Accountancy and Finance

Accountancy and finance employ more than one million people who work in audit, tax and accountancy businesses as well as financial functions within other organisations. Many of the bigger financial companies are multinational and opportunities exist to work overseas. This may depend on having additional skills or fluency in a foreign language.


A graduate in these areas typically will:

  • be able to critically evaluate arguments and evidence
  • be able to analyse and draw reasoned conclusions concerning structured and unstructured problems from both given data and data that must be acquired
  • be able to locate, extract and analyse data from multiple sources
  • self-manage their learning
  • be numerate, including being able to manipulate financial and other numerical data and to appreciate statistical concepts
  • be effective in ICT including using spreadsheets, word processing software and online databases
  • be able to present quantitative and qualitative information, together with analysis, argument and commentary in a form appropriate to the intended audience
  • have effective interpersonal skills, including the ability to work in teams
  • understand the contexts in which accounting operates including the legal and social environment, the finance profession, the business entity, the capital markets and the public sector
  • understand the current technical language and practices 
  • be skilled in recording and summarising transactions and other economic events, preparing financial statements, analysing the operations of business, financial analysis and projections 

(SOURCE: Student Employability Profiles, Higher Education Academy)

Career Options

Accounting and Finance graduates are found in a range of employment sectors.  Graduates are securing employment with large multinational companies and SMEs (small and medium enterprises - defined as having less than 250 staff).  In the UK there are more small to medium size enterprises than large companies. This type of employer provides good opportunities for graduates, although the recruitment, selection, and training may be less formal. SMEs within the finance sector provide opportunities for professional training and development and daily work is likely to be varied.

Job Descriptions 

Graduates from Accounting and Finance courses often work in the following fields:

More information can be found on the Prospects website, particularly focusing on the accountancy, banking and finance section.

Accountancy Training

The majority of graduates entering professional accountancy careers will train as chartered accountants. Most of these will train in public practice, offering audit and business advice services (including tax advice) to clients. There are also numerous opportunities to train within industry and commerce, normally through CIMA or ACCA. Local authorities and other public bodies often recruit public finance accountants who train for the CIPFA qualification.

Graduates entering the accountancy profession and who want a recognised qualification must expect to study for professional examinations whilst working. There are different routes to becoming a qualified accountant. The four major routes to qualifying are:-

  • Many graduates decide to study for the ACA qualifications from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, in order to achieve chartered accountant status.This takes place whilst working (between 3-5 years), with the employer often contributing financially as well as offering study leave.
  • Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA) Graduates can opt to work in a sector and have the opportunity to train and work in a wide variety of organisations from large, multinational companies to small local businesses
  • Chartered Public Finance Accountant (CIPFA) are responsible for ensuring the effective operation of accounting and financial activities within public sector organisations.
  • Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA) Graduates work in all types and sizes of industrial, commercial and public sector organisations.

The boundaries between different types of qualification and employer are becoming increasingly flexible. Some of the largest Professional Services firms e.g. PWC, KPMG now offer CIMA, ACCA and CIPFA training alongside the ICAEW or ICAS qualification; some public sector employers (such as the Civil Service) train their accountancy staff for the CIMA qualification and it is possible to qualify as a chartered accountant outside public practice. 

Getting in

Most Accounting and Finance graduate vacancies are open to graduates from any degree discipline although some may specify a finance, management or business related degree and numerate/analytical ability is highly valued.  A strong performance in Numerical, Verbal and Logical/Diagrammatic Reasoning tests at the early recruitment stage is usually required. You can practice these free of charge using the Graduates First package (register with your SHU email). A strong performance at Assessment Centre and Final Interview stages will be essential to ensure success. Ensuring you have a strong commercial awareness and are up to date on the latest issues affecting the industry is vital, as is the ability to demonstrate you possess the behavioural capabilities/attributes each organisation is looking for (check individual company websites/literature for more details).

Current Issues in the Industry - Automation of accounting roles and redefining of the profession. 

According to research from Oxford University carried out by Frey and Osborne in 2014, automation is threatening several job areas and Accounting/Auditing is one of the areas deemed most at risk. Whilst the digitisation of jobs is still very much in the early stages, there is likely to be a greater shft towards more strategic and analytical roles. In addition, higher-skill roles like actuarial work, financial planning and analysis or business controlling are likely to still be in high demand.

So the sector is in transition and this presents both threats but also opportunities as stated by Salika Suksuwan, Human Capital Leader of PwC Malaysia:

"Automation brings greater opportunities for the profession as it helps reduce transactional and routine tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping and compliance work, and allows accounting and finance professionals to focus more on value-added services"

Last modified: 
Wednesday, April 4, 2018 - 14:44