Top tips for aspiring accountants

First, what is accountancy? This is fairly straightforward: accountancy is the recording and reporting of financial transactions and data for a company. It gives the management team information about the financial results and position of the business.

Now this may sound simple enough, but where things get really interesting is how studying ACCA can open the door to a genuinely diverse list of roles in commerce, financial and professional services, the public sector or non-governmental organisations.

Accountancy as a profession is evolving rapidly. The old-fashioned notion of a back-office bookkeeper (‘bean counter’) is fading, as organisations seek competitive edge and greater strategic insight from vast amounts of financial data rapidly delivered by new technologies.

This doesn’t mean the traditional role of the accountant is over, replaced entirely by IT solutions. Yet advances in accounting software do mean that new accountants need to be tech-savvy. Companies increasingly want accountants who can interpret, analyse and communicate trends in data to management or clients, and not just report the numbers. They also want people who understand the capabilities of new technologies and are able to integrate them into an organisation’s operations, to streamline processes and find improvements and savings.

Nevertheless, the fundamental directions that accounting students can take remain largely unchanged, and ACCA students can work in whichever fields they prefer.

Why choose accountancy?

Accountants are needed by every organisation all over the world. As an ACCA student you could apply for jobs within organisations, working to fulfil their accounting and financial obligations and requirements. Alternatively, you could work for a small accounting practice near where you live and provide accounting and tax services to local businesses. Or you could work for a major multinational professional services firm, such as Deloitte, KPMG, EY or PwC, as an auditor, tax specialist, forensic accountant or consultant, among other roles.

‘There are not many areas as diverse as accounting,’ says Sonia Khanna, a senior consultant at JSS Search. ‘Every business requires an accounting function of some sort, whether it’s the transactional team, reporting (management/financial) or bookkeeping. People generally forget this and tend to only think of accounting practices or financial services.’

How to get into accountancy?

There are many routes. It's not all about the school or university you went to either. You can start as a trainee in a local or national business or accountancy firm, many of which will support you through your ACCA studies. Accountancy is one of the best professions for school leavers, internship, apprenticeship, traineeship and graduate schemes. These are offered by firms of all shapes and sizes, and across all sectors. And because accountants often specialise in certain fields once they’ve completed fundamental training and studies, they can be a great way to help you find the career path that suits you.

Where can you study?

‘You can start accountancy qualifications at college, university or even Open University,’ says Sonia. There are also professional institutes like BPP or Kaplan, some of ACCA’s Approved Learning Partners, which have successfully delivered courses all over the world for many years.

What roles are available?

There are a wide range of positions available in finance. Here are few of the typical positions you will find:

  • accounts payable
  • accounts receivable
  • billing assistant
  • account assistant
  • assistant management accountant
  • assistant financial accountant
  • management accountant
  • financial accountant
  • finance analyst
  • finance manager
  • financial controller
  • finance director.
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