Become an accountant in the UK

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A career in accounting is not just about being able to crunch numbers or make sense of a large data set. Don’t get it wrong though, being good with numbers as well as having strong analytical skills are a must-have in the accounting world. However, high attention to detail, communication skills, dependability, trustworthiness, and high organisational skills are a few of the other things expected of an accountant.

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Answer Adeosun
Oct 7, 22 · 7 min read
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While it may not be necessary to be qualified for a career in accountancy, it would be a wise choice to get one anyway. A college degree gives you an advantage in a highly saturated field. So also, it’s getting certified and becoming chartered. In this article, we will be talking about the step-by-step guide to becoming an accountant in the UK.

What is accountancy?

Accountancy or accounting is the art of analysing and interpreting financial information to help company directors make an informed decision for maximal profits.

Who then is an accountant? Accountants do accounting in an organised and precise manner. When an accountant does his job well, the financial health of a company becomes apparent and he can then provide advice to the management to help make strategic and informed decisions.

An accountant can be tasked with budgeting, procurement, financial advice, forecasting, risk analysis, and reporting, tax advice, auditing, ensuring compliance of financial statements with company and government laws and regulations.

Types of accountants

Typically, an accountant may choose to work as a freelance consultant for companies or businesses, or become employed in a company. Either way, you can choose to specialise in an area of accounting. Here is a list of the types of accounting specialisations available and a brief job description for each.

  • Financial – a financial accountant typically manages a team of accountants who prepare a company’s financial statements and reports, and thereafter provide financial advice to the management, shareholders, or investors (potential or existing).
  • Management – a management accountant does all the work of a financial accountant but his/her information and advice go to the company management only, and not to any external body or person.
  • Tax – as the name implies, a tax accountant helps the company to organise its financial statements for proper and legally compliant tax filing. He also provides advice to help the company legally reduce tax spending, and keep up-to-date with tax legislation.
  • Forensic – this accountant is tasked with investigating large and complex financial data of an institution or company. These accountants usually come into play when there is an issue of fraud, misappropriation of funds, embezzlement, or insurance claims. They simply ensure the amounts of money and assets are where they are said to be.

Why choose a profession in accounting?

Apart from the opportunity to do what you love, there are some highly rewarding benefits to becoming a professional accountant.

  1. Generous salaries as you advance in experience, training, and certifications – in the UK, a junior-level accountant can earn up to £25,000 per year while a senior level accountant can receive up to £69,000 yearly as salary depending on the experience, expertise, certifications, and the industry you are working with. A chartered accountant can earn up to £100,000 yearly. Higher roles mean better pay but you will need to keep advancing in knowledge, training, and certifications.
  2. Potential to advance into managerial roles – accounting knowledge is beneficial to managerial positions like CFOs and CEOs, hence there is a possibility of landing such roles as you climb the ladder in your job.
  3. Accounting is highly adaptable and can be done in any industry – with accounting training, you can land a job in any industry and choose any kind of accounting you would like to do like forensic accounting, auditing, tax accounting, etc.
  4. You get to work with cutting-edge techs – there are a lot of advancements in the accounting world ranging from data analytics to blockchain and working with different software from Excel spreadsheets to coding softwares. All these provide an exciting career path for an accountant.
  5. Learn the world of business on the job – as an accountant, you get to learn the nitty-gritty of the ins and outs of the business world. You can even set up on your own as a sole trader down the line.

Qualifications required for becoming an accountant in the UK – chartered or otherwise

As earlier said, you do not need a degree in accounting to become an accountant in the UK. However, with a degree (whether in accounting or not), the bodies that award the accounting certificates can exempt you from taking some of the courses. So, having a degree is a bonus. Below is a list of some certifications necessary for becoming an accountant in the UK.

  • AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualifications – this comprises four levels. Level 1 is the starting level and requires no exams, Level 2 is a basic level with 5 assessments, Level 3 is an intermediate with 5 assessments, Level 4 is the advanced level and has 6 assessments. You can start with Level 2 without going through Level 1 provided you have basic numeracy skills. Level 2 is equivalent to a GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary School) qualification, Level 3 is equivalent to two A-level qualifications while Level 4 is equivalent to level 4 QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework).Note that obtaining an AAT certificate means you can practise as an accountant but must be supervised by a more qualified certified accountant.
  • AIA (The Association of International Accountants) – this is a professional qualification that is globally recognised. You become qualified as an international accountant when you attain your highest qualification.
    To become chartered, you need to go forward in your training by obtaining certifications from organisations listed below
  • To become a chartered accountant, you must possess the ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) or FCA (Fellow Chartered Accountant) certifications from ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales).
    The certificate is issued after you must have completed 15 modules of examinations with 450 days of practical experience.
  • To become a chartered management accountant, you must have been awarded the CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) certifications in lieu of ACMA (Associates Chartered Management Accountants) or FCMA (Fellow Chartered Management Accountant). CIMA also awards the CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant) certification. To become qualified for this award, you are required to have a postgraduate-level CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA). 
  • To become a chartered certified accountant, you need the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualification i.e., ACCA or FCCA (Fellow member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants). This body trains accountants in corporate and business law, audit, and assurance; the levels are Fundamental and Professional.
  • To become a chartered public finance accountant, you need to be a member of the CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy) and awarded the CPFA (Chartered Public Finance Accountant) certificate.

How to become an accountant in the UK?

Follow this guide:
HowTo step image

1. Become AAT certified

After getting an accounting degree in a university (or not) you need to become AAT certified because without that you cannot practice as an accountant.

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