If you work in a logical way, like solving problems and understand public policy and finance then why not consider a career as a chartered public fiance accountant
As a chartered public finance accountant you will be responsible for ensuring the effective operation of accounting and financial activities in public sector organisations. It's your job to make sure that public money is being spent properly.
Generally, public finance accountants work for public bodies, such as local and central government and publicly funded organisations, such as charities. They also work with the police, the military and the NHS. However, a growing number are also employed in industry or private accountancy firms.
Your main duty will be financial reporting and control. Roles in private sector companies that provide services to the public or not-for-profit sector on a consultative basis tend to focus more on reviewing financial systems and efficiency, than on central accountancy activities.
Your tasks can include:
Exact pay rates vary depending on employer, location, experience and responsibility. Additional benefits such as share options, bonuses, health insurance, pension contributions and company cars are common.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
The average working week is usually between 35 and 40 hours, Monday to Friday. However, extra hours are often required at peak times of the year, and this will include late evening and weekend work.
During training there is a need to study while you are working, which requires commitment, dedication and long hours.
After qualification, part-time careers and job sharing are also possible.
Chartered public finance accountancy is open to all graduates, although a degree, (preferably a 2:1), in the following subjects is often sought:
Although any degree subject may be accepted, entrants with relevant degrees will be exempt from the certificate level of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) Professional Qualification.
A HND in the following subjects may also increase your chances:
As with degrees, a relevant HND will give exemption from the certificate level of the CIPFA qualification.
The minimum academic standard of entry for the CIPFA qualification is a minimum of three GCSE passes (A to C) and two A-levels (A to C), including English and mathematics at either level.
The minimum vocational qualification is an NVQ/GNVQ at Level 3, or the Scottish equivalent.
Competition for traineeships is keen but, once qualified, movement is relatively easy. Employers may visit your institution to recruit or notify careers services of any vacancies directly.
If you have a geographical preference, it might be worth identifying appropriate organisations and applying to them directly. Find organisations via:
You will need to show:
Pre-entry experience, while beneficial, is not essential.
However, familiarity with a range of environments and cultures, and an understanding of the ethos and aims of the public and not-for-profit sector, are helpful.
Typical employers include:
The public sector covers a range of organisations. The term generally refers to bodies that provide services to the public, although this does not necessarily have to be within the public sector.
Public services are typically funded through taxation, and work relates to the balancing of costs rather than the maximisation of profits.
Chartered public finance accountants are employed by large private sector organisations and in industry and commerce. Some work for accountancy firms, which provide services to a range of public sector organisations, such as healthcare bodies, charities and local and central government. The 'big four' are:
There are also a growing number of opportunities to work for specialist accountancy and management consultancy partnerships. These provide a range of advisory, consultative and audit services for the public sector. Some chartered public finance accountants with a good level of experience set up in private practice.
Look for job vacancies at:
Recruitment agencies sometimes handle vacancies for qualified and part-qualified applicants. These include:
The main professional body is the CIPFA, its qualifications develop candidates as accountants and financial managers tailored to the public services.
An open learning system exists, as well as day release. Many employers offer paid study leave and structured training schemes. Trainees are also required to experience a range of finance, accountancy and audit functions in the workplace, normally guided by a qualified colleague.
Fast-track routes are available to members of the:
Some exemptions are available for qualified members of a variety of professional bodies including the:
In larger organisations, such as local government councils, trainees rotate between a number of departments to gain experience of areas such as:
The CIPFA Professional Qualification is made up of three stages and takes approximately three years to complete. Candidates are assessed through examinations and must keep a detailed record of their professional experience in the Practical Experience Portfolio (PEP). The qualification is structured as follows:
CIPFA's pass rate compares favourably with other accountancy institutes and is often higher for graduate entrants. Students may re-sit failed examinations. Employers' attitudes to examination failures vary, but progress is generally dependent on exam performance.
Many large public sector bodies provide well-structured career paths with many opportunities to develop and specialise. A career in public sector financial management offers a range of challenging and rewarding opportunities.
Employment opportunities can be found in areas ranging from local government to the NHS, and from education to central government and all its specialist agencies. Career development is based on both ability and geographical mobility.
Public finance accountants working in local government are appointed to a specific accounting or auditing role on qualification and are responsible for the overall financial provision of the department or service. Within a couple of years, many chartered qualified accountants are in a position to progress in their careers, and this may involve responsibility for larger resources or the management of entire departments.
Opportunities exist with a variety of employers, and movement between public and private sectors is also possible.
CIPFA specifies that members must undertake mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) as career progress is linked to continued learning through training events, conferences and meetings. An increasing number of public sector employers operate staff development schemes accredited by CIPFA to enable staff development and CPD to run concurrently.