Very few professions are as versatile as that of an accountant. Unlike most skilled workers, including doctors and engineers, the accountant can potentially work in any industry. The ability to work with numbers, or rather make the numbers work for their employers, is a universally applicable and appreciated skill which has validity across the entire industry. As long as there is significant business involved, accountants will also be there to manage it all.
A Highly Competitive Field
Despite all that, landing a job that actually pays well is not easy today for an accountant in the United Kingdom. For example, the average salary for accountants in the United Kingdom is £29,263, while chartered accountants only get paid a slightly higher average salary of £35,369. On the other hand, the average US accountant earns about £39,000, while chartered accountants in the US average a salary close to £69,000.
This means that the competition to join one of the top tier firms in the UK is tremendous. Keeping these facts in mind, let’s take a quick look through certain aspects of an applicant that could raise their chances of cracking an interview with one of the top paying employers in the UK quite significantly.
Tech Savviness: Learn to Use the Digital Tools
There was a time when it was largely believed that accounting software would eliminate the accountant’s job. That did not turn out to be true at all, but the availability of helpful accounting applications did create a need for tech savvy accountants, i.e. those who can work with the latest accounting tools to improve their own productivity and almost eliminate the chances of making mistakes. An accountant who isn’t familiar with digital accounting tools is not going to be the most productive employee for a company, which is why they will be more inclined to hire someone who knows how to use applications meant to aid accountants and make finance a more productive and speedier department.
Postgraduate Degree: Become a Chartered Accountant
Chartered accountants must complete one of the many accounting postgraduate courses available today from an accredited university. Post completion of the degree course, they will also have to work through a chartered accountant’s mentorship programme for three years or more. Even if you apply for an entry level accountancy job as a chartered accountant, your chances of landing the job and get a better salary are much higher.
Given that both professional demand and the pay is gap between general accountants and chartered accountants is noticeable, postgraduate courses do provide a significant career boost to all undergrad accountants. To find the best accounting courses for postgraduates, search for the programmes on Uni Compare. There are over 136 degree courses carefully listed on the site, with a helpful, in-site search engine to aid students in finding exactly what they are looking for. Given that accounting pays better in the US, you may want to select an internationally acclaimed programme.
Aside from becoming a standard chartered accountant, there are other lucrative career paths that a postgraduate degree in accountancy can open, so do explore the courses, degrees and universities a bit before choosing a programme.
Specialise: The More You Know the Business
Right at the beginning, it was briefly mentioned that accountants are one of those professionals who can work across multiple sectors. It is true, as experienced accountants can carry out basic accounting work in any field. However, accountants who manage to put their specialisation, field of employment and experience in line, are also the ones with the best possible career prospects. When you specialise in any particular type of business, gain experience in it and then apply for a vacancy within that industry, that’s everything a hiring company can expect from their applicants. In general, accountants can be divided among the following categories, based on their specialisations:
Assurance – Investigative accounting which deals with analysing financial data for determining if their client’s (investors and shareholders) finances are being put to the best possible use. Also denoted by the more modern term, forensic accounting, these accountants help detect frauds, criminal activities, etc. The IRS can also hire external accounting firms at times to determine whether a company is trying to commit tax fraud, or has done so already.
Corporate Recovery – An accountant with a specialisation in corporate recovery is generally tasked with proper division of the assets forfeited by a company in debt. Employees, partners, investors, shareholders, lenders, banks, suppliers and the government are their usual clients.
Corporate Finance – Estimating, predicting and suggesting moves in regard to acquisitions, mergers and selling of companies and other assets.
Commercial Finance – Similar to corporate finance, the accountant estimates, analyses and delivers reports in regard to various aspects of a product’s performance in market, along with suggestions for better cost-efficiency, profit margins and/or sales.
Corporate Treasury – During the course, accountants are taught and trained how to manage liquid assets, make estimations regarding future risk factors and accumulate capital that might be necessary to face those risks head on.
Audit – Similar to what the IRS accountants do in order to detect tax fraud, an internal auditor will assess a company’s operations, investments, expenses etc. and detect ineffective financial investments, internal frauds and potent financial risks.
We did not mention the fact that accountants will also be expected to handle all tax related work by default. That is only because it’s a basic requirement that any company will expect from their applicants. It cannot be qualified as something that might help the accountant land the job, given that the employer takes the skill for granted in most cases.