The UK Accounting Industry & Careers in Accountancy – Written Course

Qualifying as a professional accountant

A qualification from a recognised professional accountancy body is needed in order to succeed.
To become qualified, you have to work and study incredibly hard, but the benefits of becoming a professional accountant make it all worthwhile.
Once you pass the exams and become eligible for membership, you will be entitled to use letters after your name to demonstrate to employers, clients and the general public that you are competent to work as an accountant.
There are several professional bodies in the sector, and you consider which one is right for you based on what your future career plans are and the type of role that would best suit you.
ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management.

The world is changing fast and so is finance – ACCA is the most forward-thinking accountancy body in the world.

ACCA members are successful professionals with interesting jobs, as ACCA opens doors with top employers to the best and most interesting roles all over the world.

ACCA has introduced major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up-to-date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally.

At the forefront of the qualification is enhanced digital content, to recognise the changing role of the professional accountant as digital transformation continues across the industry.

Qualifications and Apprenticeships

When it comes to becoming qualified as an accountant, experience matters as much as a qualification.

While most accountants do hold a degree, it isn’t always a necessity.

Some firms will require a degree, but the degree doesn’t always need to be specific.

Typically, accountants are good with numbers, so A-Level mathematics and economics, followed by a financial or accounting-specific degree, is the usual way to go and will stand you in good stead.

This isn’t entirely necessary though, as the most important part of your journey to becoming an accountant is progressing through the qualification ranks of the accounting bodies.

If you have two A Levels and three GCSEs in five separate subjects, including English and maths (or equivalent qualifications), you can start your studies at the ACCA Qualification, which is ranked at Master’s level, and, on completion, you’ll become an ACCA member.

The ACCA Qualification is the world-leading accountancy qualification for aspiring financial professionals – providing students with the skills, knowledge and values to have successful careers and lead the organisations they work with into the future.

In order to achieve the ACCA Qualification, students have to:

• Complete a maximum of 13 exams, depending on prior experience and qualifications
• Complete an ethics and professional skills module
• Evidence three years of practical work experience within a relevant role.

This means that students can complete the ACCA Qualification in a minimum of three years.

Apprenticeships play a huge role here. Let’s take a closer look.


Qualifications and experience are essential in the accounting world, and apprenticeships are the perfect way to obtain both.

They ensure that young accountants receive the education and real-world, practical experience needed to get on the right track and proceed down the pathway to becoming a professional accountant.

There are three levels of apprenticeships that prospects can apply for, each of which are designed to train them for different accounting roles.

Level 2 – Intermediate Apprenticeships

These entry-level apprenticeships are equivalent to a GCSE and provide training and experience in fields such as accounts assistants and clerks, cashiers and sales ledger clerks.

Level 3 – Advanced Apprenticeships

These are equivalent to A-Levels and are for assistant accountants and trainee accounting technicians.

Levels 4-7 – Higher and Degree Levels

The higher levels are the equivalent to a foundation degree, with levels 6 and 7 being full accounting degree apprenticeships where you can earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting.

This includes positions such as accounts manager and accounts technician.

So, who are apprenticeships for?

If you’re over 16, living in England and not in full-time education, then you’re eligible to become an apprentice.

School leavers, graduates and those already working in the industry are able to apply for an apprenticeship that suits their level of knowledge and ambition.

The apprenticeship opportunities available through the major players are as follows:

ACCA Apprenticeships

As the largest of the UK accounting bodies, the ACCA offer Level 4 Accounting Technician and Level 7 Professional Accountant apprenticeships.

Level 4 will take a minimum of 12 months to complete; with level 7 taking approximately 3 years.

With the ACCA apprenticeships, you’ll be able to study for a BSc in Applied Accounting and an MSc in Professional Accountancy.

It also provides you with the golden opportunity to attain the complete professional ACCA qualification, which is the equivalent of a master’s degree, and become a professional member of the ACCA. More about this shortly.

The ACCA also prides itself on developing the soft skills necessary for the modern employee, which focuses on EQ, or emotional intelligence, which will be discussed later.

Accounting Internships

Internships differ from apprenticeships in that they are informal and for shorter periods of time.

They are a great option for those who want to ‘test the waters’ and get an idea of what the accounting environment is like without making a commitment.

Most large organisations offer internship programmes, which can be a great way to get your foot in the door and gain valuable work experience.

Accounting’s Role in Commerce and the Economy

The accounting profession is vital as a facilitator of all other types of business.

At the end of the day, every business is all about the finances, and accounting skills are needed everywhere.

Accounting is, therefore, one of the most versatile skills, and is essential in every industry imaginable.

At the core of accounting is the important task of ensuring the adherence of the law while optimising financial revenue.

As a new digitised era evolves, accountants also take on a more advisory and supportive function with their clients in order to add value to their services.

The massive contribution of the accountancy profession to the gross domestic product (GDP) in the UK is over 60 billion pounds annually.

An estimated one-third of that is directly from the accounting firms, while the other two-thirds are from accountants applying their trade in other industries.

Accountants are also growing in demand annually. The most recent figures show close to 700,000 people are employed in the accounting industry.

More than half of those play an ‘in-house’ role in companies, while slightly more than a third are employed by professional accounting firms.

As we’ve seen, this is a vibrant and constantly growing industry, which provides many opportunities for prospective accountants.

Let’s move on to Module 2, where we delve deeper into the accounting profession and discuss the types of accounting jobs that are available.