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Guide to an Accountancy career from start to finish

Find your accountancy career path

Becoming a qualified accountant can lead to a wealth of exciting and interesting job opportunities, but whether you are fresh out of school or university or looking for a change in your career, obtaining the proper qualifications is essential.

Depending on what background you are coming from – school leaver, graduate or career changer, pick your starting point and work your way down, identifying the best qualifications and most typical entry routes into a career either in Industry (on the finance team of a single company) or Practice (where you work with multiple clients and industries) like the Big Four: Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG.

These are the most common and typical entry routes into accounting, but there are plenty of other routes.

How to build a successful career in accountancy

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Did you know?

AAT is an internationally recognised qualification

You can start training at any age

You'll develop the skills employers want

It's flexible enough to complete during a career break

If you are a school leaver, take a look at the AAT Qualification, CIMA Certificate or ACCA Knowledge qualifications. All allow you to study accountancy without any previous qualifications. Take a look also at Bookkeeping courses or the ACA (ICAEW).

Have you just graduated from university with a degree in finance or another subject? Read about the ACCA, CIMA or ACA qualifications if you want to know more about becoming a chartered accountant.

Finally, learn more about the AAT, CIMA Certificate or ACCA Knowledge qualifications if you’re thinking about leaving your current career and retraining as an accountant.

How much could you earn as an accountant?

You can expect your salary to rise considerably as you gain further accounting qualifications and experience, whether you work for an accountancy practice with multiple clients or you opt for a career in industry, working in the financial team of a single company.

As a junior associate or an accounts assistant working in London you can expect to earn between £16,000 and £24,000. Once you are partially qualified and in the early stages of chartered training you will typically take on roles as either an associate or accounts clerk and your salary will be somewhere between £25,000 and £28,000.

The next leap comes when you are in the final stage of chartered qualifications and are working as an assistant (qualified) supervisor or a financial analyst. Then you can expect to earn anything between £32,000 and £42,000.

Chartered accountants, typically a senior associate/manager or a financial accountant, with up to three years’ experience can expect a salary of between £45,000 and £60,000 as well as other benefits such as healthcare and a company car.

Chartered accountants with three to five years’ experience earn between £55,000 and £90,000. After being chartered for five or more years you could look forward to leadership roles as a director, partner, head of finance or Chief Finance Officer. Salaries at this stage range between £55,000 and £200,000 and additional perks can include shares in a company, bonuses and other benefits such as generous pension and healthcare schemes.

Salaries will vary according to experience, location and the company you work for.

Accountancy career tips

As a school leaver or graduate you will already be familiar with studying and revising. If you are changing career it may be some time since you last sat an exam. But as you progress through your career from newly qualified accountant to Junior Associate, Associate and eventually Chartered Accountant status you will need to take further exams and studying will be an integral part of your working life. Our tips offer helpful advice on planning your studies, how to make the most of your continuous professional development and what accountancy career moves you should make as you advance.

Kaplan Study Tips

  1. Work hard, but work smart, produce a study planner.
  2. Find the best learning style for you: e.g. mind mapping.
  3. Talk to others, your course friends have the same problems.
  4. Stay positive and learn from failure.

Kaplan Early Career Tips

  1. Once AAT qualified, you could set up your own bookkeeping business or move on to a Chartered qualification
  2. It’s a myth that accountants have to be good at maths
  3. A degree in finance is not that important
  4. Understanding finance is a great asset to set up your own business
  5. It takes about three years to qualify to get your chartered qualification

Kaplan Career Progression Tips

  1. Learn a language, accountants are valued, but those who can speak more than one language are in short supply.
  2. Consider an MBA, but take modules that have little to do with finance
  3. Remain positive and open minded, Accountancy is changing and you need to adapt

Kaplan CPD Tips

  1. Read widely, the professional bodies provide a wealth of online and paper based resources
  2. Plan your CPD, make it relevant to personal interests, your current role or future career move/job progression
  3. Consider charity work, this can help you develop new skills or enhance the ones you already have

Kaplan Management / Leadership Tips

  1. ACCA/ACA - Consider ultimately becoming a partner in practice, moving into consulting and advisory or taking on more senior roles in industry
  2. CIMA – consider moving into consulting and advisory or taking on more senior roles in industry