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Working In The Accountancy Industry


An overview of the industry

Accountancy is centred on monitoring all the monetary activity of a company in order to maximise profits. The work of an accountant helps to keep a company afloat.

As an accountant you’ll spend your day working with numbers to keep track of the finances of a company, set budgets, provide advice about financial decisions and analyse the risks associated with these decisions.

There are a variety of different areas you can work in within accounting such as financial, managerial, cost accounting, auditing, taxation, and forensic accounting. There is also the option to work in-house and dedicate your time to one firm, or work for an agency and have multiple different clients. If you fancy working in the public sector there are lots of opportunities available here too – you’d be working with local governments and advising on how much money can be spent across various public services.

Those with experience could offer their accountancy services on a freelance basis and build up a clientele. However, to do this you will need to be able to prove your competencies and you’ll need a good few years of experience behind you.

Skills & interests required

Accountants must be confident with numbers and working with mathematical formulas. You’ll also need to be trustworthy and professional as you’ll have access to a company’s financial information, which is highly confidential.

Other skills that will benefit you as an accountant are teamwork and communication as it is likely that you’ll have to liaise with other teams and stakeholders to advise on finances.

Other key skills that employers look for are:

  • Strong mathematical ability

  • IT skills

  • Innovative thinking

  • Analytical skills

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Typical Career Progression Routes for School Leavers

The career progression route in accountancy is very specific and highly structured. It involves a series of examinations and training across the course of a few years. The two main qualifications are:

CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Professionals): 12 professional qualification exams, taken over approximately four years
ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants): 14 professional qualification exams, taken over approximately four years

The qualifications from thee two programs are very similar and it is usually up to your employer which one is offered to you.

Some of the largest accountancy firms offer structured school-leaver programs that’ll be a great start to your career as an accountant. There is a lot of competition for these schemes, so it can be difficult to secure a place, but those who do progress quickly in their career.

Tips for getting into the field

Accountancy is an incredibly popular industry and there are a few things that you can do to make your application stand out against the rest:

  • Take on similar roles: source roles as an accounts assistant, or even an administration role in an accountancy firm, as it’ll give you experience of this working environment

  • Apply for internships/work experience: experience will help to differentiate you from other candidates who have the same academic record as you

  • Strong academic record in maths-related subjects: this will prove that you will be capable of doing the work and further study necessary to become an accountant

  • Pull out specifics from the job description: this shows that you don’t just want to be an accountant anywhere, but at the specific firm that you’re applying for

Earning potential

The starting salaries in this industry can vary quite widely for school-leavers. If you’re on an apprenticeship the minimum wage will be £3.70 an hour. However, many employers with school leaver programs for accountancy do not fall into the apprenticeship bracket and must pay their employees the minimum wage for their age. Currently that is as follows:

Age 16-17: £4.20
Age 18-20: £5.90
Age 21-24: £7.38

It’s worth bearing in mind that the large accountancy firms can pay significantly more than this. KPMG, for example, pay their school leavers £20,000 a year.

Once you are fully qualified and have a few years of experience under your belt your salaries can increase to around £60,000 a year.

Here are the average salaries for some other roles within the industry, both qualified and non-qualified:


Accounting technician: £20,304
Bookkeeper: £10.30 p/h
Payroll administrator: £19,700
Payroll manager: £30,691
Accounts assistant: £18,598
Credit controller: £20,706
Credit manager: £34,996
Accounts payable clerk: £19,824
Accounts receivable clerk: £19,452


Company accountant: £31,301
Management accountant: £34,093
Chartered accountant: £34,637
Forensic accountant: £39,787
Financial accountant: £35,036
Auditor: £29,211
Internal auditor: £29,406
Financial controller: £50,780
Finance manager: £45,570
Tax accountant: £32,637
Tax consultant: £34,578

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

To get onto a school-leaver accountancy program you will need to have at least three GCSEs grades 1-3, including maths and English. You will also likely require strong A-levels, at a minimum of 260 UCAS points, and maths-related subjects will be beneficial.

However, the exact entry requirements will be set by employers so it is always worth checking their website.

Useful resources

Institute of Chartered Accountancy for England and Wales
Royal Economic Society
UK Finance
The National Skills Academy for Financial Services

Industry bodies

Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland
Chartered Accounts Ireland
Institute of Financial Accountants
Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountancy (CIPFA)
The Association of Accounting Technicians
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
The National Skills Academy for Financial Services