Careers in Accountancy & Financial Management

 

In brief

Accountancy and financial management are integral to the business world, and involve the recording, reporting and analysis of financial transactions. The sector covers many areas, including audit and advisory work, taxation, business consulting, and management accounting.

You will usually work towards chartered status or qualification from one of the sector’s professional bodies. In the UK, there are six accountancy bodies, covering different locations and types of practice. The Financial Reporting Council provides a useful oversight of the profession, with links to each one.

Where can you work?

  • Public practice (sometimes called private practice) – typical employers are professional services firms and there is a demand for graduates to fill positions in audit and accounting. Relevant qualifications depend on your area of specialism, for example the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) offer the ACA qualification for accounting, and the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), and Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) provide training for tax consultancy. The ICAEW, ATT and CIOT websites provide further details.
  • Industry and commerce – all businesses require financial and accounting expertise and you will find many related graduate roles in management, retail, and FMCG. Such roles can lead to attaining the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification – the Chartered Global Management Accountant award (CGMA). CIMA members work in 150,000 organisations worldwide. The CIMA website provides further details.
  • Public sector – includes the Civil Service, local government and charities, and commonly involves working towards the Chartered Insitute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) professional qualification. The CIPFA qualifications webpages provide more information. There are also tax related roles within the public sector, for example HM Revenue & Customs administer taxation systems in the UK and offer the Tax Professional Graduate Programme.
  • Overseas – taxlegislation differences provide challenges to working abroad if you are not familiar with the country’s taxation system. However, accounting practices internationally often adhere to common rules; The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and CIMA each have members in around 170 countries worldwide. Communities like Chartered Accountants Worldwide can provide insight. Some professional bodies have recognition agreements with counterparts around the world, but often further assessments may be needed to gain the required qualification standard. 

What’s changing in the sector?

The impact of automation will lead to key changes in accountancy and financial management. Using smart software systems and cloud computing will become more commonplace, and wider globalisation will create opportunities and challenges for those in financial management.

Regulations such as Making Tax Digital (MTD), Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could lead to jobs for those who can understand them and keep businesses updated with developments. Additionally, high-profile tax avoidance cases in the media have led to new governmental tax action, which in turn has an impact on those working in this area.

Many of the professional bodies have produced research on the future of the profession to keep members up-to-date, including the ACCA.

Useful Websites

Visit CareerHub – a jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities.

Download the Vault guide to Accounting for an overview of the profession. Scroll down to ‘Vault: Career Insider’ and click on the link to log in.

View the Inside Careers guides on:

Visit Target Jobs for an extensive list of graduate profiles.

Keep up-to-date with Accountancy Age for accounting news.

Useful Information

Routes in

Introduction

A common route is through a graduate scheme, usually open for applications from September to December in your final year of study - but the smaller the firm, the later the deadline. Graduate programmes typically involve working towards professional membership. Smaller firms may look to recruit entry level positions on an ad-hoc basis.

If you’re looking to gain experience

Evidence of experience is important when applying for graduate positions. Many firms run summer vacation internship programmes with application deadlines usually falling in February and March, sometimes sooner.

Don’t neglect the smaller or niche firms. Smaller organisations may give you greater responsibility and access to relevant software and systems more quickly. You may have to apply on a speculative basis with a CV and covering letter.

Get involved in groups like LSESU's Accounting Society to demonstrate commitment on your CV. Student membership of professional bodies such as ICAEW and CIMA can also offer opportunities to build your network.

If you’re early on in your career

Jobs in tax or accounting require training towards professional accreditation worldwide, so graduate and trainee programmes that allow you to obtain this are common entry points in the UK.

If you have more experience

Initial graduate and trainee positions can progress into finance and consulting roles, or the financial foundations gained can provide a means for transition into ‘non-finance’ roles, for example, in project management, operations, and strategy. Consider how you present your experience on your CV. If you’ve worked for a number of years in a related position, it is likely that experienced hire roles would be more suitable than graduate schemes.

If you’re changing career

Relevant experience is important – for example applied knowledge of Microsoft Excel, modelling and data work would be valuable. If you don't have that experience, it may be possible to develop your skills in a voluntary capacity, e.g. with a charity. Accountancy Age has a useful article on changing to an accounting career.

Not sure what to do next?

We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub.

Job roles

There are many different roles in the sector. We’ve outlined those that are often of interest to LSE students with links to further information. If you can, try to talk to someone who’s doing the job you’re interested in, so you can get a real flavour of what it’s like.

 

Accountancy and audit

  • Chartered accountant – manages the finances of customers, from individuals to large multinational corporations. Keeps financial records and makes recommendations for strategy and business needs. Chartered status is gained after a period of relevant work experience and completion of a chartered accountancy qualification (e.g. ACA). The Prospects Chartered accountant job profile provides further details.
  • Management accountant – analyses, researches and reports on financial aspects of a company to support senior managers' decision making. Advises on financial spending and distribution, and future financial planning. Typically based in industry across a range of sectors. Check out the Prospects Chartered management accountant job profile.
  • Auditor – provides an independent review of a company's finances, assessing their past performance and their future income generation, to see if they are 'fair and true' and to give confidence to board members and shareholders. May also conduct an audit of a company's other business areas, including CSR, health and safety, etc. For more information, access the Target Jobs Auditor job description.
  • Forensic accountant – liaises with the solicitor of a client, looks at and prepares papers related to financial and contract matters and presents them to court. Answers any questions or scrutiny about the work presented. These positions tend to be taken by experienced accountants. The Prospects Forensic accountant job profile is a useful resource.

 

Taxation

Tax is a mixture of law, administration and accountancy and it draws on a range of intellectual, presentational and personal skills.

  • Tax adviser – works with companies and individuals to create the best tax strategies for them. The diverse nature of taxation means that tax advisers rapidly develop areas of specialist knowledge, including corporate, personal, international, inheritance tax, VAT, National Insurance, and trusts and estates. The Prospects Tax adviser job profile provides further details.
  • Tax accountant – maintains financial records, produces reports and makes recommendations. A similar role to that of a chartered or management accountant, but specialising in tax.

 

You may also find some of the roles in our Careers in Financial Services page interesting.

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