Chartered certified accountants undertake a large variety of accountancy services and are responsible for:

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

They produce reports and budget plans, and contribute to business strategy.

They can work within a range of sectors including public practice, financial services or the corporate sector. Often, a chartered certified accountant's main aim is to maximise profitability and efficiency or ensure value for money on behalf of their employer or client, often assessing business possibilities.

Chartered certified accountants can offer a variety of services to an internationally recognised standard, including advising on taxation, insolvency and corporate finance. They may also provide a management consultancy service.

Responsibilities

The day-to-day activities of a chartered certified accountant can vary according to the size and type of organisation, but will generally involve:

  • preparing financial statements, business plans, commentaries and budgets for management or client reports;
  • regularly undertaking audits, involving the examination of the organisation's accounts, analysing risk, inspecting the organisation's current practices, investigating any financial irregularities and recommending improvements;
  • reviewing, implementing and adapting new and existing financial systems and controls;
  • producing and analysing annual and monthly accounts;
  • providing regular financial reports, as and when they are needed;
  • managing expenditure, credit, payroll and investments;
  • liaising with clients (individuals or businesses) or non-financial members of staff, providing financial information and advice;
  • advising managers on financial policy and control, such as the costs and benefits of a particular project;
  • dealing with, and advising on tax issues, ensuring compliance with tax legislation;
  • advising clients on areas of business improvement, or dealing with insolvency;
  • negotiating business terms with associated organisations such as suppliers;
  • managing colleagues.

Salary

  • Starting salaries vary considerably depending on location, size of firm, sector and the qualifications you hold.
  • As a graduate, it is possible to start on a salary of up to £25,000. This may increase to £26,000 to £45,000 once you have gained the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification.
  • Once you have built up significant experience in the role and have an increased level of responsibility, salaries can range from £40,000 to £100,000+.

Salaries for graduate schemes can vary depending on the sector they are linked to. 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. ACCA publishes some salary surveys for different countries on its website.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Employee benefits

Employees often receive a bonus, either as a fixed sum or based on personal and company performance. These bonuses can sometimes reach significant levels, but are, like other benefits, dependent on salary and employer discretion. Bonuses are more common in financial services and the corporate sector.

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

Working hours

Chartered certified accountants usually work during office hours, Monday to Friday, 35 to 45 hours a week. Longer hours and work at the weekends can be common at peak times, such as when meeting strict client deadlines, at month end or at the end of the financial year.

Flexible working is becoming more common in this profession, but is dependent on the organisation. Part-time work and job sharing are also available.

What to expect

  • The work is mainly office-based, though there is a huge variety of working environments. Chartered certified accountants may carry out audits at clients' premises, which may involve travelling and spending time away from home, which in some cases may be up to a few weeks at a time.
  • Women are represented well in this profession with ACCA reporting that approximately half of its students and over 40% of its members are female.
  • An ongoing part of a chartered certified accountant's work is keeping up to date with technical developments and changes in legislation.
  • Due to the high-profile nature of the work, dress code is usually formal.
  • Depending upon the organisation, chartered certified accountants can work as part of a larger team.
  • International positions and secondments are possible. With the increase in multinational corporations and pan-global business, overseas travel is becoming a common element in many corporate sectors.

Qualifications

It is possible to get into accountancy without a degree but it is a very competitive industry and so graduates are likely to have an advantage when it comes to securing jobs.

Large employers may not accept HNDs, however some smaller firms might be more flexible.

To become a chartered certified accountant you must have studied for the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification and become an ACCA member.

Any discipline is accepted to enter the accountancy profession but the following subjects may be particularly helpful:

  • accounting or finance;
  • business or management;
  • economics;
  • mathematics.

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. However, depending on the relevance and level of your qualification you may be exempt from some of the ACCA exams.

ACCA has introduced foundation-level qualifications for those who wish to enter the accountancy profession, or are already working in accountancy but have no formal academic qualifications. For more information on what is on offer see ACCA Qualifications.

Large employers typically require good A-level and degree performance (usually a minimum of a 2:1). Good GCSEs in English and mathematics are also required. Language skills can be useful.

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

It is advisable to apply early in your final year for jobs in larger organisations, though smaller companies can be more flexible and tend to recruit throughout the year.

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;
  • 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.

Work experience

Gaining pre-entry business or financial work experience can be highly beneficial, either via vacation work, part-time employment or work placements and shadowing.

Employers

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

Many opportunities will open up to you once you have gained the ACCA qualification and have ACCA membership, as it is recognised worldwide. The ACCA has over 162,000 members and 428,000 students in 173 countries.

Typical employers include:

  • public sector - such as local and central government, health and educational institutions, charities and not-for-profit organisations e.g. National Audit Office, HM Treasury, etc;
  • 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 accounting organisations such as the Big Four (PricewaterhouseCoopers (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:

Vacancies are often handled by recruitment agencies. Agencies with a financial bias may also handle training vacancies and can be a good source for positions with smaller companies, as well as large multinationals.

If you pursue this route it is advisable to register with several agencies in order to maximise your chance of finding suitable vacancies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Your training will focus on completing the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification, which has a strong focus on professional values, ethics and governance.

The qualification includes the following:

  • Exams - of which there are 14. These are divided into two levels; Fundamentals and Professional. If you have already completed a degree you may be exempt from some of the exams at the Fundamentals level. The Professional level contains an options module, which allows you to pick two topics from advanced financial management, advanced performance management, advanced taxation or advanced audit and assurance.
  • Practical experience - covering three years' experience in a relevant role, where you must achieve 13 performance objectives. You can choose to do this at the same time as studying.
  • Ethics - covered by the professional ethics module, which underpins your exams and practical experience and aims to introduce various ethical ideas.

In general, the ACCA qualification takes three to four years to complete but this will depend on what qualifications you had before starting and whether you study and work at the same time.

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.

While you are completing the course, you may be awarded other qualifications along the way. These include:

  • Diploma in Accounting and Business;
  • Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business;
  • BSc Applied Accounting awarded by Oxford Brookes University.

The ACCA offers a lot of support to students studying its qualification including study guides, past exam papers, face-to-face events and guidance on finding relevant work experience.

To find out more see The ACCA Qualification.

Career prospects

Career development is often dependent on you progressing through your professional qualifications and gaining work experience.

You may be given considerable responsibility early on, such as being set specific projects to manage, staff to supervise or control of work with more prestigious clients.

You may progress your career by diversifying or specialising in a particular area, such as:

  • audit;
  • risk management;
  • insolvency;
  • forensic accountancy.

If you work in private practice, it is possible to gain a partnership within ten years of qualification. 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 Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification covers a broad syllabus that includes both finance and strategic business management skills. This means that you will be able to 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.

After five years as an ACCA member, and dependent on the completion of continuing professional development (CPD), you are automatically awarded the prestigious title of Fellow (FCCA).