You’ve got the qualification, now what?

What links Itzhak Stern, Frank Wilson and Josiah Wedgwood? Accountancy.

Stern was the accountant who helped Jews employed by Oscar Schindler survive the Holocaust. Wilson’s forensic accountancy skills resulted in the conviction of gangster Al Capone. Josiah Wedgwood’s cost accountancy expertise saved his family’s pottery firm from bankruptcy.

With a suitable accountancy qualification, the world opens up to you – all sectors, from the media to the voluntary sector need accountants.

A recent report from UK recruitment firm Robert Half found that a quarter of all UK chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are accountants. What’s more, if your dream is to one day run your own business then a background in accountancy will stand you in good stead.

Accountancy – the world is your oyster

Five years ago Kristina Clark landed her dream job in the defence industry thanks in part to her AAT qualification. As an Assistant Accountant at General Dynamics UK, her work encompasses month-end reporting, account reconciliations, exchange rate requests, Treasury cover – “and everything in between” she adds. When she was interviewed for the role, she was a newly qualified MAAT and was advised that this was part of the reason she was shortlisted.

Now an FMAAT, Clark says: “People wouldn’t straight away think of an accounts department in the defence industry but it’s a really fascinating place to work. Accountancy doesn’t have to mean Practice work. I have friends working in the building industry, the arts and even wedding dress manufacture.”

Collette Huckle, regional director at Reed Accountancy agrees: “As well as traditional accountancy, there are also opportunities in what can be described as “unconventional accounting” which includes forensic auditing, environmental accounting, IT accounting, education and research. There can even be a touch of Hollywood in accounting as there are a variety of exciting opportunities in the entertainment industry, such as bookkeeping for artists, bands and film makers”.

A quarter of all UK chief executives of FTSE 100 companies are accountants

Out of Africa

For 10 years Sylvia Bourhill worked for a missionary organisation in West Africa overseeing the funds coming in from overseas donors and making sure these donors were sent detailed reports. Back in the UK, Sylvia married in 1999 and wanted to find a career she could combine with looking after a baby at home. “I did a bit of general admin work but discovered I really enjoyed the bookkeeping side: I like to bring order out of chaos”.

She became AAT qualified in 2011 – by which time her business Another answer had taken off enough to need an office. By 2015, the business had grown so much they needed new premises – she now has four part-time bookkeepers including her husband, and is looking for another one. Bourhill is keen to point out the flexibility her chosen profession offers her. “I couldn’t face being employed in a nine to five after my experiences in Africa, so my own business was the only way to go”.

The sky’s the limit

One good way of trying out different sectors is to do maternity cover: after a year’s work you should know whether you’re suited to that type of business.

Huckle points out: “It is evident that having an accounting qualification and experience builds a great foundation for your career and gives a number of transferable skills should you wish to move on to other things. Finance is the hub of any business, especially for a commercial business which means accounting professionals are exposed to all areas of the business. There is also a growing demand for commercial accountants who have strong analytical skill to help in various aspects of the business”.

And she adds: “There are a number of employers who ask for an accountancy qualification as part of the recruitment brief for senior roles and having one can enable a move up the ranks. There is also the added bonus that if candidates are moving outside the structure of accountancy firms and into industries such as entertainment, arts or sport which are not so familiar with the workings of accountancy, then a qualification works like an international currency that is easily recognised as a mark of quality by all”.

So now you’ve got the qualification, don’t hold you back from achieving all you want from your career!

Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.

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