About graduate careers in accountancy and financial management
Businesses and organisations of all types need accountants to ensure that they are financially sound and complying with relevant, up-to-date legislation. As a graduate you could work for an accountancy or professional services firm, providing financial services to other businesses and organisations. Other accountants work in industry, which means working for businesses and organisations themselves, whether a large multinational or a small independent business. Alternatively, public sector accountants work for local authorities and governmental bodies, making sure public money is being used responsibly. Whoever your employer is, you will have an influence on the strategic development of businesses through your assessment of their finances.
Accountants tend to specialise in a practice area (these include assurance, auditing, tax, insolvency, and business and financial advice), while some accountants focus on a particular business area – for example, a management accountant helps managers plan and budget ahead, while a forensic accountant investigates possible financial fraud.
It may be surprising to learn that people working in this sector are not always office based. The amount of time you spend behind a desk will depend on your specialism and your employer. If you work for an accountancy firm, in many areas of work you will spend a considerable amount of time visiting clients on their premises.
A range of professional bodies provide qualifications that graduates work towards as they train and specialise. While many accountants stay and progress in the financial services industry, gaining these qualifications also opens up routes to other business areas, which are often highly paid.
Opportunities for graduates
All kinds of organisations – from the ‘Big 4’ firms (KPMG, Deloitte, EY and PwC) to small accountancy firms, plus many public and private sector employers – recruit graduates as accountants. Any degree discipline is accepted, but having a finance background can gain you exemption from some exams.
Graduates typically work within a firm while they complete a professional qualification, either on a training programme or in a junior post. Programmes usually involve exposure to all functions or departments within the organisation and it can be intense, due to the combination of work, study and exams. However, many firms offer study leave and a great deal of support, along with a pay rise once you’ve gained your qualifications.
To get a job with a firm, students need to show excellent numeracy skills and commercial awareness, along with good communication, time management, analytical and teamwork skills. Accounting and financial management remain a stable career choice for graduates and, once qualified, financial rewards in the profession can be substantial.
Students interested in accounting and financial management…
- were most likely to be studying: business/management, which includes accounting and finance (63 per cent); economics (10 per cent); or mathematical science/statistics (8%)
- were likely to be considering a career outside of accountancy, with 51% saying they would
- had fairly even opinions on the statement ‘I am averse to a high-pressure career that involves a lot of stress’, as 33% agreed, 35% disagreed and 33% expressed no strong opinion either way
- tended to be active on LinkedIn, with 89% having used it for career purposes.