Accountancy salaries and benefits for graduates

The salary and benefits you can expect to receive as a graduate working in accounting

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Most firms, especially the larger ones, offer further optional benefits, which employees can choose to suit them personally.

A 2020 survey by the ICAEW reported that starting salaries for graduates working in accountancy in commerce and industry ranged from £22,000–£27,000 in London and £22,000–£28,000 in the home counties. These figures are broadly in line with the average starting salary of £27,755 that students interested in accountancy and financial management expected, according to a survey by Cibyl (a research business owned by TARGETjobs’ parent company).

The Institute of Student Employers’ survey of its members reported that the average graduate salary at finance and professional services firms was £33,610, although it is worth noting that its membership typically comprises the largest employers.

On top of these sorts of salary, 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.

Benefits

Base salary is not everything, of course. Graduates are likely to also receive benefits on top of their salary as extra incentives. 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 20–27 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 (according to the ICAEW, this was the fastest growing benefit in 2020)
  • free eyesight testing
  • 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 £32,000 in basic salary with an average bonus potential of between 7–9%. The ICAEW's survey, meanwhile, indicated that the average salary for a part-qualified accountant was £27,962.

Expect a big increase in salary once you qualify. The ICAEW reports that you can expect to be making £40,238 on qualification, and that the average salary of ICAEW chartered accountants in business is £134,000.

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