newly qualified accountants which career path will you take?

Training in accountancy opens up a world of possibilities, and with your accountancy exams behind you it’s time to look towards the opportunities that await. As a newly qualified accountant there are many different areas you can work in, but before you take your first steps on the career ladder, there are lots of options to consider.

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Select an accounting specialism to reveal a range of tailor-made career tips.

Financial accounting

The role of finance in business is a vital one, allowing companies to make informed strategic decisions and grow their operations. In financial accounting, you will work in industry rather than practice recording, analysing and keeping track of all financial transactions.

You will most likely be working within the finance department of a company, using your accounting skills to measure and monitor the economic performance of a company and reporting regularly on your findings.

 

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Common career paths in financial accounting

Depending on the level of your qualifications, you might start as an accounts clerk or as a financial analyst while you work towards chartered status in the finance team of a single business. Becoming chartered normally takes around four years and you will discover various different roles for a financial accountant. As a chartered accountant with increased experience you could go on to become a finance manager and eventually head of finance or a company finance officer.

Accounts Assistant / Accounting technician

Accounting technicians work for both private and public sector organisations, undertaking a wide range of accountancy, financial and taxation tasks. One in twelve chartered accountants begin their accountancy studies by working toward an AAT qualification.

 

Junior Financial Accountant

A junior financial accountant usually provides support to a financial department, working as part of a team to maintain order and transparency for the company's finances.

 

Senior Financial Accountant

Senior accountants take ownership of reporting costs, productivity, margins and expenditures for companies and organisations. Unlike junior accountants, they don't have to perform administrative tasks.

 

Assistant Financial Accountant

An assistant financial accountant is usually responsible for maintaining records of invoices, payments and transactions, preparing accounts payable, invoices and purchase orders, petty cash and payroll.

 

Controller

Financial controllers primarily oversee all of the day-to-day operations in the finance department, reporting directly to the finance director. Typically they'll have come from a management or financial accounting route or from a firm of accountants and will now be working towards becoming a CFO.

 

CFO

A CFO is responsible for overseeing a company's financial activities and operations. This includes helping a business address short-term needs and carrying out day-to-day analysis, in addition to working towards meeting more long-term goals. As a strategic partner and advisor, their role is to keep the company on solid footing.

 

how I got here: a financial accountant's career path

Education:

I studied at Carshalton College, then attended the North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT), followed by Merton Technical College and then Kaplan Publishing.

Entry Level job:

My first job in accountancy was a summer job at Guy Rippon and Partners in Barnes, who were a tax accountancy firm to the music industry.

Further training:

I went on to get my Master Association of Accounting Technicians status (MAAT), which is an internationally recognised professional status in accounting and finance.

how I got here:

In terms of getting where I am now, I studied and worked my way up the ladder like many accountants do.

where I see myself going:

Moving forward I am now a business owner focusing on growth and quality of client.

 

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Management accounting

Management accountants utilise a combination of skills in their role, including accounting, management techniques and business strategy. In this area of accountancy, you will assist in the commercial decision-making process of a company rather than merely looking after the books and recording data.

Your responsibilities will include looking at the financial implications of any decisions in order to aid growth and build profit, often working closely with the managerial team.

 

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Common career paths in management accounting

Take a look at our career path guide to choose the best route for you but typically, you will begin your career in management accounting as a staff accountant, junior accountant or internal auditor. There are routes into this area of accounting for both university graduates and non-graduates but having a degree in accounting, finance or maths is the most common path. Having strong analytical and technology skills is also particularly relevant.

Budget / Financial Analyst

Financial analysts provide guidance to businesses and individuals making investment decisions, and assess the performance of stocks, bonds, and other types of investments.

 

Senior Accountant

Senior accountants take ownership of reporting costs, productivity, margins and expenditures for companies and organisations. Unlike junior accountants, they don't have to perform administrative tasks.

 

Accounting Manager / Supervisor

An account manager's most important job is to communicate. They communicate daily with clients, creative, and various managers and stakeholders within a company. Their responsibility is about much more than just sales, as it involves a lot of customer management.

 

Controller

A company's controller is the chief accounting officer and heads the accounting department. They're responsible for the company's financial statements, general ledger, cost accounting, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgeting, tax compliance, and various special analyses.

 

CFO

A company's controller is the chief accounting officer and heads the accounting department. They're responsible for the company's financial statements, general ledger, cost accounting, payroll, accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgeting, tax compliance, and various special analyses.

 

how I got here: a management accountant's career path

Education:

I studied accountancy and business law at Strathclyde University, Glasgow. I did a three year BA degree and took a gap year to travel after I graduated. I was in the fortunate position to have secured a training contract at the start of my third year and deferred my start date to be able to travel and go straight into work on my return.

Entry Level job:

I trained with KPMG in their tax program, initially in Glasgow, but transferred to London after 6 months. I had taken part in one of their graduate training programs between my second and third year at university and felt I was a good fit with their culture. I also liked the structure of their training scheme.

Further training:

I am a Chartered Accountant, registered with ICAS, and took some specialist tax exams. I was fortunate that, at the time, KPMG offered block release from my day 'job' to allow intensive study periods. In my first and second years I had six months off at a time to study and sit my exams and in my third year I had twelve weeks to prepare and sit my finals.

how I got here:

I am currently Finance Director at a SME digital marketing agency and worked through a series of commercial finance roles along the way. The roles that have helped me the most were commercial FP&A roles where I got to understand the impact of decisions on the company and the plan for the future. I was involved in an M&A deal a few years ago which gave me the experience to move to Director Level.

where I see myself going:

I expect to continue to look after the finances but by working in a smaller business, it gives me the ability to work across teams to challenge efficiencies, look at sales generation and generally help create a profitable and growing business.

 

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Internal Auditor

An internal auditor is an accountant who works within a business or organisation monitoring its accounting practices. The job is vital in ensuring the financial health of a company and good auditors are highly valued.

As an internal auditor your role will involve independently evaluating how risks are being managed, how well a business is being governed and how efficient its internal accountancy processes are.

 

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Common career paths in internal auditing

Training varies depending on your employer but many auditors start working for a firm in their accounts department before specialising as an internal auditor. Others will work for chartered accountancy practices and have experience as an external auditor before switching to internal auditing. As a newly qualified accountant you will normally start as a junior auditor, progressing to a senior auditor and then to managing an auditing team. Some auditors may progress even further to senior management or directorial roles.

Junior Internal Auditor

A junior auditor works with a senior auditor to check the financial records of companies and make sure that they conform to business and accountancy regulations and ethics.

 

Senior Internal Auditor

Senior internal auditors have vast amounts of experience and they are charged with overseeing the entire internal auditing process of an organisation.

 

Internal Audit Supervisor

An audit supervisor oversees audit staff during audits and control consulting engagements that evaluate corporate management and operating practices.

 

Chief Audit Executive

A chief audit executive (CAE) is a high level independent corporate executive with overall responsibility for internal audit.

 

Internal Audit Director

The internal audit director works with internal company resources and employees to evaluate and optimise financial functions.

 

how I got here: an internal auditor's career path

Education:

I studied a bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Reading, and then did an ACA training contract with KPMG.

Entry Level job:

My first accountancy job was as a graduate on the KPMG graduate programme.

Further training:

I then went on get my ICAEW Chartered Accountant qualification via training contract with KPMG.

how I got here:

I wanted to go into an audit firm because generally you can only become a chartered accountant (ICAEW) through being on a training contract with them - you can't become chartered by working in a firm's finance department and this has been one of the biggest reasons for joining KPMG. To get to where I am now, I underwent a three year training contract with KPMG, then spent a year and a half as an assistant manager. Now I'm an audit manager, which I have been for the past year, and all of this has been within Financial Services audit.

where I see myself going:

My aim is to be a senior manager by 2018, followed by Audit Director by 2021 with an end goal of becoming partner some time after that!

 

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Group Accounting

Group accountants play a vital role in some of the largest and most complex companies in the world, helping to keep them on the path of profit and prosperity. As a group accountant you will most likely work in the head office of a group of companies, making sure that they follow the right accounting procedures.

You will be involved in preparing consolidated financial statements and may be asked to provide financial information to help the decision-making process at board level, while looking at the profitability and overall business performance.

 

looking for a new accounting role?

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Common career paths in group accounting

Experienced group accountants are in high demand with large multi-national companies that have many subsidiaries and therefore very complex accounting systems. Most candidates who become group accountants are already qualified accountants and members of a recognised body such as ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) or the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales). However, there are employers who will take you on even when you are still completing professional accountancy exams. Career progression is dependent on the firm you work for, the experience you gain and the skills you have developed.

Accounts Assistant

An accounts assistant is usually responsible for maintaining records of invoices, payments and transactions, preparing accounts payable, invoices and purchase orders, petty cash and payroll.

 

Group reporting accountant

A group reporting accountant reports to the group financial controller, and is responsible for the preparation, presentation and development of the Group's consolidated financial information and statutory accounts.

 

Senior Group Financial / Management Accountant

A management accountant performs a series of tasks to ensure their company's financial security, and usually handles all financial matters, helping to drive the business's overall management and strategy.

 

Finance Director

A finance director oversees the company's internal business decisions. They often have five to 10 years of experience in finance and business, and usually work in conjunction with financial analysts and chief executive officers.

 

how I got here: a group accountant's career path

Education:

I studied a bachelor's degree in Economics and Finance the Queen Mary University of London.

Entry Level job:

My first job was as a Trainee Chartered Accountant at Goodman Jones LLP. I knew I wanted to become a chartered accountant, so I looked at the top 100 accountancy firms in London who were recruiting and I applied via their online application system.

Further training:

I trained to be a chartered accountant with the ICAEW while working at Goodman Jones LLP.

how I got here:

I knew early on that I wanted to be an accountant in some shape or form, and as a result, I interviewed during my final year of university and managed to secure a three year training contact to become and chartered accountant.

where I see myself going:

The good thing about having the ACA qualification is that it can act as a stepping stone to a variety of career paths. For example, I could move into industry where I can hope to be a financial director of a company - large or small. I can also stay within my field and aim to be a partner at a firm of chartered accountants. My current goal is to work my way up into a more senior managerial role within my firm.

 

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Eight essential skills for accountants

Having the right accountancy qualifications are essential if you want to be an accountant but there's more to accounting than the ability to crunch numbers and balance the books. There are many other important and transferable skills you should have if you want to succeed. If you've not already done so you should start developing these skills to increase your chances of success in the job market.

The role of the accountant has grown considerably and now means you could work across a range of different departments. Understanding how accounting fits into the wider organisation and its impact on different areas of a business is good accounting practice as well as important for positively impacting a business's growth and ultimately the bottom line.
Numeracy is an essential skill for any accountant to have. Naturally you need to have a strong understanding of maths and numbers but you also need to be able to interpret graphs, charts and complex financial data, as well as present them in a way in that people without an accountancy background can understand.
In today's computerised world, accountancy is heavily reliant on software to record information and deliver reports. You need to be competent in using a range of software and enterprise resource planning programmes. Expertise in data analytics and advanced modelling techniques are an advantage, as is having knowledge of different online accounting systems.
Understanding the numbers is one thing but you have to be able to communicate them to colleagues, management and other key stakeholders. You need to be able to summarise key data clearly and communicate it succinctly to people who might not have financial backgrounds so they can make informed strategic decisions.
As an accountant you will be dealing with confidential and often commercially sensitive information. Therefore, it is vital you are honest, trustworthy and operate with complete discretion at all times. You need to make sure that as well as protecting your client's or employer's interests, you are also acting within the law at all times to ensure you don't breach client confidentiality or data protection.
Applying your skills logically is part of being an accountant and as accountancy has shifted from pure fiscal control to having an impact on business itself it is more important than ever. Problem-solving is something you will encounter pretty much every working day so being able to deal with an issue sensibly and logically is important. Accountants are good at detail and spotting problems, which naturally makes them good problem solvers.
Leadership skills are important no matter which level of accountancy you're working in, but are vital if you want to progress your career and take on more senior roles. In addition to standard accountancy skills, you need to be able to manage and influence people. Developing strong listening skills is another way to increase your leadership expertise; strong leaders possess the skills to communicate their demands as well as listen to their team and understand what motivates them.
Analytical skills are an essential tool for any accountant because you need to be able to review large volumes of complex financial data and draw conclusions from it that will influence commercial decisions. It's no longer enough to just have pure technical skills, you need to be able to understand and interpret how financial data impacts on the business itself and informs strategy for future growth.

accountancy CV tips from our recruiters

accountancy CV tips from our recruiters

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