Perhaps you want a career where you can influence the strategy, direction and profitability of an organisation? Or maybe, a career that gives you the opportunity to make a real difference, through ensuring that your employer has the funds to deliver its charitable work. Sound interesting? With a range of industries and sectors to work in, a career in chartered accountancy really does offer limitless and exciting opportunities.

Professional services and public practice

A public practice firm’s accountants deal with the accounting and financial needs of a client whilst remaining independent from their client’s staff. Varying in size, type and location, accountancy practices offer their clients a range of services including:

  • Audit and assurance
  • Business advisory
  • Business recovery and insolvency
  • Consultancy
  • Corporate finance and risk management
  • Forensic accounting
  • Tax advice.

Why work in public practice?

Public practice can present trainees with a wide variety of experiences, working in multiple industries, providing challenge and flexibility.
This area of accountancy also offers opportunities to specialise, for example, in audit or consultancy. Finally, public practice is often seen as a sector that can offer job security, whereas other sectors can be hit hard by a recession.

Routes into Public Practice

Within public practice there are large international firms, including the ‘Big Four’ global accountancy firms – PwC, EY, KPMG and Deloitte – as well as smaller accountancy firms, known as small and medium practices (SMPs). So, there is a lot of variety for graduates interested in entering into this area of accountancy. Specific entry roles in public practice include Audit Trainee, Assurance Trainee and Financial Analyst.

Business and financial services

A growing number of graduates are beginning their accountancy careers in banks and businesses. Whether it is a large global organisation or a small business, working in this sector means that you will experience the full process of financial management and reporting. You will also develop an understanding of IT, marketing, sales and operations.

It can be a highly competitive environment with rapidly-changing risks and constant demands for innovation. As your career progresses, you’ll become involved in making strategic decisions to drive the business forward, creating plans and leading change for business success.

Why work in business and financial services?

Working in industry allows you to make strategic decisions and work towards the growth of a company, which can offer a great deal of personal satisfaction. Many choose to work in commerce within an industry that they are particularly passionate about, such as media or technology.

Routes into accountancy in industry

A common route into commerce and industry is for accountants to make the move once they have completed their three-year training agreements.

Accountants are needed in all areas of industry to manage budgets, monitor the economic health of the company and make important strategic decisions. Consequently, accountants often occupy the most senior positions in companies, all the way to chief executive. Typically, accountants working within financial services work in middle office banking roles, such as working in control, monitoring trade activity.

Financial services includes global banks with departments that offer accountancy training, for example, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Macquarie.

Charity and not-for-profit

Would you like to use your skills to make an impact on society? Then consider working in the charity and not-for-profit sector. Organisations in this sector need to carefully manage scarce resources and ICAEW Chartered Accountants working in them get involved in a range of activities. This can include working for a charity in a management accounting role, managing budgets, financial systems and liaising with budget holders and trustees to manage the needs of the organisation. Or it could be working for a charity specialist auditing firm, delivering high-quality audit work, systems reviews and consultancies into the needs of charity clients.

Why work in charity and not-for-profit?

There are many reasons why working in a charity or not-for-profit organisation can make for a rewarding and satisfying career. This area of accountancy generally offers very gratifying work – knowing that you are helping an organisation that exists to make a positive difference in the world.

The ICAEW has a charity and voluntary sector group where you can find more information about the current challenges facing the industry.

Public sector

Chartered accountants in the public sector manage, distribute and invest finances in public services such as health, education, housing, emergency services and local authority services. They are constantly challenged to reduce expenditure and improve efficiency to ensure value for money. They are also in charge of holding government departments to account by monitoring spending.

By working in this sector you’ll be responsible for making sure that public money is being spent properly for the benefit of the nation. You’ll be helping local communities and changing people’s lives, while leading a successful and satisfying career.

Why work in the public sector?

If you work in the public sector, you will quickly develop commercial and decision-making skills as you allocate and monitor resources – helping to see that they’re efficiently and effectively employed to give value for money. Many graduates also choose to develop their career in the public sector as it affords the opportunity to give something back to society. Additional benefits, such as good pension schemes and longer holidays can be a deciding factor for choosing to work in the public rather than private sector.

Where ICAEW Chartered Accountants Work


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