Accountants provide a wide range of accounting and financial services to clients ranging from multinational organisations to local businesses and private individuals.
There are two main types of accounting, either financial accountancy or management accountancy.
Financial accountants are responsible for keeping financial records, bookkeeping and VAT records, drawing up annual financial statements and regular monthly or quarterly accounts, providing the financial information needed for making business decisions, overseeing credit control systems, comparing performance with budgeted projections and carrying out internal audits.
Management accountants are responsible for assessing the financial implications of business. They perform many of the tasks of financial accountants and also manage strategic planning, advise managers on all aspects of financial policy, forecast the costs, effects and benefits of buying new businesses or equipment or increasing staffing numbers reviewing existing systems and suggest ways of improving efficiency and raising profits.
A common entry route into the profession is with a degree in accountancy or related subject. The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) provides training at three levels. A list of entry qualifications and exemptions is available from CIMA. For full CIMA membership, students must complete all three levels and have at least three years' relevant practical experience. Courses are available part-time or via distance learning.
The Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) training is also at three levels: IFA training is also at three levels: Pre-Professional Level, Associate Membership and Fellow Membership. It is possible to begin studying at Pre-Professional Level before finding employment in the accountancy sector, but eligibility for associate level examinations requires five years' experience at senior accountancy level. Courses are available part-time or via distance learning. Other Professional bodies include the ACCA, CIPFA, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.
There is a strong demand for accountants in all sectors and work is available in all parts of the UK. Many of the large firms take on huge numbers of graduate every year. Starting salaries tend to be between £18,000 and £25,000 a year whilst training and a newly qualified accountant would earn between £30,000 and £35,000 (more in London). A qualified accountant in a senior position could earn in excess of £100,000.