Accounting as a Career – Module 2 – Written Course

Now that we’ve covered the accounting industry, it’s time to look at accounting as a career.

An accountant can be responsible for many different, exciting and important tasks.
There are roles at entry-level, and many who have worked as an accountant become the UK’s top CEOs, finance directors and businesspeople.
In an accountancy firm (or practice), you will work with clients (who can be companies or individuals), to advise them on their financial matters and help them grow their business.
If you are an accountant working ‘in-house’ in a company, you would be working for a single business rather than a set of clients, undertaking duties such as helping pay invoices or receive payment; and taking financial information and using that to help the managers make better business decisions.
Developing your skills and experience and taking a professional accountancy qualification can open up further opportunities in the world of business, and an even broader range of management and decision-making roles.

Areas of Accounting

While there are many smaller categories and subsections out there, we’ll be exploring the main ones, so that you’ll have the most job prospects when you make your choice.

The top four are Audit Accounting, Management Accounting, Tax Accounting, and Financial Accounting.

Audit Accounting

Auditing accountants play a very important part in the reviewing and auditing of companies.

All companies need to submit annual reports, and it is the job of the auditors to make sure that everything is above board and transparent.

Since audits are a legal requirement, auditors are in huge demand.

The accountant’s role in this team is to analyse the financial elements and ensure that all the figures balance and add up.

This includes tasks such as requesting invoices and receipts, and interviewing the financial team of the company being audited.

Auditing is a highly specialised form of accounting and requires a firm knowledge of business economics and quite a bit of experience in the industry.

It also requires lots of patience as audits can take a very long time, especially with larger companies.

Management Accounting

Management accountants work directly with the management of the company to ensure the financial health of the organisation.

Their role is to constantly monitor the financial affairs of the company and compile reports for management, who use their professional insights to make important business decisions.

They include stats and graphs in these reports and also analyse trends in the macro and microeconomic environments to include in their findings.

While many are in-house and often a part of the management team, many Accounting Management companies outsource their skills to other businesses.

This type of accounting work requires a great analytical mind, as well as someone who is generally passionate about and interested in economic trends and interpretations.

Tax Accounting

Tax accountants do exactly what the name suggests – compile and submit tax returns for businesses and individuals.

Much like Audit Accounting, Tax Accounting is essential for all businesses, both practically and legally.

Tax accountants in a business environment will need to determine the types of taxes they must pay and the reasons for these payments.

They should also be able to come up with legal but creative ways to minimise the tax burden on the business to avoid overpaying.

This position requires fine attention to detail and lots of patience when having to deal with governmental tax bodies.

Tax accountants can also work for individuals as a tax practitioner, and many accountants make a great living with their own business representing groups of individuals’ tax affairs.

Financial Accounting

The most traditional accounting role is that of a financial accountant.

It focuses more on the general running of a company’s financial affairs and involves plenty of bookkeeping skills.

Monitoring the assets and liabilities of a company and the way that money moves in and out is the main task.

Many accountants start in this sort of position, but many experienced and highly qualified accountants prefer this traditional and straightforward type of accounting.

This is ideal for anyone who enjoys routine and following set procedures, as well as the perfectionists who love nothing more than ensuring balanced books.

Now that we understand the different roles and jobs within the accounting world, it’s time to discuss one of the most important advancements in accounting today – digitisation.

Digitisation in the Accounting Industry

Digitisation has been a major factor in all business sectors for many years, and accountancy is no exception.

As the technology gets smarter, more processes become digitised with consequences for both productivity and employees in the accounting sector.

What is very clear is that the role of the accountant has changed and will continue to change due to digitisation, mostly as a result of the automation of tasks that traditionally require the human touch.

Digitisation introduces many opportunities in making tasks easier, but, importantly, it also highlights the need to develop emotional intelligence and ethical mindsets in today’s accountants.

Leading accounting bodies like the ACCA realise the importance of this.

Increasingly Important Emotional Traits

Let’s take a look at the most important areas of consideration relating to emotional intelligence in the digital age.

Overcoming Fear of Change

Digitisation will mean that responsibilities are likely to change.

In order to deal with this, future employees need to understand how to embrace change and find new ways to add value.

Morals and Ethics

As information becomes more freely available, there is more opportunity for underhanded and unethical behaviour.

In order to mitigate these risks, young accountants need to understand how to behave in an ethical and responsible manner.

Incorporating Diversity

Due to increased and often remote outsourcing, emotional intelligence is required to accept and incorporate different viewpoints and ideas.

Working together and embracing our differences is becoming increasingly important in a rapidly changing landscape.

Developing a Growth Mindset

At the heart of the emotional elements required in a digital age is a growth mindset, which refers to an innate belief that everyone is capable of learning, growing and developing themselves despite challenging circumstances.

As digitisation fulfils many of the routine tasks, this growth mindset is essential for present-day and future accountants to develop and practise.

 

New Opportunities with Digitisation

Digital technology is arguably the biggest factor shaping the future of the accountancy profession and the future roles professional accountants will perform.

There are many different technologies impacting the profession: automation, robotics, cloud, cyber, social, AI and blockchain.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain, a system where digital transactions are recorded with a timestamp and transactional history, was originally feared to be the beginning of the end for auditors.

This is because financial blockchains cannot be altered and are instantly recorded, creating an automatic audit trail.

This couldn’t, however, be further from the truth.

The fact that there is still a human element in the creation of blockchain systems means that there is still a chance of errors in programming and the possibility of fraud.

So, while the auditing process might become a lot quicker and more automated with blockchain technology, it certainly won’t eradicate the role of the auditor in ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the information.

Artificial Intelligence

AI is an incredibly powerful tool in the accounting world, and software which can make predictions by processing massive amounts of information in a fraction of the time, is revolutionising the industry.

Predictions, however, are only one element of decision making, and while AI is making leaps and bounds in making life easier and faster for accounting professionals, we still need the human mind to make judgements based on the information and predictions that AI provides us.

A Different Service Offering

While digitisation and technology begin to handle more and more of the basic accounting tasks, there is a new and exciting opportunity for accounting firms to offer even more value to clients in the form of advice and support.

Where accounting firms traditionally just kept the books balanced and the records valid, today’s accountants need to provide the type of advice, guidance and business support that apps and software alone are incapable of.

Top Tips for Successfully Entering the Accounting World

Now that we’ve covered the job types and learnt about digitisation, let’s go through some important tips which can help you when starting your accounting career.

Tip 1 – Do your homework

Knowing that you want to work at any of the mid-level or top-tier accounting firms isn’t enough; you need to understand the opportunities that each of them present and in which division you would most like to work.

As such, you must research all the accounting firms. Look at each of their divisions and see where most graduates end up.

Consider your talents too and have a good understanding of where you think you would best fit in before you go to the interview.

Nothing is better in an interview than a candidate who has full knowledge of the company and knows exactly which division they’d like to work in.

It is also highly advisable to go through one of the major accounting bodies such as the ACCA, who will be able to provide you with the training, qualifications and connections to ensure a successful interview and placement.

Tip 2 – Don’t limit your focus on the Big Four

The Big Four Accounting firms are Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Between the four of them, they account for approximately 10 billion of the 14 billion pounds earned in annual fees by the top 100 UK accounting firms.

They are certainly prestigious, and getting an opportunity to work for any of them is something that all prospective accountants should grab with both hands.

They are, however, only four of approximately 6,000 accounting firms operating in the UK, and students shouldn’t limit their focus on them.

Many young prospects make the mistake of only focusing their ambitions on the Big Four, when most of the entry-level opportunities are available at the small and mid-level firms.

Tip 3 – Be prepared for the Interview

For interviews with any accounting firm, be prepared for all sorts of tests. From numeracy, reasoning and personality tests, you’ll have to go through them all.

Do your research and speak to employees who have been through it, so that you can properly prepare for the interview process.

As mentioned, accounting bodies such as the ACCA include practical skills, including how to conduct yourself in an interview and how to deal with recruiters, which makes the process much easier and gives you a greater chance of success.

Tip 4 – Cultivate a growth mindset

As previously discussed, a growth mindset is essential in today’s industry.

As a prospective accountant, you need to keep abreast of the latest movements in the industry and stay informed.

Also, incorporate more IT-oriented skills into your repertoire to improve your skills and employability.

The growth mindset also extends to your ability to see change as an opportunity and not a threat.

Keep developing and growing in order to ensure a long and fruitful career in this rapidly evolving world.

As we’ve seen, accounting as a career in the UK offers some of the greatest opportunities around, and the information you’ve learned from these modules will put you in a great position to make the best possible start to your career.

Thank you for taking the Introduction to Accountancy Careers course, and good luck!

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