Changing track: moving into accountancy from another career
One of the things we love about training the next generation of accountants is the diverse backgrounds our students have, and their desire to learn and better themselves, whatever they […]
One of the things we love about training the next generation of accountants is the diverse backgrounds our students have, and their desire to learn and better themselves, whatever they might have done before. Some have worked in accounting for several years, while others are much greener, with their choice to study with us being perhaps their second or third change of career direction. And given the success each of our students go on to achieve, we firmly believe that background makes very little difference in the long run, and that it’s never too late to train.
With uncertainty seeming to haunt the business world throughout the last 10 years, in that time many people have found themselves making career changes – planned or otherwise. Those that have joined the job market since 2007 are also perhaps more prepared and open to changing career than previous generations. And with more and more businesses seeking employees from diverse backgrounds, starting a new career in finance shouldn’t be as dauting as it might seem.
That’s not to say it won’t be a challenge. But here are some of our thoughts on being able to successfully retrain as an accountant and make a career out of it.
Why do you want to be an accountant?
Motivation is important to be able to succeed in business, and accountants can often be motivated by many different things – though a decent salary is normally fairly high on the list! When you’re studying for your exams, there will be times when you’ll need to dig deep into your emotional reserves to keep going, so knowing why you’re doing it all will help you stay on track. Whatever your motivation for following this path, make sure it’s strong enough to pull you through some of the darker days you may face.
As well as this, prospective employers will also be interested in your reasons for your career change, and they won’t be particularly impressed with whimsical responses. This is relevant for anyone applying to any role, but as a career-changer your interviewer might be particularly focused on why you have chosen accounting, and why now. Make sure you have good answers prepared for these types of questions when attending interviews.
If you’re serious about making the change, you need to take an accountancy qualification. The AAT is the minimum qualification level for any accountant, and to become a chartered accountant you need to complete an ACCA, ACA, or CIMA qualification. Different firms and roles will have different requirements, so think carefully about which one you undertake.
The great news for you is that now there are many different ways to complete your studies, from online courses you can complete in your own time, to intensive classroom study, and even apprenticeships to make the profession more accessible. We’re happy to advise on the most appropriate way-in to suit your career and lifestyle situation.
Which branch of accountancy?
Before applying for your first accountancy job you also need to think about where you would like to take your accounting career: would like to start in practice at a firm, or go into industry and be part of the finance team in a company?
Are there any other specialist niches within either of those that appeal to you – would you like to specialise in auditing or taxation, financial accounting or government finance? Choosing the role you want may also help you decide between industry and practice, and influence which qualification you opt for. Ensure you research the different job options and try to speak to different people already working in those roles to discover which you are best suited to.
Identify your relevant skills
As well as a broad range of soft and interpersonal skills, accountants need to be great at problem-solving, communicating, and analysing. Accountants, especially those in practice, need to be excellent at working with clients and building strong relationships.
In this digital age, accountants also need to be tech-savvy. Not only are a lot of traditional accounting tasks now automated because of new technologies, but the industry is also facing new regulations like GDPR and Making Tax Digital. Accountants need to keep up-to-date with these changes so they can guide their customers through them smoothly.
If you have these skills already – great! – you’re well on the way. If you still have some work to do in these areas, consider how you can develop them before making the change.