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How to become an accountant

So, you want to know how to become an accountant. For whatever reason, be it the salary, the options the world of accountancy offers, the fact you like analysing data or anything else, you have decided to embark in the world of accountancy and the next thing you want to know is how to realise your career aspirations and know how to become an accountant.

How to become an accountant – The skills required

Many people mistakenly think that to be an accountant you need to be a mathematician however this is simply not the case. Remember the algebra you learned at school? Remember the equations and quadratic equations you learned at school? Remember the calculus you learned at school? Well, none of these skills are going to be any use in real world accounting. In order to be an accountant you need a basic grasp of numbers and you need to be comfortable with basic functions such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, multiplication and percentages but that’s it.

An accountant needs to be well organised, have good time management and be able to juggles several different things at once. A practice accountant will look after the affairs of several different clients, each of which will have its own requirements. You will have to make sure your clients’ accounts and tax affairs are completed on time and that all filing deadlines are met in order to avoid penalties, interest and associated charges.

An accountant needs to be methodical, analytical, a problem solver, accurate and have an eye for detail. An accountant must also be inquisitive, challenging and want to know how and why things have changed.

Since an accountant will be dealing with company directors, sole traders, partners, bank managers and external financiers, solicitors and other firms of accountants, an accountant needs to have good people skills. As an accountant you have to ensure you use the right language and speak in the right tone for every person you come across. For example, when talking to solicitors about accountancy matters you will need to speak in layman’s terms and not use accounting jargon, however when talking to other firms of accountants you need to use accounting jargon. A good accountant has to listen to their clients and not just hear them.

How to become an accountant – Applying for trainee positions

Just because someone has a degree in accountancy or a masters in business and finance it doesn’t mean they will be employed in an accountancy firm as a manager. All new accountants, regardless of their education or background will start at the bottom as a trainee and have to work their way up as they become more experienced and competent.

The best way of getting in to the world of accountancy is to apply as a trainee to an accountancy firm. All accountancy firms will have a minimum requirement regarding grades and the likes, although some firms are tougher to get in to than others. For example, the “Big Four” firms require higher grades than smaller and local firms. The “Big Four” accountancy firms receive thousands of graduate and trainee applications so there is a lot of competition in getting a placement at one of the “Big Four” firms.

When you apply for a trainee position it is worth remembering that bigger is not always better. If you manage to get a trainee position with a “Big Four” firm you will have the kudos that you were “Big Four” trained on your CV but that doesn’t make you a better accountant. In fact, trainee accountants will get more experience and exposure to different areas of accountancy in smaller accountancy firms.

How to become an accountant – Examinations

In days gone by an accountant didn’t need to sit professional examinations and become a member of an accountancy body, such as the ACCA. However, times have changed and trainee accountants are expected to prove themselves and pass the professional examinations. Being able to do the job is no longer good enough and in order to succeed as an accountant and climb the career ladder you need to become fully qualified and sit some examinations.

Studying and qualifying to become a professional accountant whilst holding down a full time job is very tough and mentally draining. The journey to qualifying is a rollercoaster ride with many ups and downs however it is well worth it in the end.

How to become an accountant – Is it really for you?

Accountancy is a rewarding career however it is not for everybody so before spending time and energy in embarking in the world of accountancy you need to be fully aware of what you are getting yourself in to. If you are unsure if accountancy is for you but you want to know for sure, the best thing to do is to get a work experience placement with a local firm of accountants.

Work experience is supposed to be unpaid, however many business owners will pay a token amount to cover expenses. Work experience will show you what accountancy life is really like which will allow you to decide whether being an accountant is for you or not.

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