCA-qualified accountants have a well-rounded understanding of business operations and financial management, making them highly adaptable and capable of working across various sectors and industries.
  • The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). The AAT offers a practical and skills-based approach to accounting education, providing a solid foundation for those aspiring to enter the finance and accounting profession. Tailored for both aspiring accountants and professionals seeking to formalise their experience with a recognised qualification, AAT covers a range of key accounting principles, including bookkeeping, budgeting, and financial reporting.
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). This route could lead you to work for a firm that advises a range of clients. You could specialise in auditing, corporate finance, or tax, for instance.
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA). This is a good option if you want to work within the public sector as a public finance accountant.
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). You might want to consider this route if you want to help companies manage and look after their finances.

Looking to kickstart your career?

If you’re ready to begin your accountancy career, keep Stapletons in mind. We can’t guarantee that we’re looking for someone while you’re reading this, but just send us an email with your CV and why you want to work with us, and we’ll keep your name on file.

As for who we are, we’re a practice of 10 accountants in Devon, just 8 miles from Exeter, with multiple clients who trust us to put their finances first. We love to be involved in the local community and projects, and we empower our people to pursue the careers they deserve.

In the meantime, though, we wish you luck on your accounting adventure, and hope this article will help you achieve all that you want to achieve.

Get in touch with us today to find out more.

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