Which accountancy role is right for you?

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Do you daydream about managing payroll in a large company? Or do you really want to be a self-employed tax accountant? Here’s what you need to consider when making your big decision.

Would you be happier working in a large company or a small practice – or even on your own? The great thing about working in accounting and bookkeeping is that you have so many options open to you.

Read more on 13 potential accounting roles you could choose.

Size matters

Working for a small practice in accounting or bookkeeping means you’ll have lots of interaction with clients. You also might assume more responsibility earlier in your career than with a large firm.

On the other hand, in a large firm you might find you’re dealing with more significant clients; stretching your abilities and learning new skills. You may also have more flexibility when it comes to lateral career moves into other roles if you wish.

Key tip: Decide if you’re happier working on your own or in a team to hone down your search.

Practice or industry?

Accountants and bookkeepers don’t just work for accountancy and bookkeeping firms. Every industry and organisation needs someone to do the books, manage the payroll and prepare the accounts.

You could dive into the fashion industry, films or the public sector, working for the health service or local government. Working in industry means you could move on to other more varied roles over time too; you could even aspire to become chief executive.

And you’re not even restricted to one industry; you can move between industries before you settle on the one that you like the most.

Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance admits, “It can be daunting to consider all the options available to you, start by thinking about what aspect of your subject you are genuinely passionate about and how this relates to different sectors.”

Key tip: If you’d rather work in industry than practice, start by picking a sector which you’re genuinely interested in.

Personality fit

Kate Campbell, Senior Manager at Page Personnel Finance says that personality has a big part to play in what accountancy role you should choose.

“For example, if you are very numerate and enjoy working closely with data, then you’re going to suit a heads-down role where you are processing figures.”

Campbell adds: “You could be looking at roles such as finance business partner or commercial finance analyst. With these more senior roles, some are best suited to those who are more socially confident and like chatting to others – not what you’d expect of a traditional accountancy role.”

Read more on how to prepare for your future as a qualified accountant.

Key tip: Think about what kind of work and role suits your personality; do you thrive when dealing with people, or prefer solitude?

Consider interaction

“Even in junior roles, it’s really down to your personality. For example, you might think that working in payroll is a heads-down, number-processing role. But you’re going to be dealing with people on a regular basis and they could be challenging, such as employees who have queries over their pay or suppliers chasing invoices,” advises Campbell of Page Personnel Finance.

When recruiting and recommending finance candidates, Campbell goes on to say that “putting someone on the perfect career path is a lot about assessing what their personality is like and what environment they will thrive in’.

Key tip: Whether junior or senior, your personality plays a major part in what sort of accountancy role you should go for. If you hate interacting with others and are happiest working with numbers, don’t go for a role in which you’re going to have to deal with the public on a day to day basis.

Think about your career path

There are many different types of accountancy and bookkeeping careers, some of which will require further study and qualifications. Check out this quiz on Reed.co.uk for some help figuring out what your perfect career might be.

Some character traits are definitely better suited for certain roles. Forensic accounting, for example, might work if you fancy yourself as a bit of a detective on the side – as well as a diplomat. After all, you will be looking into possible fraudulent activity. 

If you’re keen to maintain a great work-life balance, then being a self-employed bookkeeper or accountant can let you pursue other interests or commitments, so your work can adapt to suit your life. Read more on the benefits of starting your own business.

Key tip: Think ahead when choosing your career; will it suit the life you’re working towards? Or are you happy to do something different now, and move into a more flexible role later?

Get advice

If you’re hitting a wall and can’t decide what sort of accountancy career to follow, it could be time to get help.

Lee Owen, Director at Hays Accountancy & Finance adds: “Utilising LinkedIn might also help guide you towards a particular sector. LinkedIn makes it very easy to connect with other professionals and find industry related groups and content, something which is not always used to its full potential by many job-seekers.

Try to make quality connections, get involved with groups across different sectors, follow companies of interest and post relevant content to aid your search and help you choose the right sector for you’.

You could also ask for help from a mentor, life coach or recruitment consultant. They will be able to help guide you and offer insight into different sectors.

Key tip: With accountancy qualifications, it’s easy to switch direction so you’re never stuck.

In summary

Think about what you want to get out of your career. Do you want to be in accounts for ever or would you like to use it as a stepping stone for something else? Do you want to study further and specialise? Would you like to one day be your own boss?

Choose the direction you want to go in – but remember that the great thing about having well-respected accountancy or bookkeeping qualifications is that they make moving around sectors and career paths easy. So if one path becomes a dead end, you can easily take another.

For more on your career path in accounting and finance;

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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