If you were with me last time (and if not, you can find that blog here), I’m discussing the importance of finance and accountancy to business and, more importantly, the ways to get a job in this field. The stereotypical image I described last time of ‘boring people poring over boring figures’ is actually very far from the truth. All businesses, and also the public sector, have to be accountable for the money they generate and spend. Get it wrong and lots of people can lose their jobs, as we have seen with some of the big retailers recently.
As an alternative to working in the corporate/public sphere, you can work in an accountancy firm, from the ‘big four’ (Deloitte, PwC, E&Y and KPMG) to the local accountant who helps small firms with their accounts and tax. No matter where you work, you’ll need to belong to one of the major accountancy associations. These are:
• The Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales www.icaew.com
• The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants www.cimaglobal.com
• The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants www.accaglobal.com
• The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland ICAS www.icas.org.uk
• Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accountants CIPFA www.cipfa.org.uk
Successfully passing the ICAEW and ICAS exams makes you a Chartered Accountant (CA), the highest level you can achieve and the only one which confers the authority on its members to sign-off other companies’ (as opposed to your own company’s) accounts. Interestingly, many English firms put their accountants through ICAS.
It’s also worth noting that qualified accountants can also become Certified Tax Advisers, the gold standard for tax advice in the UK. CTAs have greater depth and breadth of knowledge of the tax system than even CAs and their expertise and experience of dealing with HMRC is highly valued by all types of companies, from the multi-nationals to local sole-traders. The CIOT (Chartered Institute of Taxation) website provides more details about how to take the exams and what you need to pass them.
The finance function is essential to every area of the economy (and that’s before we’ve even touched on audit), and a career in finance will take you into every aspect of a business’s operations, where you’ll be in contact with people in every area and at every level of the organisation. It is most definitely not the stereotypical ‘boring’ job that many believe it to be and it’s also financially rewarding. For those with the necessary qualifications it’s a fantastic way to make a living.
Tricia McKinlay, Accountancy & Finance Consultant, Nine Twenty Business Services