Accountant Job Description
Accountancy is a profession which quite literally runs the whole world of business and commerce and underpins any form of monetary transaction. Because all financial transactions need to be accounted for and reported, the profession takes many forms. Moreover it is an occupation which is almost recession proof.
If you decide to practice accountancy within an independent accountancy firm you are more likely to be a Chartered Accountant. If you work inside an organisation or business, you are more likely to be a certified accountant.
The accounting that concentrates on compiling reports for use inside organisations is called management accounting and is often on-going financial information used by managers and auditors.
Management accounts are different to those drawn up at the end of the year for legal and tax reasons. Accounting that provides information to people outside the business entity is called financial accounting and provides information to present and potential shareholders, creditors such as banks or vendors, financial analysts, economists, and government agencies.
Financial accounts are subject to many more rules than management accounting and are governed by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP. Other rules include International Financial Reporting Standards, or IFRS , or US GAAP.
Is Accounting right for you?
Accountancy – like most things – has moved with the times and today the whole industry is sophisticated and full of opportunities. It has to meet the needs of ever more complex laws and procedures.
As well as producing reports and accounts, balance sheets, budgets and audit reports, good accountants can also be business advisors and provide an added value service.
The net result is you can be exactly the type of accountant that you want to be, and one which reflects your skills. The industry is thus demanding high quality graduates that are looking for a challenging and rewarding career.
Qualifications and Skills
As a trainee accountant you’ll need to do plenty of studying – you’ll also be willing to work with clients (if you’re in a law firm) or with lots of departments (if you’re inside an organisation).
Going on to do advanced accountancy exams means staying on after university or college to get those vital qualifications.
As a graduate you’ll begin trainee chartered accountancy with a three year training contract. You’ll be fully supervised at first and then expected to take on responsibility as quickly as possible and be able to communicate effectively and use your knowledge to resolve problems.
When your training contract is over and you’ve completed your exams, you’ll still need to keep up to date with legal changes and techniques and also understand all aspects of commerce from small businesses to large companies. Knowing this helps you to decide in what you want to specialise in.
There is a bewildering array of qualifications and specialisms but broadly speaking here are the four main ones:
- ACCA - Association of Chartered Certified Accountants - offers the ACCA Qualification, which focuses on business issues.
- CIMA - The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants Professional Qualification in Management Accounting - specialises in accounting for business.
- CIPFA - The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy - the only professional accountancy qualification specifically geared to the public services.
- ACA - The Associate Chartered Accountant - the professional qualification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)
Opportunities and salaries
Finance and accountancy runs the world, not just the commercial world but also public services, government and even charities. It goes without saying that good accountants can command excellent salaries within the private sector – or by becoming partners in accountancy firms.
Opportunities abound in both the public and private sectors with the former commanding excellent salaries along with enviable pensions and benefits such as healthcare and holidays.
A Trainee Accountant can expect a salary between £14 and £19k with a UK average of around £17k. This rises considerably on qualification and is affected by the sector you're in, the type of company and also your location. £50K is not an unreasonable salary expectation for a qualified accountant, but this can go much higher. As a Senior Accountant, or a Partner within a blue chip company, salaries consistently exceed £100k