Accountant job profile

What does an accountant do?

As an accountant you will be responsible for preparing accounts, budgeting and managing financial information. You could also be advising and helping clients, whether that’s individuals or international companies, on financial situations.

Accountants core responsibilities are typically to prepare and examine financial records, assuring information is up to date and accurate. However, you could specialise in particular areas such as forensic accounting or taxation or focus on more specific areas of a company's financial department.

Duties of an accountant

Typical accountant duties and responsibilities include:

  • Preparing accounts and tax returns
  • Monitoring spending and budgets
  • Auditing and analysing financial performance
  • Financial forecasting and risk analysis
  • Advising on how to reduce costs and increase profits
  • Compiling and presenting financial and budget reports
  • Ensure that financial statements and records comply with laws and regulations
  • Keeping account books and systems up to date.

Accountant working environment and hours

Accountants generally work in an office environment between 9 and 5. This can vary depending on your job role and who you work for. However, accountants typically work longer hours during busy times of the year, such as the end of the tax month and end of the financial year.

If you work for a large firm, you will often be based in their offices and work closely with the finance, management and operations teams. Sometimes, local and international travel could be required to visit clients if you work at an accounting firm or run your own practice.

If you are self-employed, or have flexibility with your employer, you could have the opportunity to work from home.

Keys skills to become an accountant

Beyond qualifications and training, an accountant job description is likely to include some or all of the following skills:

Enhanced numerical and quantitative skills

These are key as you will be dealing with all aspects of finance such as budgets and forecasting.

Advanced analytical and problem-solving skills

You need strong analytical skills and excellent attention to detail as you will be analysing financial performance and handling important documents. You will also be dealing with complex data sets.

Time management and organisation

Working in accountancy means you will be dealing with strict deadlines and you will need to have a system to keep track of your responsibilities and priorities.

Communication

Not only will you have to communicate with different teams, you will also frequently have to communicate with clients. You will need to be able to communicate complex information in a clear and understandable way.

Salary

How much do accountants earn?

An accountant’s salary depends on their experience and if they follow any specialisms.

Graduates entering an accountancy career can expect to earn up to £25,000 during their training. Once you pass your training, you can move up a structured development and promotion ladder and move into roles such as a management accountant, earning £25,000 on entry, but with the potential to move up to £100,000 a year with strong experience.

Typically, chartered accountants with two to four years experience can expect to pull in a salary of over £50,000. With further experience and qualifications, you could earn up to £100,000 a year working as a public or private finance accountant.

Qualifications and training to become an accountant

There are three main steps to becoming an accountant:


  1. A Levels or equivalent - you should look at studying A Level Economics, Further Mathematics and Mathematics. Alternatively, study a Business Foundation.

  2. Study an undergraduate degree - a degree in accounting or accounting and finance will be more desirable

  3. Boost your career with qualifications such as:

  • Chartered Accountant (ACA)

  • Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA)

  • Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA).

Accounting career path

After completing your degree and further training qualifications, you will typically work within a firm. If you become a chartered accountant your career progression will normally follow a structured path and you will gradually take on more responsibility.

You could move into a management position within two years, soon followed by a senior manager role. With further experience, you can advance to a finance director position or even progress to partnership.

There are also a number of specialisms you could follow with the right skills and qualifications. You could pursue different areas of accountancy such as:

  • Corporate or commercial finance
  • Financial accounting
  • Forensic accounting
  • Management accounting
  • Tax accounting
  • Internal audit
  • International accounting

Continuing professional development

Accountancy and finance graduates typically go straight into training and gain further qualifications. Some practices offer training and support to study and become qualified as a Chartered Accountant (ACA). This will take up to three to five years after completing your degree programme.

Further qualifications include:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification - focused on financial accounting and technical practices of accountancy.
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) professional qualification - covers management accounting, business strategy and financial strategy.

You may be exempt from some of these or other qualifications, depending on the modules and credits you completed during your degree. You could also take qualifications that focus on specific areas in accountancy.

Some postgraduates follow up their undergraduate degree with a Masters Degree and even a PhD. You can choose from a variety of degrees, with some focusing on accountancy specialisms.