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Your career options as a chartered accountant 

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Not sure if you want to stay in practice or move to industry? Looking for advice on making the most of your accountancy career? Whether you are a recent accountancy graduate or a Finance Director looking for a new challenge, our expert team has the answers. Check out some of the most popular career routes for ACA/ICAS qualified candidates below, or get in touch with us today for a confidential chat about your requirements

As a chartered accountant you have a huge array of career opportunities available as soon as you have passed your exams and throughout your career. Qualified finance professionals have a number of options that go from working in practice firms as an auditor or within transactional services, to working for in-house roles within FTSE 100 businesses, SMEs and Listed Businesses as a Financial Accountant or a Financial Analyst to name a few. With so much choice on the market, it is important to know what your options are.

We asked our expert Finance & Accountancy team to outline some popular career paths to help you make the right decision and build the accountancy career you deserve.

Staying in practice – a technical and structured career path

Generally, the majority of ACA candidates will have studied within a practice firm, so as a newly qualified ACA you will be faced with the decision of staying within practice or moving over to industry. There is no right or wrong answer at this point in your career, but it is worth thinking about which route you might prefer.

Candidates within practice will generally have a clear progression path with structured training and development throughout their career. This is often well suited to ACA candidates that want to develop a technical skillset, and you will be able to develop these skills as you progress either within your trainee department or a differing team.

It is worth noting that there are a number of areas that chartered accountants can specialise in within practice, and it can be beneficial to have an understanding of where your interest lies early on in your career.

Opportunities within practice

There are a number or areas within practice that candidates can specialise in. These are:

  • Audit: an audit role allows candidates to develop a highly technical skillset, which is always in demand across the UK finance & accountancy market. Candidates that stay in audit will hone their financial reporting skills and become an expert in a range of reporting standards or sectors.

  • Tax: tax is often described as a niche area of finance. Highly skilled tax consultants are a rarity across the UK. A career in tax gives candidates the freedom to be more analytical and advisory without any limitations in regards to sectors and sizes. Due to the limited tax consultants in the area, candidates can often progress quickly.

  • Corporate Finance: this is an area of particular interest to commercially astute accountants as they are able to work with businesses on progression paths, assisting in areas such as valuations, due diligence, mergers and acquisitions. This often requires longer working hours than other areas of practice but can be especially rewarding when deals are completed.

  • Outsourced Accounts: these roles tend to be outside of the Big 4 and allow individuals the exposure to Management Accounts. This can offer candidates the best of both worlds offering accountants the opportunity to work on a company’s accounts and offer support to clients. Roles such as these often give candidates the opportunity to add commercial insight and provide ad-hoc services.

  • Forensics: roles such as these tend to be found in the larger practices or boutique firms. These roles suit candidates that are looking to combine their financial auditing skills and investigative nature to both prevent and detect any issues. These roles typically suit candidates that enjoy digging into the detail and fully understanding businesses.

  • Insolvency: candidates working in insolvency will be assisting companies closing down. This normally focuses on risk management to external stakeholders should any debt or obligation payments not be fulfilled. This requires someone who isn’t afraid to challenge and deal with difficult stakeholders.

Moving into industry – a varied and rewarding career

Moving into industry gives candidates direct access to large blue chip organisations, private equity firms and FTSE 100 businesses, which can be appealing to many newly qualified ACA candidates. There is no set progression or development structure within industry, which means accountants have the opportunity to progress very quickly. On the flip side, there is also a higher chance for a career to stagnate for candidates that do not put the work in.

Opportunities within industry

There are various options and job roles that candidates looking to carve a long-term successful career in industry should consider, which includes:

  • Commercial Analyst: often this is the hardest role to secure when moving out of practice. Commercial analysts get involved with a range of ad-hoc projects and can add real commercial value to a company. This route requires candidates to learn complex excel tools and models alongside working with more operational faces. As a commercial analyst, candidates can gain a wide view of a business, working with operational stakeholders to add value across a range of areas.

  • Financial Accountant: a newly qualified ACA will have spent years developing technical reporting skills and will have the most up-to-date knowledge of current regulations in the UK. This makes the move into financial accounts one of the easiest entry points for newly qualified candidates when making their first move into industry. Entry financial accounts roles offer candidates the opportunity to develop a highly technical skillset and an opportunity to get your foot in the door in a business of your choice. As a Financial Accountant, candidates can be part of the wider controls and year end processes ensuring compliance across the company.

  • Management Accountant: candidates that have had exposure to outsourced accounts in practice will find this route into industry easier. Management accounts offers candidates the opportunity to experience both month end accounting as well as more commercial analytical work. As a Management Accountant, candidates can get involved with a variety of work dependent on the size of the company. Often this route is a good move for first time movers as you can try your hand at different things and work out what your skill set is.

  • Internal Auditor: internal audit roles are very similar to external audit but, you are looking at risks and compliance within one business. This means you can often get involved with a range of strategy projects for upcoming changes and help the executive team prepare for these. However, you can also get involved with existing processes and look at how they can be improved.

What next?

That is a whistle stop tour of the different sectors and roles within industry and practice, however if you would like some career advice that is personalised to you, please feel free to get in touch with our expert team today.

Alternatively, you can check out our current live accounting jobs here