A look at what chartered accountants do, why they are important and what’s needed to become an accountant.

The accountancy profession isn’t exactly known for being a ‘fun’ profession, but it is an important one. Without chartered certified accountants, the business world really would come to a standstill.

So, in order to make people excited about the prospect of working in chartered accountancy, we’ve put together a list of facts that poke around inside careers of chartered accountants to see what they do, why they’re important, and what you need to do to become a chartered accountant yourself.

What is a chartered accountant?

Chartered accountants are highly qualified professionals that have skills in finance that allow them to affect the success of the organisations, businesses, and companies they work with/for to maximise profitability.

They have the highest level of training (three years training is usually topped up with further qualifications and ongoing professional development) and they’re registered with a professional body with a royal charter (such as the ICAEW) to show that they have the appropriate technical knowledge and skills to help businesses with their finances.

They will receive a qualification that highlights their skills in a range of financial areas, including:

  • Reporting
  • Taxation and taxes
  • Auditing
  • Forensic accounting
  • Business recovery and insolvency
  • Corporate finance

They may be asked to deal with financial systems and budgets for firms, undertake audits to check a company’s financial position and pick up on any errors, etc. And they will often liaise with clients to give advice for the company moving forward very much like an accountant but with a broader range of skills.

It’s a people-person role

Many people mistakenly believed that chartered accountants spend most of their time looking over numbers – and yes, this is a big part of what they do – but working with people is just as big.

Students will soon learn that working in the public sector or private sector as chartered accountants will require a lot of practical experience conveying information to employers and clients.

The education, skills, and knowledge of accounting is important, of course, but training will also focus on giving students the opportunity to prepare for meetings with employers and clients to provide them with the financial advice and information they need to progress their business’ financial success further.

Qualification

Whilst the people-person side of the job is important, you will need to prove yourself as a student through rigorous training and education, which will involve a series of exams and papers to prove that you have the knowledge required of the chartered accountant industry.

Once you pass the final exam, you will be a recognised member of the ICAEW (which stands for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales). This institute is important for chartered accountants because it carries with it a certain weight in the industry.

Being a member of this institute tells prospective employers and clients that you’re an accountant with technical knowledge and expertise, that you’re highly qualified, and that you’re trained to deal with many financial tasks:

  • Money management (budgets, and other financial services)
  • Auditing (as auditors, you’ll know how to create an audit that communicates a company’s financial situation in a way that’s clear, yet comprehensive)
  • Bookkeeping services (although you’re not just bookkeepers)

But in order to enter the chartered accountancy career, you need to have previous qualifications at university level.

Businesses usually hire students and then put them through the ICAEW qualification. So that begs the question, what background do chartered accountants have?

Student background

Many chartered accountants come to the field from other areas, and many degrees are recognised as being valuable to a career as a chartered accountant.

An education in almost any degree, in fact, can be beneficial to companies and make you eligible for further training as a chartered accountant to receive your qualification and register with the ICAEW.

So, if you have another background in another degree not relating to finance but you’re looking to switch careers, then becoming a chartered accountant isn’t impossible.

Working in other countries

One of the most exciting things about a chartered accountancy career is that public practice often means you can work anywhere – in any country.

You’ll need to make sure with the business you’re applying for that the country your applying in recognises your financial qualification, but students will often find that their qualification is recognised in many different countries.

This opens up the door to work for any business in most countries around the world. And that makes this career especially exciting.

Even if you operate in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, you can still apply for jobs with travel to other countries involved, just in the short term.

A note on other countries

Many different countries have different qualifications and professional bodies that they register with besides the ICAEW, which obviously covers England and Wales.

  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (Ireland)
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (USA) – Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is also a special qualification for just the USA. A CPA can’t work outside of the USA.
  • Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of Pakistan (Pakistan)

It’s important to know that accountants in many places around the world have different qualifications and professional bodies they must register with. Accountancy is a varied field, and it has different expectations from country to country.

Any accountants undertaking public practice in any country, though, will be expected to uphold the same professional standards and provide the same professional advice. Their education and skills will often be similar, too.

The two types of accountancy

Before we finish, it’s also an important fact to know that there are two types of accountancy professions: financial and management.

Management accountancy

Management accountants are those that operate within a company or business. As a management accountant, you’ll be expected to undertake accounting duties for the business internally.

This might involve budget planning and forecasts for the financial future of the business. This type of accounting is mostly concerned with the growth of the business.

Financial accounting

Financial accounting deals with people external to the company or organisation. Shareholders and investors would work with a financial accountant, for example.

Essentially, a financial accountant acts as auditors might, reporting on the current financial position of the company to interested parties. This is required by law.

Takeaway message

Chartered accounting is about more than just numbers, and whilst it may not be a ‘fun’ career, it is rewarding and has lots of opportunity for career development, professional growth, and great salaries (with travel opportunities, too).

So if you’re interested in a career in chartered accountancy, then hopefully today’s post has shown that it’s a great career path for any student, regardless of your background!

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