How to become an accountant
Accountants help individuals and businesses manage their finances, balance the books and complete tax returns. An accountant is essential for a company to manage their money well and be sure that their income is greater than their expenditure.
If you have strong budgeting skills, an ability to be accurate with figures and can manage money exceptionally well, a career as an accountant may be ideal for you. You will need to demonstrate strong analytical skills and the ability to interpret accounts in order to feedback to business managers and owners. It will be the role of an accountant to help a business determine the ways in which they can grow and strengthen their financial standing.
£25,000 to £100,000
30 to 42 hours
What qualifications do I need to have in order to become an accountant?
Most firms will require an accountant to have at least an AAT qualification before they will consider hiring them. If you want to become a chartered accountant, you will need to further your study to achieve qualifications such as ACA, ACCA or CIMA. Definitions of these qualifications are below.
Several accountants do have a degree, but this is not essential. Some employers will look to hire graduates as they will see a degree as being a sign of commitment and enthusiasm for learning. However, vocational courses are usually more relevant and desirable.
The most popular vocational courses for those who want to become an accountant include:
- AAT – Association of Accounting Technicians. These accounting courses are compiled of a variety of qualifications that cover three levels. They contain knowledge about the industry and practical work skills.
- ACCA – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. This range of qualifications is made up over two levels which are Fundamentals and Professionals. The qualifications cover a wide range of topics including law, assurance and audits.
- ICAEW – Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales Chartered Accountant Status. More commonly known as the ACA, this is a qualification that is gained after between three and five years of practical work and the completion of 13 theory modules.
- CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. This business finance award can be achieved by those who have completed a post-graduate certificate in Business Accounting. It is a common step for experienced accountants who want to progress their careers or knowledge.
It is possible to become a chartered accountant without a degree as you can apply to complete the ACCA qualification if you have GCSEs and A-Levels. That said, if you already have a degree, you may not need to complete all of the exams for the ACCA qualification and so your vocational study may be shorter. If you don’t have any relevant qualifications, you can still enter a career in accounting but will have to complete a qualification at a foundation level first.
Essential Skills for Being an Accountant
Accountants need to demonstrate a host of essential skills in order to be considered to be suitable for the career. The role of an accountant is important and highly responsible, so in order to be successful in this career, organisation and attention to detail are imperative.
Additional essential skills that an account should have and develop include:
- At various levels within a business, including liaisons with the workforce and reporting to the most senior management team.
- The ability to clearly communicate verbally and in writing.
- Excellent time management skills.
- An eye for detail and the ability to translate figures into a wider picture.
- The ability to maintain focus when undertaking repetitive tasks.
- An excellent aptitude for spotting anomalies and the ability to concentrate for long periods whilst detecting errors.
- The ability to adhere to the policies and working practices of your employer.
- The ability to maintain thorough reports on all accounts.
- The ability to work well under pressure.
- Management and leadership skills.
- Strong administrative abilities.
Day to Day Work of an Accountant
An accountant will spend most of their time in an office setting and may work alone or as part of a team. This highly responsible position will demand long periods of concentration and as such, the accountant will often need to work in a quiet environment, free from distractions.
Some of the daily tasks that an accountant will undertake include:
- Prepare and analyse financial reports.
- Provide feedback to business owners and management of report translations.
- Gathering financial information and chasing missing evidence such as invoices and receipts.
- Preparing tax returns and filing them.
- Read and respond to a variety of emails and colleagues requests.
- Attend and conduct meetings to provide information on the financial stability of the company.
- Work alongside accounts assistants to ensure that all reports and records are kept up to date and that any outstanding payments to and from the business are chased.
- Self-employed accountants will also spend time securing new business by meeting potential clients, marketing their services and arranging new contracts.
How much does an accountant get paid?
An accountant’s salary will depend on their level of experience and the qualifications that they hold as well as the location of where they work. A starting salary for a new accountant is usually around £25,000.
With experience and further qualifications, most accounts can expect to earn at least £50,000.
After several years in the career, an average annual salary for a chartered accountant that works in a business is over £90,000 per year. On top of this, the average bonus for this role is over £20,000 per year.
As with most financial jobs, accountants are usually able to secure regarding benefits packages as part of their employment contract. This may include a generous holiday entitlement, health insurance, a company car and business bonus entitlements.
Career Progression for an Accountant
Accountants can further their careers and increase their salaries by completing additional qualifications, such as those named above. They might also decide to help train new accountants, particularly if they work for a large accountancy firm.
Accountants work in a field where career development is encouraged and expected. This means that accountants are expected to stay up to date with current regulations and legislation and are encouraged to continually develop their personal skills and knowledge.
Management positions are likely to be the most common course for career progression and many accountants work towards becoming the company’s finance director after having proven their skills and commitment to the business.
Working Hours and Working Environment for an Accountant
Most accountants will work in an office within the business that employs them, but it is very rare for an accountant’s work to be confined to office hours. It is quite usual for an account to work in the evening or at weekends to ensure that they meet deadlines.