One in twelve chartered accountants began their accountancy studies by working toward an AAT qualification.
Accounting technicians carry out a range of practical accounting tasks, working towards the collation, checking and analysis of financial information, which is then utilised by accountants. Typical responsibilities include:
- administering payrolls
- liaising with managerial staff, colleagues and clients
- arranging payments for invoices
- undertaking financial administration
- monitoring financial transactions
- preparing accounts, reports, budgets, commentaries and financial statements
Although they often work with and assist chartered accountants, many provide independent accounting services. Self-employed accounting technicians typically take on more complex tasks, including:
- calculating end of year accounts
- ensuring compliance with taxation legislation.
- advising on and controlling income and expenditure budgets
Vacancies for accounting technicians are advertised through major professional bodies, on TARGETjobs Finance online and in Accounting Technician magazine.
Accounting technicians are employed by almost every type of business, including:
- building societies
- insurance companies
- the NHS
- local/health authorities
- media/retail companies
- industrial organisations
- manufacturing/engineering firms
Qualification as an accounting technician may be a good route toward chartered accountancy if you have trouble finding a place on an appropriate graduate scheme, or if you would prefer to take a more vocational route. This role is also very well suited to school leavers.
There are two vocational qualification routes - the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Accounting qualification, and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Certified Accounting Technician qualification (CAT). Many technicians train while on the job via part-time study or distance learning.
The AAT qualification comprises three levels (foundation, advanced and professional) that combine formal examination with vocational experience. Each level takes approximately one year to complete; however, the use of computer based assessments and flexible study options means that students can progress through the course at their own pace, rather than according to a strict exam schedule. Students start at the level appropriate to their prior knowledge, study and experience. The AAT website has an online test that indicates the suitable starting level. Graduates who have studied a recognised finance or accountancy-related degree from one of the AAT’s partner universities can join at professional level and may be exempt from some of the exams. Completion of the qualification allows accounting technicians to apply for membership of the AAT (MAAT).
Attaining CAT status with ACCA can be achieved by students of all levels. If you have are a school leaver with a minimum of three GCSEs/Scottish Standard Grades and two A Levels/Highers you can take the three-to-four-year ACCA qualification. If you don’t meet these minimum standards you can either take the foundation qualification first, or the one-year ACCA apprenticeship. If you are a graduate at an ACCA-accredited university, you have an accelerated route to qualification with exemption from some exams.
If you have completed the AAT professional level qualification, you will also be exempt from some ACCA exams.
For more information about school leaver routes to a career as an accounting technician, see the finance sector of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
Employers look for evidence of:
- a thorough, methodical approach
- strong mathematical and problem-solving skills
- strong interpersonal and communication skills
- excellent commercial sense
- good IT skills, particularly in the use of spreadsheets
- the ability to work as part of a team
An understanding of business practices gained through work experience may be helpful.