Power, money and excitement

Accountants may have a grey image but the reality is that they are key players, crucial to the running of a business

While the accounting profession has been around for many years (publicly recognised by the Bankruptcy Act of 1831), it's a career that rarely hits the headlines, unless it's in connection with a scandal such as the collapse of Enron. Disasters aside, the image of accountants has stayed much the same - dependable men in suits who are just a little boring - and there is yet to be a sexy TV drama featuring the much maligned number crunchers.

But management accountants see themselves as multi-skilled business managers working in a demanding job with excellent financial rewards. And while most people associate accounting with auditing, it is much more than that. "This isn't a career for everyone," says Paul Gillot, regional business development manager at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima). "Compared with auditing, management accountants work in a far more complex business environment. It is more in-depth, it's about the slicing and dicing of business."

Management accountants help a company manage its finances, rather than presenting data to the world as an auditor does. They give management the information needed make decisions, by preparing and controlling budgets, and by making financial reports and forecasts.

Jobs are in the public and private sectors - from the NHS to banks and building societies - as well as self-employment. Recruitment websites reflect the variety of jobs, whether a management accountant for the police or for a breast cancer charity.

Employers in industry, commerce and the public sector will probably expect you to be Cima-qualified. It takes a minimum of three years to qualify as a Cima member, with people studying as they work. Many big organisations have graduate recruitment schemes that offer support through exams and training. But find out if the employer will pay all the fees, how you will study for your exams and if you get study leave.

Russell Nott is group reporting finance analyst at Arcadia Group and he started studying for his Cima qualification six months ago. "I don't want to be on the outside of business," he says, "I want to be on the inside." His employers have a study support package that enables him to study two evenings a week in a 10-week block. The 24-year-old aims to qualify in two years and then to work his way up to finance manager and, finally, finance director. Good salaries remain one of the major perks of the job. According to Hays Accountancy and Finance, a newly qualified management accountant working in financial services gets a typical salary of £47,000, while those with five years experience could be looking at £65,000.

But Gillot says the main joy of the role is "serious job satisfaction" and cites Cima members in very senior positions. One of these is John Rishton, chief financial officer at British Airways.

Rishton took a degree in economics and then joined Ford straight from university. But in those "dim and distance days", he says support for those who wanted further qualifications wasn't what it is today. He took his Cima exams because he thought it would be good for his CV and it would give him the theory needed for the work he was doing in Ford's finance department.

"When you work in a large company you don't always see the whole picture," he says. "Chartered accountants spend their entire life reviewing and checking company accounts, but management accountants are involved in the financial aspect of running a business. The attraction is that you get involved in the big stuff going on, you are at the centre of an organisation." Rishton has now been tipped as a possible candidate for the job of British Airways CEO when the current incumbent stands down.

While the image of accountants in general is "serious, introverted, detailed, back office", Rishton says this is changing and accountants are becoming more visible.

Gillot describes those studying for the Cima qualifications as bright and exciting and says far more women are moving into the job. "Some are outstandingly good, you can see they are the future business leaders." As for why there are still no sexy dramas featuring accountants, Gillot's response is, "You'll have to ask the BBC about that!"

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants: www.cimaglobal.com

Institute of Chartered Accountants: www.icaew.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'