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So the long days and nights of study are over, the exams are done and your degree is on the way.  The time has finally come to make the transition from academia into the workplace.  But which qualification should you pursue and who should you work for to get the relevant commercial experience as you study?

Firstly, you should decide if you would like to work in either an accountancy practice or a company early on, as the choice goes some way to defining your ultimate career path.  Broadly, there are two types of accountants:

  • Financial Accountants are mostly concerned with the auditing, recording of financial information/trends and providing business advice. Those that work in practice usually work with a number of clients and many are employed by individual companies as well.
  • Management Accountants generally work within one company (or group of companies) forecasting future financial plans and costs.

Qualifications:

  • ACA: Associate of Chartered Accountants
  • ACCA: Associate of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • CPA: Certified Public Accountant
  • CIMA: Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

ACA and ACCA are the routes into practice.  It is important to note that if you have a long-term ambition to run your own accountancy practice, you must train within practice to get your practice certificate.

All four qualifications provide a route to industry.

Within chartered accountancy, the Big Four (Deloitte, EY, KPMG and PwC) recruit extensively each year.  There are also opportunities with many mid-tier and SME size practices, where you can get the experience you need to qualify as an accountant.   There are a significant number of other large firms across the Financial Services and Industry sectors that recruit high numbers of graduates into training positions, as well as small and medium-sized firms providing excellent opportunities for graduates.

In management accountancy, large multinational organisations, especially within shared services, tech and pharmaceuticals provide the most coveted training positions.

There are also some opportunities to train as an accountant in the public sector with various schemes.

Deciding on a Position

When starting your search for a suitable trainee position, defining your search at the start is the best way to really focus your efforts and only target opportunities that will suit you.

Make a list of locations where you are willing to work.  Then decide which type of accountant you want to be and which type organisation you would like to work for.  Try not to have too narrow a list of options, flexibility and an open mind are your best assets right now.

If the decision is proving difficult, discuss your options with a specialist career adviser or graduate recruitment expert.

Good luck to all of the class of 2016!