What to expect from a career in accountancy
There are a lot of misconceptions about working in accountancy - for example, many assume that finance is a boring subject. As we have written before, this is not necessarily the case.
In addition to having a good head for numbers, accountants also need a sharp sense of professional ethics, an eye for detail, and the ability to make informed judgements about financial decisions – there’s a lot more to it than the public perceptions.
We spoke to two successful accountants - Chris Barnard, crunch.co.uk's Accountancy Technical Manager, and Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance - to find out what it's really like to work in this complex field.
What is the best thing about working in accountancy?
Chris: "The best thing about working in accountancy is the feeling of knowing you are genuinely helping people. Being able to provide care from a business perspective is a unique feeling. It’s also great to support new businesses and help develop more established ones."
Andrew: "One of the best things about working in accountancy is that typically you are provided with a great deal of both responsibility and independence right after you find your first job. There is a lot less ‘climbing the corporate ladder’, so to speak, that you find with other careers."
What is the most challenging thing about being an accountant?
Andrew: "One of the most challenging things about working in accountancy is the hours. They can be especially long at the end of each month, and especially around income tax time."
Chris: "Without a doubt the exams. They’re purposefully very difficult! Another challenge is the workload, both whilst working as a qualified accountant and whilst studying. High pressures from clients is also challenging - people need things done at a certain time and pace, which can be stressful."
What industry trends should people interested in accounting be aware of?
Chris: "As we move from more traditional methods of accounting, a huge trend is the use of cloud based software. Almost everything we do in life is online, or computer based at very least. So why not accounting? There has also been an a surge in contractors, a trend which will only continue to grow as more people make the decision to leave full-time PAYE employment."
Andrew: "One of the biggest trends affecting the wider accountancy sector is that as businesses continue to look for ways to become more agile and to save money, you’ll probably see more and more accountancy tasks outsourced rather than handled in-house. That could mean that a traditional accountant might have to start taking on independent clients or even become a freelancer full-time in order to advance and broaden their career."
Any advice for people who want to become an accountant?
Andrew: "Start taking some accounting or accounting-related classes while you’re still in high school. Shoot for at least a bachelor’s degree. Going for your master’s can result in a higher starting salary, if you’re able to do so. Choose what type of accountant you want to be – there are government accountants, public accountants, and even a financial auditor might be a good career choice."
Chris: "Be prepared to work hard. Keeping yourself motivated is key to success in accountancy, the hours can be long and the qualifications difficult - it’s imperative you don’t lose focus. Also keep in mind that accountancy isn’t just about numbers, it’s a customer-focused profession too. Talk to people in a language they understand, make a connection and keep it as simple as possible."