How to become an accountant

Why study accounting?

Accountants are a crucial part to any company, providing a financial backbone through the management of financial statements and financial information. They also provide financial advice to clients that can range from small businesses to international and government bodies.

With a career in a accounting, you will work in profession that is constantly in high demand, giving you a strong degree of job stability. It is a job that offers good prospects for promotion and career advancement through an often structured and dependable career path.

Working in accounting is a rewarding and fulfilling career, providing variety and plenty of opportunities to pursue jobs in different industries and specialisms.

Should I become an accountant?

Accountancy is a profession that requires a high level of concentration and attention to detail. But it can lead to a satisfying and successful work life. Alongside being good with numbers, you will need a range of skills to succeed in accountancy.

Critical thinking, planning, analysing, problem solving and organising are just a few of the key skills you will need to become an accountant.

With a variety of different specialisms and career paths available, such as an forensic accountant or stockbroker, you will be able to follow the one best suited to your strengths and goals.

By working in accountancy you can expect:

  • Excellent graduate prospects

  • It is an in-demand profession

  • To provide direct value to employers

  • Good salaries

  • Multiple career paths

  • Opportunities to work abroad.

Steps to becoming an accountant

There are three main steps to becoming an accountant:

To get into a good university in order to study accounting, you will need three strong A Levels with high grades. You should be aiming to achieve grades of AAA or AAB.

The A Level subjects best suited for those pursuing an accounting degree are:

Alternatively, you could study a foundation course, such as a Business, Finance and Management Foundation. You will need to achieve a high grade of at least 70%, especially if you want to apply to a UK top 20 ranked university.

To make a career as an accountant, you will need to study a qualifying undergraduate degree which takes three years in England and Wales or four years in Scotland.

Accounting or Accounting and Finance degree will be the most desired by potential employers.

There are a number of accounting qualifications to help you boost your accountancy career. If you want to become a chartered accountant, some qualifications you could study for include:

  • Chartered Accountant (ACA)

  • Chartered Certified Accountant (ACCA)

  • Chartered Management Accountant (CIMA)

How long to become an accountant?

  • Accounting degree - 3 to 4 years
  • ACA qualification - 3 to 5 years

Accountant job profile

Calculator, pen and financial information

Want to become an accountant? Find out about accountancy careers, key skills, day-to-day duties and salary.

Accountant education requirements 

To get into a good university to study an accounting or accounting and finance degree, you will want to achieve either good grades at A Level or Foundation.

A Levels

Student in a classroom at Bellerbys College

A Levels are a great pathway to an accounting career. You should be aiming to achieve three strong grades such as AAA or AAB. 

Foundation

A group of students learning at Bellerbys College

Study a respective alternative to A Levels with a foundation programme. Achieving at least 70% in a foundation course can help you to attend a top ranking university. 

How long does it take to become an accountant?

Depending on your career goals and where your ambitions lie, it can take different amounts of time to become an accountant.

An undergraduate degree will take you three years in England and Wales, or four years if you study in Scotland. After university, the length of time you need to study further will depend on the qualifications you want to take:

  • The ACA qualification is the most prestigious qualification and requires you to complete 450 days of technical work, taking three to five years of graduate training to complete.

  • The ACCA prepares you for technical and management accounting and normally takes about four years to achieve full qualification.

  • The CIMA qualification will typically take four years to complete the 12 professional exams and is ideal for those looking to work in business and management accounting.

Accountant career prospects

What can I do with an accounting and finance degree?

After graduating with an accounting degree, you could become a:

  • Chartered accountant
  • Chartered certified accountant
  • Chartered management accountant
  • Forensic accountant
  • Stockbroker

An accounting and finance degree could also help you pursue job roles such as:

  • Actuary
  • Data analyst
  • Economist
  • Purchasing manager
  • Tax advisor

For those aiming to become a chartered accountant, you will typically spend three years training in public practice, usually for the same company. You will develop your experience and will gradually take on additional responsibilities.

Once you have completed your training and qualified as a chartered accountant, progression is typically structured. You could become a manager after two years and then move up to a senior manager role. With further experience you could progress to partnership or even finance director.