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Audit & accountancy Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Overview

Working in audit and accountancy, you could be doing lots of different jobs within a business - writing reports, analysing finances, deciding on future budgets and working with financial data. It’s a very important job to undertake and one that you can begin to learn as a school-leaver through an apprenticeship.

Accountancy professionals are responsible for maintaining the financial records of a company and keeping the books balanced; monitoring the ingoings and outgoings of a company in order to work out profits (or losses) and set budgets for the future.

Auditing is a branch of accountancy and is responsible for monitoring the activities of accounting, making sure that the calculations are correct and legitimate. Often auditing is done by a private, third-party company so that it is an objective analysis.

For most of these roles some kind of qualification will be essential because you have to learn the correct procedures, rules and regulations of the industry. However, if you have a head for numbers and can prove that you really want to be in this industry there are plenty of apprenticeship opportunities available.

Skills

Of course, you’re going to need a head for numbers to work in the accountancy and audit industry because this will be the majority of your working day. However, employers also highly value soft skills such as negotiation and teamwork in this industry - particularly if you’re working in a large firm, where you may be working in a team.

Some of the other skills that employers and recruiters will look for are:

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Communication
- Mathematical ability
- Presentation Skills
- Teamwork

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for junior roles in accountancy & audit after you complete your apprenticeship, if this is the route you decide to go down.

When you have a qualification behind you, you can progress rapidly through the ranks in accountancy and auditing. While you may have to pass more exams to go into a senior position, it's likely that you can get these sponsored by your employer. The competition for the top talent in this industry is fierce because of the amount of responsibility that these roles hold. This means the salary can be very high for those who excel in their roles.

Some of the biggest and most respected employers in the accountancy and audit field offer apprenticeship schemes, which are very structured and allow you to work within a company and earn a wage whilst also spending time studying.

Career development

If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing.

The CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) is a professional qualification made up of a series of 12 exams that covers a range of management and accounting. It takes most people around four years to complete the whole qualification and it is highly respected among employers - many will support you through getting this qualification.

Another option to develop your career in this industry is the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification. This takes around the same amount of time to complete although there are two more exams than the CIMA. The maximum number of exams a student can take for this qualification in a year is eight, so technically it could be completed in two years although this is quite rare! Most of those taking the ACCA also work whilst studying – a requirement of the course is that you have three years of experience.

To work in audit in the public sector, you’ll need a Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) professional qualification.

The National Audit Office (NAO) also offers a 3-year training scheme for graduates in any subject.

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

Trainees in this industry typically earn between £20,000 and £30,000, progressing to around £60,000 after you have gained a professional qualification and have some experience behind you. Actuaries salaries start at £30,000 and also increase up to £60,000 after gaining some experience.

Here are the average salaries for some roles within the sector:

Financial controller - £47,658
Credit control manager - £32,765
Trainee accountant - £20,000 - £30,000
Chartered accountant - £34,637 - £56,000
Qualified auditor - £32,000 - £53,000

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

To get a job in accountancy or audit as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector.

Professional organisations, as well as colleges, can provide these qualifications or advise you on the best courses to apply for.

Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in accountancy or audit. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent.

This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.

Formal work experience is not essential for work in this industry and your qualifications should be your priority.

Further Reading

Institute and Faculty of Actuaries
Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales
Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland
Chartered Accounts Ireland
Royal Economic Society
Institute of Financial Accountants
Chartered Insurance Institute
Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountancy (CIPFA)
British Insurance Brokers’ Association
UK Finance
The Association of International Accountants
Association of British Insurers
The Association of Accounting Technicians
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
The National Skills Academy for Financial Services
National Audit Office