Want a career as an accountant? Here’s what you’ll need to do to qualify and start your accounting career.
How to Get a Career as an Accountant
Qualifying as an accountant opens so many opportunities for your career. You could handle business finances, audit public bodies, or even become a forensic detective (of the accounting kind, of course).
But how do you start your career as an accountant? What kind of qualifications do you need to become an accountant? Don’t worry: we’ve got you covered. Read on to find out the routes you can take to get a job as an accountant.
Take finance-related A-Levels
If you’re looking at higher education and sixth form college, get ahead of your accounting career now. A-Levels in subjects like maths and business management can help you secure a place on a finance degree.
Don’t worry if you’re over 18 and already out of college: keep reading to find out more about alternative routes into accounting jobs.
First things first: you definitely don’t HAVE to get a finance or accounting degree to become an accountant. If you decide not to go to university, you will need minimum GCSEs in core subjects like English and Maths, and an A-Level or two in related subjects will help you stand out in apprenticeship applications.
However, if you want the university experience, look for an accounting degree. Some might be all accounting, while others combine things like business management and finance to give you a rounded view of corporate finance.
The degree you choose may guide your decision when it comes to choosing your accounting niche – but you won’t be restricted by it. If, for example, you take a business finance degree but realise you want to become an auditor, the stuff you learn at university will still be valued by employers.
Take your AAT qualifications
You will absolutely need to take the Level 2 Diploma from the Association of Accounting Technicians (Level 2 AAT Diploma). This is the minimum requirement for any accounts job. If you want to become an accounts manager, you’ll need to take the next qualification – AAT Level 3 – as well.
You can study these courses on your own, in a classroom, or as part of your job. Some accountancy firms will take on trainees or apprentices: you’ll earn a salary and learn on-the-job, while also taking your AAT qualification. Check the agreement before you sign: you might be tied to the company for at least a year after your qualification (to make sure the company gets their return on their investment in you). If you leave before that point, you could have to pay back any training fees.
Progress to Chartered Accountant status
You don’t have to become a Chartered Accountant – but it will land you better salaries and career opportunities. It is also a requirement for anyone who wants to become a Chartered Public Accountant (Check out blog about the difference between a CPA & Bookkeeper).
It takes at least 3 years and up to 10 years (studying part-time) to gain chartered status. Many firms offer you time or contributions to your training, however, and training while working as an accountant is very common.
Consider your specialty
General accountants have great earning potential – but niche roles can offer more money and greater job satisfaction, if you’ve found a passion for a certain type of accounting.
Consider your options and follow your interests. The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offer professional development courses and qualifications for those interested in management accountancy, for example.
Alternatively, if you want to become a public body auditor, you could opt for extra training via the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA). For those who want to follow the rabbit down the forensic accountancy hole, the Institute of Certified Forensic Accountants offers accredited training so you can become a Certified Professional Forensic Accountant.
Learn more about different accounting jobs
If you’re still not sure which accounting job is right for you, take a look at our resources pages as a starting point.
Remember, you can also join our community to bounce ideas off like-minded individuals who might have some great suggestions and advice for your future accounting career!