Accountants work in all business sectors, both public and private, using their knowledge, skills and expertise to give professional advice to organisations on a variety of strategic, commercial and financial issues. Here we take a closer look at what it means to be a chartered accountant.

What do chartered accountants do?

ICAEW Chartered Accountants are recognised around the world as being highly qualified professionals. They are known for their ability to deliver the highest professional standards, wherever they work, however large or small the challenge. The skills that ICAEW Chartered Accountants have are valuable to businesses of all kinds. They often work in strategic positions that affect the direction and success of the organisations they work with.

As a chartered accountant, you can work across a diverse range of specialist financial areas including reporting, taxation, auditing, forensic accounting, corporate finance, business recovery and insolvency.

Depending on the area you choose to specialise in, typical tasks could include:

  • Continuous management of financial systems and budgets.
  • Undertaking financial audits – an independent check of a company’s financial position.
  • Liaising with clients to provide financial information and advice.

Chartered accountancy involves more interaction with people than you may think.

While technical knowledge is vital, it’s also about being able to understand key business challenges: solving problems, finding answers, analysing information and interpreting facts and figures to make business recommendations.

You’ll need to be able to communicate your expertise to colleagues, managers and clients in an easy to understand way.

What’s the difference between an accountant and a ‘chartered’ accountant?

Anyone can call themselves an accountant, but a chartered accountant is a highly-qualified professional (someone who has studied for at least three years and passed rigorous exams) and a member of a professional body with a royal charter, such as ICAEW. They will be able to have the letters ACA after their name and are also bound by a Code of Ethics. Whether you’re an accountant, engineer or surveyor, being ‘chartered’ means you’re at the top of your profession.

Types of accountancy

There are two main types of accountancy – financial and management accountancy.

Management Accountants

Management accountants provide financial information internally within an organisation. This could be, for example, data given to management to aid in decision making. As a management accountant, you might get involved in performing budget analysis, financial planning and forecasting. In management accountancy, the emphasis is on forward planning and the achievement of financial goals.

Financial Accountants

Financial accountants provide information for the use of people external to a company, such as shareholders, investors and creditors. Financial accountants focus more on the summarising of a company’s current position, reporting on a company’s profitability, liquidity, solvency and stability. Unlike management accounting, financial accounting is required by law.

Many graduates entering the accountancy profession will do so through financial accountancy, working in professional services or public practice. You could choose a career in any of the following specialisms:

  • Audit and assurance
  • Business advisory
  • Business recovery and insolvency
  • Corporate finance and risk management
  • Forensic accounting
  • Taxation.
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