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A career in accounting - where to start

The Road to a Rewarding Career in Accounting: Qualifications and Pathways

If you have sharp analytical skills, an aptitude for numbers and finance, a career in accounting might be the perfect fit for you.

If it’s something you’ve considered, there are some qualifications you’ll need to consider to get you started. There are a few different routes into accounting, so we’re going to go through some of the qualifications and some of the routes you can take to get you started in a career in accounting.

Qualifications for a Career in Accounting

  1. Educational Background: To begin with, thinking about your educational choices is a good start. The most common route into accounting is bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. It’ll give a solid foundation in accounting principles – things like financial analysis, auditing, taxation, and information systems.

    That being said, it is possible to get into accounting with an associate degree or even some relevant certifications. Having a bachelor's degree will open up opportunities for advancement and specialisation more quickly, but it’s not the only option.

  2. Accounting Qualifications: Earning professional certifications is another way you can begin a career in accounting.

    • The ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) qualification is three years of on the job learning alongside 15 exams. You must complete 450 days of work experience and professional development and ethics.

    • The ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification has more flexibility and can be completed full time, part time, distance or online. There’s practical work experience, 13 exams and ethical modules.

    • The CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualification is quite different, as it focuses on management accounting, emphasising financial accounting and reporting. It can take three years or more, depending on how it’s studied. It has four levels – certificate, operational, management and strategic.

  3. Experience: Obviously getting your qualifications and certifications in order is essential, but gaining practical experience in accounting can give you a competitive edge.

If you can manage it, consider an internship, cooperative education programs, or entry-level roles within accounting firms or finance departments to gain hands-on experience and develop your skills. Many will take you on and then support your training while you work for them.

Succeeding as an Entry-Level Accountant

Starting a career in accounting can be challenging, but with the right approach, you can set yourself up for success. Follow these tips to give yourself the best possible start.

  1. Continuous Learning: Accounting is constantly evolving - changes in regulations and technology mean that, even though numbers stay the same, the job is always changing. Do what you can to stay updated with industry trends, attend professional development seminars, and pursue additional certifications to enhance your skills.

  2. Attention to Detail: Accuracy and attention to detail are critical in accounting. Double-check your work, review financial statements meticulously, and ensure that all information is accurate and complete.

  3. Effective Communication: Accounting is not just about numbers; it also requires strong communication skills. This is especially true in the recruitment sector where you’ll need to collaborate with consultants daily. You’ll need to explain complex financial information to people with varying levels of financial literacy and help people to understand the ins and outs of everything from client invoicing to the commission scheme.

  4. Embrace Technology: The accounting profession is becoming increasingly automated, with software and systems handling routine tasks. Stay one step ahead, get to know the latest accounting software and embrace technology to streamline processes and improve efficiency.

  5. Networking: Building a strong professional network can provide valuable opportunities for career advancement. Attend industry events, join accounting associations, connect with professionals in your field, and get active on LinkedIn.

Starting a career in accounting can be a rewarding journey with ample opportunities for growth and advancement. By obtaining the necessary qualifications, exploring different pathways, and adopting key strategies for success, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling and prosperous career in accounting. Remember to stay dedicated, embrace lifelong learning, and always strive for excellence.