The winding road to accountancy career success
Newly qualified accountants need to choose between working for an accountancy practice and moving to industry. Read on for advice on available pathways – pursuing the right one for you will lead to a successful and fulfilling career.
In today’s marketplace we can see a perpetual demand for qualified accountants, both in accountancy practice and industry, which is good news for newly qualified accountants. You’ll likely find that you’re approached by companies and recruiters offering you long-term progression opportunities and excellent remuneration.
It’s important to remember that there are advantages and disadvantages to every offer; speak to your managers, peers, recruitment consultants and friends to get an idea of the industry landscape and make a decision that works for you specifically.
Accountancy practices and industry firms tend to look for slightly different skill sets in their employees, which could make your decision much easier.
External accounting consultancies vary in size from one-person businesses to multinational firms. You might also consider one day opening your own practice. Regardless of the size of the company, working for an accountancy practice offers:
You will be working autonomously with clients across different sectors; from manufacturing to hospitality to financial services to charity. Therefore, you have to be flexible, adaptable, and interested in solving problems to meet the needs of diverse clients. This kind of work will give you the opportunity to see your value-add and impact to their business.
You will also need excellent organisational and time management skills. If you seek diversity and challenges a career in accountancy practice could be for you. Importantly, it will also give you the chance to hone your technical skills and develop expertise in your specialism.
Managing a varied client portfolio will require excellent communication and interpersonal skills. You will have to be comfortable interacting with clients on a daily basis, getting involved in business development, and participating in networking events.
Clear career progression
For the most part, working in accountancy practice offers clear long-term progression opportunities. Most accountants progress to Senior Manager/Partner/Director level within five to seven years of qualifying.
Excellent remuneration package
Most accountancy practices offer retirement and lifestyle benefits, training/study support and opportunities, holidays entitlements, foundation and commuter benefits, and child care support in addition to competitive base salaries. Many companies are also introducing flexible working patterns and return to work initiatives, helping their employees maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Generally speaking, accountancy practices tend to offer better job security than their industry company competitors.
Accountancy practice – specialism
Anyone pursuing a career in practice will be expected to immerse themselves in a technical discipline. Depending on the size of the company, that may involve becoming an expert in one or two speciality sectors through work experience, additional training, relevant reading and networking events. The main specialisms in accountancy practice are:
Accounting and business advisory
Services offered to the clients will go beyond traditional bookkeeping services; you will be a client’s primary point of contact when it comes to accounting and finance matters. You could expect to be involved in preparing and reviewing their accounts, tax returns and VAT returns.
Audit and assurance
Working as an external auditor, you will review the financial statements of commercial and non-profit organisations. You will analyse the data and ensure it’s been processed in line with relevant legislation. Auditors are also often providing assurance and consultation services across business risks, relevant IT, and corporate and social responsibility.
Tax specialists are responsible for offering advice and support to their clients to ensure the right amount of tax has been paid at the right time. Therefore, they have to stay up-to-date with tax regulations and law. The primary specialisms are corporate tax, personal tax and indirect tax.
If you decide to build a career as tax specialist, you should look into obtaining tax specific experience to add to your skill-set; this will make you a much more desirable candidate and go a long way to support your career progression.
Corporate finance professionals overview and manage clients’ finances, including assisting in merger and acquisition deals, funds’ investments, and selling and purchasing financial products.
Should you decide to move in-house in commerce or industry, you will become an integral part of an accounting and finance function within a specific organisation. It will allow you to contribute to the success of the organisation while also developing your personal skills. There will be fewer opportunities to specialise as generally you will be required to provide an all-round accountancy service.
Your main responsibilities may include cost control, accounting systems, budgeting, or audit. Your career development opportunities might be less defined – the most common opportunities include progressing from financial accountant to finance manager to financial controller, group controller or finance director before taking on CFO positions. However, career progression is often achieved through moving to another organisation.
Take your time and choose wisely
You need to choose a career pathway which suits your skills, personality and long-term goals. Since we spend a lot of our life working it’s important that you enjoy every aspect of your role. Being a newly qualified accountant means you are at an exciting stage in your career– you have worked hard and now it is time to put your knowledge to good use. Make sure you take your time to choose the next role wisely and do what is right for you.
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About the author
Katrin is a specialist recruiter in Audit and Assurance, Business Advisory, Tax and Transactions Services. She is working extensively with public and private practices across Scotland, supporting career moves for ambitious and talented individuals.
This blog is one of a series of articles from our commercial partners.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of ICAS