14 different accounting roles: Which is right for you?

You’re on your way to an accountancy or bookkeeping qualification. Now is the time to start thinking ahead to the type of finance career you want.

“Qualifications such as the AAT prepare professionals for a huge variety of work opportunities and options in the accounting and finance sector,” says Lee Owen, director at Hays Accountancy & Finance.

When deciding on a career path, a good starting point is to get a sense of the variety of roles that are open to you, to see which one strikes a chord.

Here’s the lowdown on just 14 possible career routes for those with accountancy or bookkeeping backgrounds, along with interviews from people actually in some of those roles now.

1. Chartered accountant

Becoming a chartered accountant opens up so many avenues. You could work in public practice for an accountancy firm, or you could head into industry or the public sector.

To become chartered, most people either have a university degree and complete a graduate scheme via an employer or attain the AAT accounting qualification first and work towards chartered status with a UK chartered accountancy body. All UK chartered accountancy bodies offer AAT MAATs and FMAATs generous exemptions and fast-track routes to chartered status, so it’s typically quicker than the university path.

The starting salary for a chartered accountant is typically £25,000 rising to more than £90,000 after five years, but can rise far higher.

2. Self-employed accountant or bookkeeper

Running your own practice is a great way to increase your earning potential, improve your work/life balance and gain more responsibility and control over your career. You can start working from home and develop your business as a side venture or choose to build your practice into a full-time role.

AAT supports over 4,500 of its members to run their own practice as AAT Licensed Accountants and Bookkeepers and can help you to get started as soon as you’ve qualified. Plus, the average fee income for an AAT Licensed Accountant is £54,000*

*AAT Salary Survey 2019

3. Audit accountant

A chartered accountant can go on to specialise in audit if that’s where your interests lie. This role is ideal if you have an eye for detail.

You could work in internal audit for a company or organisation, or you could work for an accountancy firm as an auditor, or in the public sector – such as the National Audit Office – where you will independently assess a company or organisations’ accounts.

4. Tax accountant

Chartered accountants can specialise in tax, working for accountancy firms or self-employed, advising clients on their taxation obligations and concerns. You’ll need to keep up-to-date with legislation and have good interpersonal skills.

Check out our interview with Chartered Accountant and tax specialist, Chris Brown FCA, ATT, who left working in practice to set up his own business.

5. Chartered Management Accountant

If you’re an AAT member you can study for the CIMA certificate in business accounting. As a chartered management accountant, you’ll prepare financial information for the company/organisation you work for, which can be used to formulate future financial plans and decisions.

You’ll be using a mix of accountancy and business skills in this role.

6. Chartered Public Finance Accountant

This is very similar to a Chartered Management Accountant but working specifically in the public or non-profit making sectors, from the health service to charities.

7. Forensic accountant

A forensic accountant’s job is to look at financial discrepancies and inaccuracies in financial documents and reports. You could be working for a large accountancy firm or for companies and public bodies. Or you could be self-employed.

We spoke to Samantha Perkin, a forensic accountant at Matrix Forensic Accounting and Investigations, who works specifically on helping clients resolve legal disputes through financial data analysis. Find out how she got into forensic accounting and the skills she thinks are essential.

8. Accounting technician

This is a wide-ranging role, suitable if you like variety. You would help prepare financial accounts; do bookkeeping; help with invoicing; complete tax returns and work on payroll. You could carry out this role in a self-employed capacity, or working for a firm.

You could become an accounting technician purely through the AAT, who’s accounting qualification is globally-recognised: use this tool to work out the best level of accounting qualification for you to start with based on your experience to date.

9. Payroll clerk/manager/supervisor

Starting out as a clerk and rising to manager or supervisor, this role involves administering a company’s payroll including working out tax, national insurance and benefits.

This route is well-suited for someone who is detail-oriented and methodical, and could see you making £19k a year as a clerk.

The AAT Bookkeeping qualification is ideal for those wanting to work in payroll.

10. Company secretary

With further studying on top of your chartered accountancy status, you could aim to become a company secretary. Every public company has to have a company secretary (but private ones can have them too); it’s a senior appointment, which involves advising the board on matters of corporate governance.

And happily, it’s potentially remunerative too; senior company secretaries can earn ‘significant six-figure sums’.

11. Actuary

You’ll need to study and take dedicated actuarial exams through the Society of Actuaries to become an actuary, but an accountancy background can be a solid starting point.

Actuaries are data analysts, problem solvers and risk managers who tend to work for insurance companies and financial firms. It’s an ideal job if you love mathematics and statistics.

We spoke to Jeanne Marke-Collier, who was on track to becoming an actuary before opting for accountancy, believing it to have more career options.

12. Investment manager/analyst

If you’re fascinated by company accounts and love researching markets and sectors, then you could head down the investment manager or analyst route. These roles are heavily involved in helping run pension and investment funds. Many top fund managers have accountancy backgrounds.

It can be an exciting job, with the possibility of travel and even working overseas. Senior fund managers are well-remunerated and there could be performance-related bonuses.

13. Stockbroker

Trading shares, bonds and commodities for clients, and offering advice is bread-and-butter work for a stockbroker. And while you don’t need an accountancy qualification to be a stockbroker, it can be a massive help.

14. Management consultant

If you want to help businesses improve their performance and find better ways to do things – including cutting their costs – then you might consider becoming a management consultant.

Many management consultants are MBAs (masters of business administration), which is a postgraduate qualification. Management consultancy is great if you want a varied career with the possibility of travel too. And it can also be remunerative.

In summary

Your accountancy or bookkeeping background has set you up well and can take you down a range of career paths. It all depends on where your passions and interests lie; what could you envisage yourself doing for the next 5, 10 or 20 years?

Dive into further research on the options we’ve listed above, or take a look at some career profiles below where we’ve interviewed professionals in a range of different accountancy-related job roles.

For more on potential career paths, have a look at the articles below:

Charlotte Beugge spent more than 20 years as the deputy personal finance editor on The Daily Telegraph and then The Daily Mail. A freelancer since 2010, her work has appeared in national newspapers, magazines and websites.

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