Contrary to popular belief accounting isn’t all about spreadsheets and balancing the books. Training to be a chartered accountant can open up a world of opportunity for you, leading to an exciting and fulfilling career.
Accountancy covers many different areas. You could find yourself working with a Premier League football club, leading the accounts department of a multi-million pound media company, managing a celebrity’s finances or helping to make a difference with a charity.
If you’re thinking about accountancy as a career choice, you’ll need to study a professional qualification. ICAEW’s (Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales) chartered accountancy qualification, the ACA, is recognised globally and is highly sought after. As well equipping you with the right specialist training, it also provides valuable experience and leadership skills – essential if you want to move towards top level accountancy roles.
But before you make up your mind, take a look at some of the industries you could work in.
If you love sports, working for a professional sports team managing their budget could provide you with plenty of excitement, not to mention the odd free ticket to a game. Premiership football teams are multi-million pound companies and need teams of accountants to help balance the books. If football, isn’t your thing there are plenty of other sporting industries you could work in. Rugby, tennis, athletics – the list goes on. The one thing they all have in common is a need for skilled and experienced accountants to help run the business side of things.
Tim Williams, who has previously worked as a Financial Controller for Manchester United, is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and currently Chief Financial Officer for Inter Milan. He says: “The visibility of a club like United and the number of stakeholders in the sport – UEFA, the Premier League and so on – means it can be very much like working in a heavily regulated industry.
“I have to ensure that the business sees the finance team as an intrinsic part of how they operate, and our being there to navigate them through a decision-making process and assist where we can.”
2. Forensic accountant
If you’ve got good analytical and problem-solving skills and fancy using your skills to aid detective work, forensic accountancy could be for you. It takes specialised accounting skills to be able to unravel complicated frauds, bribery, insurance claims and embezzlement cases. As a forensic accountant, you could find yourself working closely with the police or lawyers to help bring successful criminal prosecutions.
Nicholas Parton, an ICAEW Chartered Accountant specialising in forensics, says: “One exciting case involved going to Afghanistan to investigate an alleged instance of corruption and misappropriation of £35m of tax payers’ money.
“Another highlight has been the identification of shipping documents proving the sale of goods from a weapons manufacturer in China and delivery to Iran, as well as a terrorist bank account which was frozen immediately. It’s not fighting on the front line, but I feel like I’ve helped to do my bit.”
Accountancy could be your ticket to working in the film or music business. It is a very diverse industry, and accountants are required in a range of different functions. You might be involved in a film start-up company, helping them to secure finance for their first project or you could work for a larger established movie production company such as Disney or Warner Brothers. You may find yourself overseeing the budget for a Hollywood blockbuster or you could work for the BBC or other television networks, managing the finances of their leading TV series.
It doesn’t stop there though. There are thousands of singers, songwriters, actors and actresses and entertainers who all rely on accountants as well as huge media and production companies with budgets to factor in. The possibilities really are endless.
This is a relatively new area of accountancy which has grown as people’s awareness of the environment has. Here, you would have to take into account not only the economic impact of financial decisions, but the environmental ones too.
As an accountant who specialises in environmental issues, one of your roles might be to calculate the cost of a company’s environmental liabilities. By identifying the environmental impact of a company, you could support your employer to make more environmentally friendly and sustainable decisions. You might also help to find new revenue streams, such as the sale of certain waste products.
Charities of all sizes rely on the expertise of chartered accountants, and it is a sector where you can see your skills really making a difference, in an area you’re passionate about. Financing is at the heart of what charities do and has a real impact on the work that they can achieve. One of the key roles for an accountant in this sector is to ensure that as much of the donations as possible go straight to the cause, which could take the form of reviewing Gift Aid regulations, or looking at more efficient ways to use funding.
Joanna Woolcock, ICAEW Chartered Accountant and Head of Financial Accounting and Operations at the NSPCC, says: “I have always wanted to work for an organisation which made a real impact on the lives of those who are marginalised and under-privileged.”
“The ACA is a hugely versatile qualification and combined with the opportunity to train with a ’Big Four’ audit firm, it was a great way to equip myself with some valuable skills which I was able to take into the charity sector.”
Laura de Poitiers, an ICAEW chartered accountant who works for Belu Water, adds: “To date we’ve given £1.5m to our charity partner WaterAid which has transformed the lives of over 100,000 people in the world’s poorest communities by providing access to clean water and sanitation.”
For more information about becoming an ICAEW Chartered Account visit: www.icaew.com/careers