Accountancy is full of exciting and fulfilling career options

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An AAT qualification opens the door to many different kinds of accounting careers. Here are some of the things you could do.

An AAT qualification can set you on the path to different career options depending on your areas of interest and your skills. There is the opportunity to run your own practice, specialise in audit or management accounting, or work for public or private organisations. For example, forensic accountants helped uncover the Post Office/Horizon scandal and played a key role in convicting the gangster Al Capone in the 1930s.

AAT President Kevin Bragg notes that “all workplaces will have a need for technical grounding. At a company level, accountants are needed for everything from compliance, company costing and product costing. With the ongoing skills build up being hugely transferable. That’s why an AAT-qualified accountant can continue studying and go on to become an auditor or a management accountant.

“Our Accountants in Practice have a wide variety of knowledge and technical skills to offer to clients through their own businesses.

“Tax advisors across different industries will experience very different day-to-day tasks, with some spending time on the minutiae of tax breaks for say heavy industry, and others finding where’s most economically viable way to shoot TV programmes.

Outside of the better-known areas of accounting, this sector is also responding to changing needs, with accounting jobs popping up in sustainability and even cloud-based software.

“It’s a wonderfully versatile area to work and I hope people begin to realise how many exciting opportunities accounting can offer them.”

A wealth of accountancy careers are available

“There are a multitude of opportunities available for newly qualified accountants,” says Chris Goulding, Managing Director of specialist HR recruitment firm, Wade Macdonald.

“It can be helpful to analyse what skills and interests you have that might match potential roles. If you are talented at finding and communicating a ‘story’ out of financial data you may be suited to a reporting role. If you have commercial acumen, internal audit could be a good fit. However, skills can be developed, so it is completely possible to change career directions later on,” he says.

I started as an accountancy apprentice studying AAT. The promotion and career aspects are massive in the accounting industry and beyond. This career path gives technical skills and life skills that can be applied within the industry and outside the industry. I know fellow accountancy professionals who have made the step into operating director roles or CFO within industry.

Craig Wells, Associate Director, Saul Fairholm Chartered Accountants

Management Accounting

Management accountants analyse financial information and give businesses the data they need to make strategic decisions. They prepare reports, analyse budgets and draw up financial statements. They provide insight into the company’s performance and create forecasts to help allocate resources efficiently.

“Management Accountants play an important finance business partnering role for our operational managers, protect the business from financial risk, and lead and develop our own teams,” says Stevie Dennis MAAT, Management Accountant at Vertu Motors.

“My responsibilities include balance sheet reconciliations, accruals, prepayments, production of the management accounts, leading management meetings, working capital reviews and accounts reviews; providing analysis on any variance from budget; and recommending areas of improvement through profit generation and cost saving.

Sean Farnell is a Partner at Burgis & Bullock specialising in client services and business growth services for owner-managed businesses. He has a full portfolio of clients ranging from personal tax, through small businesses and family-owned Limited Companies, as well as larger company clients.

“The role of the management accountant has changed quite a lot since when I was training back in the 1980s,” he says. “It was much more reactive, these days it’s more proactive. The role now is to keep track of the day-to-day finances of a business, measuring that against factors such as performance and cash flow. Then to advise the client on the next steps and small changes that can have a significant impact on their business. Ultimately, it is all about making sure that a business is moving in the right direction.

“There is definitely scope to rise from an accounts assistant role to specialising in management accounts, and rising all the way to a C-level position.”

Tax Accounting

Tax accountants specialise in preparing and filing tax returns for individuals, businesses and organisations. Their role is to help clients comply with tax laws and regulations, minimise tax liabilities by claiming legitimate allowances, and ensure tax returns are accurate and on time.

Forensic Accounting

Forensic accountants investigate financial fraud and crime. Through the careful and meticulous analysis of financial records and transactions they can uncover discrepancies and irregularities.

Forensic accountants have helped investigate the bugs in the IT system which led to the Horizon/Post Office scandal, uncovered the paper trail that led to the prosecution of Bernie Madoff for running a Ponzi scheme, and helped convict gangster Al Capone. You can find out more about starting out in forensic accounting.

Environmental Accounting

Environmental accountants focus on assessing the impact of business activities from an Environmental, Society and Governance (ESG) perspective. This could include scrutinising energy consumption and emissions data to measure costs and benefits.

“One example of this is the increase in green finance roles, particularly in reporting, which offers accountants the chance to engage with people in multiple departments outside of their organisation,” says Chris Goulding.


Bookkeepers are responsible for recording financial transactions, doing bank reconciliations and tracking income and expenses. They can also process invoices and payments and provide financial reports for individuals or small businesses.

Jo Wood is the owner of Jo Wood Virtual FD Ltd and a co-founder of the 6 Figure Bookkeeper. She says her role is satisfying because of “the unlimited potential to impact someone’s life for the better”.

“In this role, you really have the opportunity to change lives,” she says. “Small business owners are so busy working that they often do not even know that they are making a loss.”

She started out as a Level 4 AAT Bookkeeper and says career prospects with the qualification are “unlimited”.

“I became a Finance Manager running a multi-million-pound firm, changing the whole sales structure and getting involved in operation as well as reporting to the senior leadership team,” she says.

Government Accounting

Government accountants work at a national or local level managing public money and ensuring it is properly allocated and fairly spent. Their role is to adhere to accounting standards and regulations and help with planning and budgets.

Cloud accounting

Cloud accounting systems have transformed careers within accountancy and has empowered accountants to support clients in new ways.

“Cloud accounting has disrupted the accounting profession, enabling us to enhance the services that accountants already offer, providing greater access to data and transparency,” says Becki Roberts, Director at the Nottingham office of UHY Hacker Young and head of the UHY National Cloud Group.

It enables accountants to focus more on having important conversations with clients and taking a greater advisory role rather than concentrating on administrative tasks.


Auditors analyse financial records, financial statements, and investigate internal controls to ensure that financial information is accurate and reliable. Their role also involves ensuring a company is compliant with legal obligations, regulatory requirements and accounting standards.

Craig Wells, Associate Director at Saul Fairholm Chartered Accountants is in charge of the management and completion of audit engagements within the practice and is part of the senior leadership team.

“There are lots of areas that I enjoy about my job, the main one being providing a professional audit service that also adds value to our clients,” he says.

Unlimited career potential

“I started as an accountancy apprentice studying AAT,” says Craig Wells. “The promotion and career aspects are massive in the accounting industry and beyond. This career path gives technical skills and life skills that can be applied within the industry and outside the industry. I know fellow accountancy professionals who have made the step into operating director roles or CFO within industry.”

Survival mission

You never know what adventures lie around the corner. The headline photo is of Jo Wilkinson who, after qualifying, became Finance Director of North Brewing. During the pandemic, the company faced a bleak future with closed taprooms and lost revenue. But Jo brought her skills in scenario modelling and forecasting to bear, helping the company survive through an innovative plan to convert taprooms into bottle shops.

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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