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Accountancy: An often misunderstood profession

Insight | Tougher times | External accountant | Company growth

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Demand for accountancy professionals tends to hold up regardless of the state of the wider economy. During periods of prosperity, finance professionals prove their worth by offering strategic insight which assists company growth. And during tougher times, close scrutiny of the books can make all the difference for struggling companies.

Almost every public and private sector organisation will use an internal or external accountant at some point during their trading year, As such, demand for their services is relatively stable, allowing firms to plan ahead and commit to their own hiring and training plans. For this reason, accountancy can be one of the best sectors to enter if you are looking for high earning capacity aligned with a degree of job security.

Writing for the Independent, Russ Thorne said chartered accountants are "vital" to the running of businesses all over the world. But still, he claimed this is a field that is often misunderstood, both by members of the public and young people choosing a career path. Very often, people assume that only university students can become an accountant, when this is not the case at all.

No need for a university degree

Speaking to the news provider, Gavin Aspden of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) claimed there are "a lot of misconceptions" about routes into accountancy, and the profession in general. “You don’t have to be good at maths, and you don’t have to have done a finance degree. You don’t even have to be a graduate," he explained.

Mr Aspden noted that the various UK accounting bodies, including ICAEW and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants offer a range of qualifications and programmes. These are designed to suit people from a wide range of situations and backgrounds, including those requiring a vocational route into the sector. Among the options include apprenticeships, part-time study and distance learning.

"Firms are quite often deliberately looking for people without accountancy degrees, because they want people who have different thought processes," Mr Aspden noted. “One firm told me they’re desperate to attract people from language backgrounds because we’re operating in a worldwide forum." He claimed that being able to speak another language fluently is "a massive advantage" in the modern world of business.

What are employers looking for?

As well as intelligence and application, employers are looking for individuals with broad skill sets when they hire the next generation of accountants. Richard Irwin, head of student recruitment at PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the Independent that people wishing to enter the sector need to be proactive in terms of their own development. "Transferable skills are very attractive to employers and they don’t necessarily have to be gained through work,” Mr Irwin said.

As such, would-be accountants need to focus on building up a strong CV, he suggested. “Focus on improving yourself," Mr Irwin stated. "That commitment to your own development is one of the most important things we look for as an employer.” And once with an accountancy firm, young people will start to reap the wider benefits, he claimed.

“The reality of a career in accounting couldn’t be further from the stereotype," Mr Irwin added. "You’ll see how big business really works, develop skills and gain qualifications that are always in demand by employers, and give yourself a foundation that opens all kinds of career doors for the future.”


Posted by Jon Aspinell on 15th August 2012

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