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When I Grow Up I Want To Be: An Accountant

Accounting probably isn’t something you have always aspired to in the same way you might have grown up dreaming of being a doctor, ballerina or astronaut.

But accountants, and other similar professionals within the financial sector, perform a vital role in any industry. They are responsible for managing a company’s finances – reporting, budgeting, pay roll, purchasing, taxes and auditing, they paint a picture of a business’ financial landscape, and they can be an invaluable part of shaping a company’s future. In short, with the ability to save companies and individuals money, they are amongst the most popular professionals on the block!

So how do you go about becoming an accountant?

A job in accounting involves lots of maths and requires a finance degree, right? Wrong! Entry is open to graduates of all disciplines and, though a large number have business-related degrees, other subjects (including languages and social sciences) are strongly represented too. In fact, a survey conducted by EMSI and Careerbuilder identified accountancy as the second best job to have with a bachelor’s degree, such is the transferable nature of the skillset. Many firms also offer opportunities to school leavers who don’t want to go to university, with training schemes designed specifically for young people who are looking for a route into the profession that doesn’t involve the debt of higher education. Either way, accounting is a competitive but rewarding career, and with many CEOs and top executives coming from an accounting background, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

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What’s the difference between a Certified Accountant and a Chartered Accountant?

All this terminology may seem like a mouthful, but it actually just denotes which organisation an accountant is affiliated with. Chartered accountants can be awarded qualifications by The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), or Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI). Certified accountants – now called Chartered Certified Accountants – are affiliated with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). (For a more in-depth explanation on this difference, read this article on Smith and Brown’s blog).

In terms of operational differences, these two types of accounting are very similar, except that Certified Chartered Accountants can work worldwide due to the international status of the ACCA. Whatever accreditation you go for, however, it won’t necessarily affect your day-to-day relationship with your clients.

What about setting up on your own?

One of the attractions of accounting is that there are so many working environments to choose from. You could work internally within a company and rise through the ranks that way; you could work for a firm, meaning you’d service a variety of clients; or you could start your own business. Setting up on your own is obviously the more involved option – you’d need to hone your speciality (whether that be tax preparation or financial advising), protect your business against future potential mishaps, and promote yourself like crazy – but it can be an incredibly rewarding experience with impressive perks.

(For anyone interested in starting their own practice, read this article and learn how to avoid the top 6 mistakes when starting out on your own).

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Accounting means more than numbers: it’s about building a relationship with a client or a business, and having a genuine interest in where that company’s headed. If you have an affinity for maths, a keen eye for detail and an enthusiasm for working closely with people, don’t be put off by the sometimes stale image of accounting. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all suits and spreadsheets!

This article is brought to you in association with Aon Insurance.

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