Accountancy: Add up the benefits of a career in numbers

Accountancy is challenging, well-paid and could take you all over the world, says Dak Patel
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The Independent Online

Have you ever considered accountancy as a career? It's a profession in which demand always exceeds supply, and its labour market never reverses. And the beauty of it is, there are many different ways to enter the industry.

If you're a school-leaver you could opt to do a basic book-keeping course. Book keepers are mainly used in Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and can be the sole financial member of staff depending on the company's size. There are NVQ levels that you can study for and an Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) certificate.

Another option is the route through university, with many offering a straight BSc degree in accounting, or you could combine it with subjects such as finance, management or law. Use the course-search facility on the UCAS website, www.ucas.com, to see which institutions you could study at. Many universities offer postgraduate courses too; check their individual websites for details.

An alternative is studying at a school of accountancy, such as the London School of Accountancy and Management (also known as LondonSAM). LondonSAM offers four different routes into the profession: through the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), a fast-growing accountancy body; the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the only UK accountancy body specialising in the science of management accountancy; the accounting technician body AAT; the Certified Accounting Technician (CAT), the equivalent of AAT and a direct route into ACC; as well as MBA and MSc courses from recognised universities.

If you have A-levels and are at least 18 years old then you can enter straight into an ACCA or CIMA course and study full-time. Likewise, if you do not have A-levels or you think your grades are not good enough, then you can enter the CAT or AAT route. This can take you 12 to 15 months to complete and then you are exempt from the first level of ACCA and CIMA examinations and go straight into the second level. If this is your route then it could take you four years to qualify.

The AAT has just developed an exciting new qualification called the Diploma pathway, and this can be completed in 12 to 15 months and would give you the opportunity of earning a salary of around £18-22,000. It means you can fast-track your career, and LondonSAM, for example, currently has 125 students on the Diploma pathway.

Raj Kumar, course director at LondonSam, says: "The Diploma pathway has advantages for both the student and the college. The course covers the same syllabuses as the NVQ route but has been streamlined to avoid duplication. It is more accessible for the learner and therefore gives students greater confidence to succeed."

You could also work part-time and still study as a full-time student, with the added advantage of gaining hands-on experience as well as earning money. Or maybe you could also take that one step further and find a full-time job while studying evenings and weekends. This is obviously a more difficult option, however, as you will need to be working all day and then attend classes in the evening.

There are other qualifications open to you as well, available at other institutions. CIPFA specialise in accountancy in the public sector and ACA is a qualification for those who want to be a chartered accountant. To find out more about all of these accountancy bodies and organisations have a look at their websites; you can find the addresses in the information box at the end of this article.

You also need to think about what you want to do when you're qualified, and what these qualifications will provide you with now and in the future. The ACCA qualifications are recognised in many countries in the world. They give you the option of working in the UK, mainland Europe or even the new economies of India or China. With ACCA you also have the option of gaining a BSc in applied accounting by writing a dissertation of 5,000 words on a topic of your choice as you progress into Part 2 exams, and an MBA after completing Part 3 through Oxford Brookes University.

The CIMA qualification is also well recognised with about 70 per cent of UK employers in commerce and industry employing CIMA-qualified accountants.

In terms of your earning power when you have qualified, current adverts for qualified accountants in London range between £28,000 and £35,000. There are opportunities outside of the UK too of course. For example, LondonSAM are developing contacts and partnership agreements in Bahrain, India, China, Poland and other European countries.

In an ever-changing world it is not so much the qualification you have as what you do with it. Within the profession the opportunities are vast. You can go and work in an accountancy practice, commerce, industry and the public sector, for example. If you are really ambitious then you could look at setting up your own practice after you have gained your practising certificate. You can also take your expertise into the world of entertainment or sport; there is certainly a market to work in a sports or entertainment agency.

You are about to make some of the most important decisions of your career that could affect the whole of your life, so you need to be well researched in the facts and your earning potential in accountancy. You must also consider the type of person you are. If you went for an interview and the interviewer asked you what you could offer their company that they did not already have, do you think you would be able to answer?

Further Information

For further advice from the London School of Accountancy and Management, call 020-7796 2727 and ask for Dak or Raj, or e-mail dak@londonsam.org.uk or rajk@londonsam.org.uk

Useful links:

London School of Accountancy and Management: www.londonsam.org.uk

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants: uk.accaglobal.com

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants: www.cimaglobal.com

Association of Accountant Technicians: www.aat.org.uk

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (for more on the ACA): www.icaew.co.uk

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy: www.cipfa.org.uk

Dak Patel is the principal at the London School of Accountancy and Management

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