£26,433 is, according to the latest biannual survey from the Institute of Student Employers, the average starting salary offered by accountancy and professional services firms. Not bad for a profession that remained pretty stable throughout the recession, and in which employees can generally enjoy a decent work/life balance, with fairly regular hours. There can be exceptions to this, of course – there are busier times of year such as financial quarterly and year-ends where the pressure will pile on – but our recent survey of 123 graduates working for accountancy and financial management firms found that 83% described themselves as ‘happy’ with the lifestyle around their jobs: the hours, travel, location and colleagues.
Base salary is not everything, of course. A recent survey by ICAS reported that although pay freezes are common, many firms are increasing the range of benefits they offer. We’ve taken a look at the key recruiters in this sector, including the Big 4 (EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte), to come up with a list of the typical benefits you can expect when you join an accountancy firm. Bear in mind that not all firms will offer all of these, but you can expect most of these standard employment benefits:
- a graduate loan (larger firms, such as the Big 4, will offer up to £8,000 interest-free) – this can be a big help when it comes to paying a deposit on rent or buying a work wardrobe
- holiday allowance – usually between 20-25 days per year
- interest-free season ticket loan
- personal accident insurance
- life assurance
- pension scheme with company contribution
- maternity and paternity leave
Most firms, especially the larger ones, also offer further optional benefits, which employees can choose to suit them personally. Here’s a sample of what may be available:
- health checks
- lunch allowance
- staff discounts (gym membership, travel, computer hardware and software)
- extra holidays, or you can also sell some back in return for other benefits
- annual travel insurance
- bikes for work
- carbon offsetting
- private healthcare
- dental insurance
- childcare vouchers.
Salary during and after qualification
Qualifying with a professional body usually takes about three to four years and comprises a number of exams, practical work experience (usually 36 months’ worth) and usually the completion of a professional ethics module or course. Most accountancy employers will pay for your exam fees and give you time off to study. Your salary will often increase as you move towards qualification as you will be gaining valuable experience. CIMA reports that its part-qualified students in the UK are earning on average £31,677 in basic salary with an average bonus potential of 7%.
Expect a big increase in salary once you qualify. The ICAEW reports that you can expect to be making £45,000 on qualification, while the average earning potential of ICAEW chartered accountants in business, six to nine years after qualifying is £85,900 (£71,600 salary + £14,300 bonus).