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.
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"