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A Career Guide to Becoming an Accountant 

Published: Friday 17th January 2020

Every business, whether it’s a multi-national or sole trader, needs an accountantSo there’s plenty of work out there for those looking to enter the professionSalaries are high, career prospects are excellent and there are a wide variety of accountancy jobs out there, from working for one of the big four to setting up your own accountancy business. If you’ve got a head for figures and an analytical mind, then accounting could be an excellent career move. 

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Access to a wide choice of accountant jobs 

Of course, not everyone has what it takes to be an accountant. The road to becoming a professional accountant is long and challenging, so you need to be sure it’s the right career for you and be committed for the long haul.  

To work as an accountant, the minimum qualification you’ll need is an AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians), but most trainee accountants will progress to CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants), ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) or an ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) qualification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). While A-Levels in maths and economics is useful to get accepted onto one of these courses, all these professional bodies provide foundation/entry courses suitable for students and workers at most levels. 

Discover which accountancy course is right for you 

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Which course you choose can depend largely on the career path you’re aiming for. AAT offer practical qualifications for bookkeepers and those looking to gain a solid foundation in accounting and all the major UK chartered bodies have a fast-track path for AAT graduates, so this can be a quicker route than doing a degree at university.  

The most important difference to note is that between the ACCA and CIMA qualifications: the ACCA qualification is geared towards those looking to move into financial accounting, while the CIMA qualification is aimed at management accountants.  

AAT – The Association of Accounting Technicians offer four accounting qualifications, which take between six and 18 months to complete, ranging from the Foundation Certificate in Accounting (Level 2) to the Professional Diploma in Accounting (Level 4) 

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ACCA – The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants offer two levels of qualifications: Fundamentals and Professionals. Modules cover a number of topics from corporate and business law to audit and insurance.  

CIMA – The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants oversees the widely recognised CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) qualification, which requires for students to have already gained the postgraduate Certificate in Business Accounting.  

ICAEW – The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales is responsible for the ACA qualification, consisting of three to five years practical experience. Training starts with ICAEW’s Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB), consisting of six foundation modules, before completion of the final seven advanced modules. Students must also complete 450 days of work experience at an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer (ATE). 

What to expect when you qualify 

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Since accountants are in demand, many companies will hire accountants before they are fully qualified and pay for them to complete their exams in the hope that they’ll stay once qualifiedWhich is just as well – training can be expensive if you’re not sponsored, or planning to be self-employed when you qualify 

As you’d expect, once fully qualified, the rewards can be significant with the average accountant salary in excess of £60,000More importantly, few careers offer the mobility that a professional accountancy qualification can offer.  For the widest range of bookkeeping and accountancy jobs, start with a job search on Zoek. 

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