If you've got a good head for numbers, are business minded and enjoy problem-solving, consider becoming a chartered certified accountant

As a chartered certified accountant, you'll undertake a variety of accountancy services and will be responsible for:

  • developing and maintaining financial and accounting systems
  • financial forecasting
  • auditing financial records
  • investigating financial anomalies.

You will offer a variety of services to an internationally recognised standard, including advising on taxation, insolvency and corporate finance. You may also provide a management consultancy service.

You can work within a range of sectors including public practice, financial services or the corporate sector. In many cases, your main aim will be to maximise profitability and efficiency or ensure value for money on behalf of your employer or client.

The term 'certified chartered' is legally protected and can only be used by a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).

Responsibilities

As a chartered certified accountant, you'll need to:

  • prepare financial statements, business plans, commentaries and budgets for management or client reports
  • regularly undertake audits, involving the examination of the organisation's accounts, analysing risk, inspecting the organisation's current practices, investigating any financial irregularities and recommending improvements
  • review, implement and adapt new and existing financial systems and controls
  • produce and analyse annual and monthly accounts
  • provide regular financial reports
  • manage expenditure, credit, payroll and investments
  • liaise with clients (individuals or businesses) or non-financial members of staff, providing financial information and advice
  • advise managers on financial policy and control, such as the costs and benefits of a particular project
  • deal with and advise on tax issues, ensuring compliance with tax legislation
  • advise clients on areas of business improvement, or deal with insolvency
  • negotiate business terms with associated organisations such as suppliers.

As you progress into more senior roles, you're likely to take on staff management responsibilities and contribute further to business strategy.

Salary

  • Your starting salary can vary considerably depending on the location and size of the firm you work for, the sector and your qualifications. As a graduate, it's possible to start on a salary of around £25,000.
  • Once qualified, your salary can range from £26,000 to £45,000 (senior accountant/accounts senior roles).
  • Once you've built up significant experience, your salary can range from £40,000 to in excess of £100,000 (for roles at director level).

Starting salaries for the corporate sector and public practice are usually higher than in the public sector. Salaries are generally higher for chartered certified accountants working in banks and insurance companies.

Some organisations offer additional benefits, such as profit-sharing schemes, private health insurance, pensions, car allowances and bonuses.

Bonuses, which can sometimes reach significant levels, can either be a fixed sum or based on personal and company performance. Bonuses are more common in financial services and the corporate sector.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

You'll typically work office hours, Monday to Friday, 35 to 45 hours a week. You may need to work longer hours and at the weekend at peak times, such as when meeting client deadlines, at month end or at the end of the financial year.

There are some opportunities for part-time work, flexible working and job sharing.

What to expect

  • Although the work is mainly office-based, you may carry out audits at clients' premises, which can involve travelling and spending time away from home, sometimes up to a few weeks at a time.
  • Jobs are available throughout the UK.
  • As a chartered certified accountant you can work in a broad range of areas from public practice (if you hold a practising certificate) to private finance.
  • Due to the high-profile nature of the work, dress code is usually formal.
  • ACCA is a globally-recognised accountancy professional body, so once qualified you will be able to work abroad.

Qualifications

To become a chartered certified accountant you must have successfully completed the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Qualification and become an ACCA member. You'll also need three years' relevant work experience, which can be done while you're studying.

The minimum requirement for entry onto the ACCA Qualification is three GCSEs and two A-levels (or equivalent) in five separate subjects including English and mathematics. You can also apply if you've got a degree or Masters in any subject. Depending on the relevance and level of your qualifications you may be exempt from some of the ACCA exams.

If you're already working in finance or want to enter the accountancy profession but don't have any formal academic qualifications, you can take the ACCA foundation-level qualifications (known as the Foundations in Accountancy). On successful completion, you'll be awarded a Diploma in Accounting and Business and can then move on to the ACCA Qualification.

As part of your study towards the ACCA Qualification you may be awarded other qualifications such as the BSc in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University, or a Masters degree in Professional Accountancy from the University of London.

Large employers with graduate accountant trainee schemes typically require good A-level results and a minimum of a 2:1 degree. Some may specify a degree discipline, such as accountancy or a finance-related subject. You'll be trained on the job and will study for the ACCA Qualification at the same time.

Competition is strong for positions within large companies as well as for graduate schemes and industry jobs with good study packages.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • general all-round business interest and knowledge
  • commercial awareness
  • self-motivation and commitment, in order to combine working and studying
  • strong written and verbal communication skills
  • the ability to communicate with people from all backgrounds
  • good interpersonal and negotiation skills
  • organisational and time management skills
  • methodical approach
  • IT proficiency
  • strong analytical, problem-solving and accuracy skills
  • excellent numeracy skills
  • flexibility and adaptability
  • leadership qualities and effective teamworking skills
  • a proactive approach and ambition
  • tact and discretion
  • integrity and trust.

Language skills may also be useful if you want to work for an international firm.

Work experience

Try to get experience in a business or financial role either through a work placement, part-time job or voluntary work. It can also be helpful to work shadow an accountant to get a feel for the role.

Employers

Chartered certified accountants can choose to work in any sector and have the opportunity to train and work in organisations ranging from large, multinational companies to small, local businesses.

Typical employers include:

  • public sector - such as local and central government, National Audit Office, HM Treasury, health and educational institutions, charities and not-for-profit organisations
  • corporate sector - including major commercial companies, such as those in the pharmaceutical, retail, energy and manufacturing industries
  • financial services - including fund management organisations, general insurers, building societies, banking (investment and retail), life insurers and insurance brokers
  • public practice - including international professional services organisations such as the Big Four (PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and EY) or smaller accountancy firms, known as small and medium practices (SMPs), which all provide a variety of accounting and business services to clients.

Look for job vacancies at:

Jobs are typically advertised as 'accountant' rather than 'chartered certified accountant'. Some employers will specify they're looking exclusively for ACCA qualified accountants (or ACA, CIPFA or CIMA qualified), while others will accept applications from accountants with any of these qualifications.

Specialist recruitment agencies handle vacancies, including training vacancies, and can be a good source for positions with smaller companies, as well as large multinationals.

Professional development

Your training will focus on completing the ACCA Qualification, which has a strong focus on professional values, ethics and governance. The qualification includes:

  • Exams - up to 14. These are divided into two levels: Fundamentals and Professional. If you've got a degree recognised by ACCA, you may be exempt from the Fundamentals level. The Professional level contains an Essentials and Options module. You need to pass all three Essentials papers and choose (and pass) a minimum of two Options papers.
  • Practical experience - covering three years' experience in a relevant role. You can choose to do this at the same time as studying.
  • Ethics - covered by the ethics and professional skills module, which underpins your exams and practical experience and aims to introduce various ethical ideas.

There are various study methods available, including self-study via distance learning and tutored lessons. The ACCA provides details of the nearest tutors to you. To find out more, see the ACCA Qualification.

Throughout your career you must undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to keep your business and finance knowledge up to date. You'll also need to keep track of technical developments and changes in legislation. This can include attending courses and conferences, researching and reading the trade press.

After five years as an ACCA member, and dependent on the completion of continuing professional development (CPD), you're awarded the title of Fellow (FCCA). For details of relevant CPD activities see ACCA - CPD for members.

If you're looking to progress further into high-level management roles you may choose to take a postgraduate qualification, for example an MBA.

Career prospects

You may be given considerable responsibility early on, such as being set specific projects to manage, staff to supervise or control, or work with more prestigious clients. As you gain experience, you can progress by diversifying or specialising in a particular area, such as:

  • audit
  • risk management
  • insolvency
  • forensic accountancy.

There are also opportunities to take on higher-level responsibilities within a finance department or move into a more strategic business development role.

If you work in private practice, it's possible to gain a partnership after ten to fifteen years. In commerce, you may take on higher responsibilities within a finance department or move into a more strategic business development role, depending on your professional interests and experience.

The ACCA Qualification covers a broad syllabus that includes both finance and strategic business management skills. This means you can transfer your knowledge and skills into different job roles and business areas, including business management or consultancy. You could also go on to set up your own business.