What qualifications do I need to be an Accountant?

To become a successful accountant you need to be logical, methodical and good with numbers. You need excellent IT skills as offices are increasingly becoming paperless environments. You also need good communication skills and to be able to understand the client’s business.

Before joining an accountancy practice, it is worth trying to decide where your long term ambitions lie. If you join one of the top four accountancy firms you will benefit from working with large quoted companies and specialize early on in your career. For example you might audit specific types of companies such as Insurance companies or energy companies. This may restrict you to working in certain locations such as London or New York. Alternatively, if you join a small practice you will be dealing with various different types of clients and gain a broader experience. You would be able to find work across the country.

You will either need to qualify with one of three main bodies outlined below, or you will need to do a lower level course such as the Accounting Technicians (AAT)course, the work your way up via training.

• The Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales (ICAEW) www.icaew.com ACA stands for Associate Chartered Accountant. This leading business and finance qualification is highly regarded worldwide due to its quality and professionalism. On completion, you can become a chartered accountant in industry or practice, giving professional advice and making high-level strategic decisions. On completion it could lead to a career in any of the following:
• Forensic accounting
• Audit/assurance
• Business recovery/insolvency
• Corporate finance
• Financial accounting
• Tax advice
It qualifies you to sign off audited accounts for other businesses, and it also good if you want to be an accountant or finance directory for a company,

• The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) www.cimaglobal.com allows you to run the accounts of a business or be a finance director, but you are not certified to sign off audited accounts of another businesses,
• The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) uk.accaglobal.com allows you sign off audited accounts of another business, but you are not necessarily trained to be a company accountant or finance director, although often this does happen.

People in the UK who want to train as a Chartered Accountant can do so not only with the ICAEW, but also with ICAS - the Institute of CAs in Scotland or CIPFA - the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

• ICAS is not limited to Scottish firms and many England based students get this qualification through the major firms. The website is www.icas.org.uk

• CIPFA is the qualification for people specialising in the public sector. On qualification people become a Chartered Public Finance Accountant The website for CIPFA is www.cipfa.org.uk

Pros
• A wide range of career choices and flexibility
• Gain the experience to make informed investment and business decisions
• A well respected career

Cons
• Heavy workloads at certain times of the year
• Pressure to keep up with constantly changing legislation

GCSEs required
You will need at least 5 GCSEs with good grades, including a good grade in maths.

A-levels required
Again this will depend on the course degree you want to do, but generally you will need at least two good A-levels one of which must be maths.

Degree or further educational requirement
You will need a degree in a business related subject

Professional Body
You will need to undertake accountancy exams with one of the following three bodies:
• 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 uk.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

How long will it take to get qualified?
It will normally take another 3 or 4 years to get through your accountancy exams - after taking a degree. You can take time out between the various exams, so it may take even longer than this.

There are an estimated 250,000 accountants in the UK

Typical salary £35,000 to £45,000

Useful websites
Accountancy Age www.accountancyage.com
Certified Public Accountants Association www.acpa.org.uk