Why Study For An Accountancy Qualification?

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Subject: Accounting
Last updated: 27/02/2018
Tags: aat, aca, acca, accounting, cima

Let's make one thing clear from the start: becoming a qualified accountant isn't easy. There will be countless late nights spent studying after work. There will be weekends lost to last-minute revision. There will be exams you think you have failed. There may well be exams you have failed. During this three-year roller-coaster ride of emotions, there will no doubt be moments when you ask yourself, "why am I doing this?" And yet, every year, 25,000[i] trainee accountants in the UK and Ireland make it over the line: they pass their final exams, complete their work experience, receive their membership certificates and, for the first time, write those all-important letters after their name. So what lies in store for them? Why did they do it?

Most newly-qualified accountants can look forward to a stable and buoyant career. There are 5.7 million[ii] businesses in the UK, and each of them needs a professional accountant (or a team of accountants), either once in a while, or on a continuous basis. Furthermore, a recent survey by recruitment consultants Randstad found accountancy to be the sixth-most recession-proof career in the country, with average salaries rising 11.5% between 2002 and 2014. "Accountants are in the enviable position of being in demand whatever the financial weather", explains Tara Rick, MD of Randstad Financial & Professional.[iii]

What's more, a career in accountancy could be much more varied than you think. There's a popular perception that all accountants spend their time book-keeping or filling out tax returns, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Many qualified accountants work in the finance departments of large or medium-sized companies, providing the financial and commercial acumen that helps business leaders make the right decisions. Indeed, many accountants find their experience and qualifications equip them to become business leaders themselves. And many accountancy qualifications are recognised internationally, meaning they can (literally) take you wherever you want to go!

Finally, we mustn't forget that qualified accountants are well-rewarded for their hard work. ICAS (the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland) found that starting salaries for its newly-qualified members ranged from £26,000 to £50,000, which is certainly not to be sniffed at! And you can expect that figure to grow steadily as your career develops - ICAS also found that 40% of their members received above-inflation pay rises in 2015.[iv]

By now, you might be coming round to the idea that an accounting qualification is worth all the effort. But a range of qualifications are available - which one is right for you?

If you're a school-leaver, you should consider the AAT qualification. AAT stands for Association of Accounting Technicians, and the qualification provides a solid foundation in book-keeping and financial administration. Completion of the AAT enables you to study for the ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) qualification. If you already have a degree, you can study for the ACA without taking AAT first. However, all ACA students must sign up to a training contract with an authorised principal or employer (a practising chartered accountant or firm of chartered accountants).

The CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualification is aimed at those who don't wish to work for an accountancy firm (you may, for example, want to work in the finance department of a retail chain, or a media company, or any other type of business). Many large and medium-sized companies employ CIMA students in their finance teams. Finally, the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) offers more flexibility. You can study towards your exams whilst working at an accountancy firm, or in industry - you can even switch between the two part way through.

If you've reached the end of this article and feel that accountancy might be for you, why not do some further research? Links to information on all these qualifications are provided below. Good luck!

AAT: https://www.aat.org.uk/

ACA: https://www.icaew.com/ or https://www.icas.com/

ACCA: http://www.accaglobal.com/gb/en.html

CIMA: https://www.cimaglobal.com/

[i] Source: Financial Reporting Council http://www.frc.org.uk/auditors/professional-oversight/key-facts-and-trends-in-the-accountancy-profession
[ii] Source: FSB https://www.fsb.org.uk/media-centre/small-business-statistics
[iii] https://www.randstad.co.uk/job-seeker/career-hub/archives/recession-proof-skills-for-your-career_980/
[iv] https://www.icas.com/education-and-qualifications/five-reasons-to-become-a-chartered-accountant

Michael S Accounting Tutor (Bolton)

About The Author

An accomplished chartered accountant with a Big-Four background and a top-class MBA, I prepare students for professional accountancy exams (AAT, ACA, ACCA and CIMA), and teach business, management, accounting and finance to undergraduate level.

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