Accountancy may seem like a dry subject area, but if you’re good with numbers and have a logical mind (and like dealing with money), it could be the perfect role for you.
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What is Accountancy?
It’s more than dealing with numbers related to financial transactions – it’s understanding what the numbers mean, recognising trends and patterns and being able to accurately report back to the business or individuals in charge of the money – plus a solid grasp of the economy and financial law. The role is a highly important one across all sectors, as accountants also offer advice to businesses and individuals on ways to save money and invest cleverly.
There are a number of key tasks related to accountancy, and these include recordation, classifying, reporting, recognising fraud, advising on tax issues and analysing profit and loss. Accountants are an absolutely essential part of every business.
Job roles in Accountancy
There are a number of different roles within the accountancy sector. Some of these may be full-time for a single business, or some may be for an accountancy firm dealing with a number of different clients; either way, you will usually be involved in the following:
- Preparing profit and loss statements
- Looking over contracts, budgets, pensions schemes, grants and more
- Aiding in training of staff or clients on invoicing, billing and more
Some of the more specific subsections of accountancy are as follows:
Qualifications in Accountancy
If Accountancy is for you, there are a few different options to take. You could study Accountancy at university, first and foremost. A Bachelor’s degree in Accountancy will teach you how to measure, process, analyse and communicate the financial goings on in a company or organisation and present it back to a number of different parties. This could involve liaising with investors, creditors, regulators, the public and of course upper management.
There are a select few Accounting degrees that are sought-after, including a Bachelor of Accountancy (BAC), a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Accounting, a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Accounting or a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) in Accounting. In order to study any of these, you will need to have studied maths to a high level; having studied business at A-Level is also an advantage.
Basic Accountancy topics will be covered in the first half of the degree, which lasts three years in the UK. There will probably also be a research project to undertake plus other assessments such as running and analysing financial reports.
There are also a number of other qualifications that can be obtained to break into accountancy. Below are the main five:
Skills you need in Accountancy
More than simply being good with numbers and understanding tax issues, Accountancy requires a number of other skills, including:
Good organisational skills
There’s a LOT to keep track of as an accountant, and it’s often a lot of important documents and information. Being organised is highly important.
Being able to motivate yourself to get the job done in a timely and accurate manner is also essential. Accountants must be able to work under their own steam.
There’s an awful lot of ethics at play in accountancy – you’re in charge of a lot of money and delicate information, so understanding and having ethics is vital.
Whilst there are a lot of administrative tasks to undertake that can be repetitive, being an accountant also means being able to adapt to an ever changing industry.
Business and IT acumen
Two very important skills required are an understanding of business and good IT skills. There are a lot of reports to run, after all!
Good with numbers and analytical
Need we say more…?! Obviously an accountant needs to be good with numbers, but more than this an ability to analyse figures and recognise patterns and trends is also key.
Similar to being able to adapt to a changing economy, being able to problem solve is also essential. Hiccups will naturally occur, and there will often be puzzles that need solving, such as how to save a business money.
Communication and team-working
As an accountant you will no doubt be required to talk about financial issues with other people within a business, from all levels. This requires an ability to communicate complex issues effectively to others who may not fully understand, and work will within a team – both your own and across departments.
The industry overall is holding steady, although going through some ups and downs. The industry itself has been around for hundreds of years and will naturally continue to thrive – money makes the world go round, as they say.
Overall as the expansion of businesses internationally continues, accountancy jobs seem fairly secure; however changes to governments and other political issues, as well as technological advancements, do affect the industry. Within the UK particularly Brexit is naturally having an effect on the sector, and the automation of certain roles traditionally undertaken by accountants is causing some alarm within the sector.
There has been a decided shift towards more advisory roles within Accountancy in the UK. The digitalisation of tax and compliance by HMRC is causing smaller businesses to rethink their business models and offerings. There is also a new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) launching in May 2018; this will improve existing government regulations regarding the management of personal data, making it more stringent, which again will have an impact on Accountancy as a sector and individual firms.
It seems the future of Accountancy may well be more focused on strategy, management and advice, as opposed to straight number-crunching.
Work experience in Accountancy
Work experience is incredibly important within Accountancy, and many of the qualifications listed above require some level of practical experience to be undertaken in order to pass.
There are usually plenty of insight days and work shadowing opportunities up for grabs from various firms – it’s worth asking your university careers advisor and researching what firms have coming up. Large firms such as EY, KPMG and PwC all run insight days and work shadowing.
Many accountancy firms also offer internships, which is many students’ first true experience of work within the industry. Some firms even offer internships to first year university students, allowing for a taste of the industry early on. These are less competitive than summer internships and are usually shorter, so definitely worth investigating.
On top of this are year-long placements, which those on a sandwich course at university will be able to take advantage of. If you’re able to do this, it’s well worth it as year placements help build contacts and allow for you to experience multiple areas of the accountancy industry, and better understand where your interests lie.
Pros and cons
|It’s one of the oldest industries around, with a deep and rich history, and high job security.||There are a lot of ever-changing financial laws and new taxes to understand, so learning on the job is constant.
|It has many interesting sub-sections to it, allowing for you to specialise across industries and work across the globe.||Dealing with money and financial transactions can be a high-pressure environment.
|You can earn anything from £20,000 as a starting salary to upwards of £40,000.||Some of the work may be repetitive and involve a lot of admin.
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