Accounting is very important in the business world, and involves the recording, reporting and analysis of financial transactions. The accounting sector is enormous and covers many areas, including:

  • audit and advisory work
  • taxation
  • business consulting
  • management accounting

One of the great attractions of becoming an accountant is the ability to use your skills and qualifications to secure employment in the international market place.

The global reputation of the ACA means that there are some great international opportunities available (12% of ACAs live and work overseas).

ACCA is particularly well positioned to support an international career: with members and students in over 170 countries and local offices in 80 countries.

However competition is fierce. According to the Professional Oversight Board for Accountancy, there are over 438,000 members and over 452,000 students in the seven accountancy bodies. The sector is considered to be stronger than other sectors, such as investment banking. It would be wise, however, to look at a wider spectrum of accounting firms instead of focusing solely on the Big Four.

Starting salaries are between £20k and £36k depending on the type of work and location. Many qualified accountants eventually become CEOs of organisations and command six figure salaries, as can Directors of Finance in both the public and private sectors.

Whether you choose to work in the corporate or public sector, financial services, or public practice, a career as an accountant means your work is central to making a business successful.

Useful links

  • Download the Vault guide to Accounting for an overview of the profession
  • See the Prospects website for descriptions of job roles in Accounting
  • Visit Target Jobs for an extensive list of graduate profiles
  • Keep up-to-date with Accountancy Age for accounting news

Useful Information

Routes in

Student and graduate opportunities are available in-house or in an accountancy firm. Most accounting graduate schemes are open for applications from September to December - but the smaller the firm, the later the deadline.

To get a graduate position in accountancy and financial services it certainly helps (although it’s not essential) if you have already completed an internship of some sort. Many firms run programmes in the summer holiday and the deadlines for these usually fall in February and March.

Don't leave it to the last minute to apply; recruiters tend to look at applications as they receive them rather than waiting until the deadline has passed.

The typical selection process for the larger firms includes an online application form and often an online test to assess verbal and numerical reasoning . It’s also increasingly common for firms to assess candidates through situational judgement tests and questionnaires.

If successful at this stage, you will usually be invited to up to three further rounds of interviewing. Part of the interviewing process sometimes includes working on a case study in a group or alone and then talking about that case study to one of the interviewers.

Companies typically offering graduate schemes

Here are just some of the employers who typically offer accounting graduate schemes. Search LSE CareerHub for more accounting graduate schemes.

  • Allianz - graduate careers

    One of the largest insurers in the UK.

  • Anderson Anderson Brown

    One of the leading independent firms of chartered accountants in Scotland.

  • Armstrong Watson

    Provides accounting and business advice.

  • Aviva - graduate careers

    The world's sixth largest insurance group and the largest in the UK.

  • Baker Tilly

    Working in accounting and business services.

  • Barber Harrison & Platt

    Chartered Accountants - Sheffield

  • Barnes Roffe

    A London based accountancy firm.

  • BDO

    Audit, accounting and business services firm.

  • Blick Rothenberg

    A leading, independent firm of London chartered accountants.

  • Buzzacott Chartered Accountants

    A financial services and consultancy firm.

  • Catlin Group - careers

    A global specialty property / casualty insurer and reinsurer, writing more than 30 lines of business.

  • Deloitte - graduate careers

    Global, integrated and innovative Audit, Tax, Consulting & Corporate Finance services across a variety of industries.

  • Dixon Wilson

    An financial services firm providing private client, entrepreneur and corporate clients with accountancy, audit, tax and trustee services.

  • Finance The Future

    A training scheme for Public Finance accountants: working for Local Authorities in London.

  • Francis Clark Chartered Accountants

    A chartered accountancy firm based in South West England.

  • Goodman Jones

    Central London Accountants advising large owner managed businesses, international groups & small growing organisations.

  • Hazlewoods

    Of the UK’s Top 40 independent chartered accountants and business advisers.

  • J.P. Morgan - graduate careers

    Global financial services firm.

  • Johnston Carmichael Chartered Accountants

    Scotland’s largest independent firm of Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers.

  • Kingston Smith LLP

    One of the UK's top 20 audit and chartered accountancy firms.

  • KPMG graduate scheme

    Gives an overview of the graduate schemes at KPMG, complete with case studies and FAQ's.

  • Lovewell Blake

    Specialist Chartered Accountants based in East Anglia.

  • Mercer UK

    The global leader for trusted HR and related financial advice, products and services.

  • National Audit Office

    Holding to account and advising the government on public spending.

  • PKF (UK)

    A leading firm of accountants and business advisers.

  • Price Bailey

    Price Bailey is a leading firm of business advisers and accountants with eight offices throughout East Anglia, London and Guernsey.

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers

    One firm - a powerhouse of a commercial enterprise that does the right thing for our clients, our people and our communities.

  • Saffery Champness

    An independent top 20 firm of chartered accountants with nine offices across the UK and offices in Guernsey, Geneva and Zurich.

  • Schroders

    Investment management firm.

  • Shipleys LLP

    Providing accountancy services, detailed budget analysis, and tax advice to individuals and businesses, with offices in London, Godalming and Saffron Walden.

  • Smith & Williamson

    A leading independent financial services firm combining an accountancy practice, investment management arm and a private bank.

  • Standard Life plc

    A leading long term savings and investments company operating internationally.

  • Streets Accountants

    A top 40 UK firm of chartered accountants, tax specialists and personal financial advisers.

  • UHY

    A top 20 group of UK chartered accountants.

  • Wilkins Kennedy

    A chartered accountancy and business advisory firm.

  • Zurich - graduate careers

    World-leading financial services organisation

  • Zurich UK

    Key focus on general and life insurance.

Get experience

It is important to gain experience in order to put you in a good place when applying for graduate training positions. Don’t neglect the smaller or niche firms. In fact, in smaller organisations, you may get greater responsibility sooner.

To get a position in one of these niche/specialist firms, you may have to apply on a speculative basis with a CV and covering letter.

Job roles

Chartered accountant

Manage the finances of customers, which range from individuals to large multinational countries. A chartered accountant is so called as they have completed at least three years of relevant work experience and completed a chartered accountancy qualification such as the ACA. They keep up to date financial records and make recommendations for strategy and business needs.

Management accountant

A management accountant analyses, researches and reports on financial aspects of a company to present to senior members of the management team to make decisions affecting strategy and business. They will also advise on financial spending and distribution and devise plans for how the company could improve their financial position.

Tax accountant

A similar role to that of a chartered accountant or management accountant, a tax accountant would maintain financial records, produce reports and make recommendations, but would specialise in the area of tax.

Audit accountant

An independent review of a company's finances, their past performance and their future generation are assessed to see if they are 'fair and true' by an audit accountant. This information gives confidence to board members and shareholders. They may also conduct an audit of a company's CSR, IT, health and safety and other business areas.

Forensic accountant

Liaising with the solicitor of a client, a forensic accountant will investigate the orders given to them and any other circumstance, look at and prepare papers related to financial and contract matters and present them to court. They would then answer any questions or scrutiny about the work presented. These positions are available in large accountancy firms, mid-sized companies and boutiques, and tend to be taken by experienced accountants.

Useful links

Descriptions of some of the main careers in Accountancy can be found by following the links: