What does Accountancy involve?
Until recently, accountancy had a bit of a boring image. After the collapse of the giant American company, Enron – where accountants were accused of all sorts of illegal practices – this viewpoint may have changed! Some accountancy firms, especially the more well-known ones, are moving away from providing straightforward accountancy services. Instead, they’re styling themselves as multiskilled advisers who can help an organisation with all their business problems. In general, though, Accountancy will involve a lot of number crunching.
Why should I apply for a career in Accountancy?
The accountancy profession is flourishing amidst the new wave of regulation that has hit the shores of the UK and the international stage since the major scandals such as Enron and Worldcom. With the introduction of legislation such as the Sarbanes Oxley Act, accountants with specialist knowledge are in huge demand by companies who battle to keep abreast of their regulatory requirements. This trend is very likely to remain going forward with constant revisions of the acts and regulations that companies must comply with. As well as the changing regulatory environment, the introduction of international accounting standards (IAS's) and convergence with national standards is likely to provide a source of much demand for accountants in the future.
Increasingly, companies are recognising the skills and abilities that qualified accountants can bring to their businesses and this has fuelled the opportunities available to what was once considered to be a 'dull' profession.
Training and Applicants
The majority of candidates entering into the accountancy profession have a degree (the usual requirement is a minimum of a 2.1 in any subject). As well as demonstrating the core academic ability, firms are increasingly looking at the interpersonal skills of the individual in making an assessment of whether the person will fit into the culture of the firm.
As well as the traditional degree entry route, it is also possible in a number of firms, including a number of the 'Big 4', to enter straight after completing A-levels. The requirement for this route is typically 280 UCAS points, and again, demonstratable interpersonal skills.
On top of the A-level route there is the opportunity to study for AAT after GCSEs or A-levels (although no set entry qualifications). The AAT route typically takes 2-3 years and is learnt on-the-job, sometimes with day-release. Once qualified in AAT, students can then progress onto Chartered Accountancy study. AAT is typically taken up by smaller employers although opportunities exist in larger organisations such as the Police force and department stores.
Traditionally, the route has been to join a practice firm offering accountancy and audit services to the corporate market and gain qualification this way.
What opportunities are available within the sector?
In today's heavily regulated environment there is a great demand for professionally qualified accountants and opportunities exist in many arenas. These inclulde working within financial services, manufacturing, technology, media, to name but a few. There are opportunities within the Public Service sector, working for local government or the NHS for example.
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One of the key points to note is that the growing demand for qualified accountants going forward will very much be there, but as well as having the qualification, it will be necessary for accountants to distiguish themselves by developing specific knowledge and experience that the market will demand. It is also becoming a requirement, in an ever more competitive environment, to push for client added value going forward, and ensuring that the role of the accountant is seen to add value to the organisation as a whole.
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