Top tips for becoming a qualified accountant

Welcome to my guide on top tips in becoming a qualified accountant. Before we dive into the tips, it is paramount to understand what does it mean to be qualified accountant and where can it take your career. Furthermore, this guide will focus on becoming a qualified accountant through the Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales.

Being a Chartered Accountant is more than sitting behind a desk and posting journal entries into a system. The role involves making commercial decisions, mentoring, providing leadership and vision, constantly learning, networking and potentially travelling around the world. Many of the CEO’s and CFO’s of FTSE and Fortune 500 companies are from an accountancy background:
Alison Cooper (CEO of Imperial Brands)
Jeff Bell (CFO at Centrica)
Andrew Findlay CFO at EasyJet)
Iain Mackay (CFO at HSBC)
Eammon Rothwell (CEO at ICG)

To become a Chartered Accountant, here are my top tips:
Start with speaking to a qualified accountant (if possible) and asking for their first-hand experience into what their role entails. These people can be your friend’s parents or someone in your family
Select accounting at A-Levels as this will give you a solid foundation of accounting knowledge which will be beneficial at university
When applying for universities, it is not necessary to do an accounting or related degree at university level however it will be beneficial to you when applying for internships and training contracts
In your first year at university, ask your career’s counsellor and conduct research on the internet to find out what accounting firms and/or companies exist in the UK that can offer internships and training contracts within accountancy. Note all these down along with their closing dates for applications
Get involved in extracurricular activities such as societies and/or find a part time job. This will show that you are excellent at managing your time and energy, a key skill for accountants to possess
In your second year at university, apply to various accounting firms and/or companies for an internship. Do this as early as possible as the applications can take plenty of time. Engage with your career’s counsel to obtain advice on applications, CV and interview preparation. The internship can be for a year or for the summer
In your internship, you must network network network! Build relationships with different people in the organisation including outside your department/function. This will develop your people skills and everyone will remember you in the firm and will want to keep you on after your internship. In addition, you will leave a lasting impression
In your penultimate and final year at university, apply to various firms and/or companies for open days and trainee roles in audit, accounting, consulting etc. As mentioned earlier, you should apply as early as possible as the applications can take time. Many firms will invite you for open days where you will be given an opportunity to gain insights into the profession and to create an impression. Take advantage of that!
Once you begin your training period (3 years) within a firm or company you will be developing your skillset every day and take on challenging and exciting tasks. Along with gaining work experience, you will be studying for your professional exams in the evenings. If you join a firm, you’ll obtain exposure to a wide variety of clients from various sectors such as banking, retail, technology, construction, healthcare etc. whereas in a company you will most likely be exposed to only one sector
Being in training is an excellent opportunity to engage with your seniors, understand the routes to further develop your careers and ultimately become CEO or CFO or Partner

Coming out of training, you will be a qualified accountant and will be in constant demand!!! You will then have a choice to either stay in your current company/firm or join somewhere new and exciting. Furthermore, you will have the opportunity to work nearly anywhere in the world!

Additional resources:

How to Ace the Professional Accountancy Exams
5 Reasons to Study Actuarial Science
Studying Economics

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