A Career as Chartered Accountant (ICAS, ICAI, ICAEW)

Published: 02nd June 2010
Views: N/A

Chartered Accountants work in many areas of business and the public sector, in roles ranging from sole practitioner to chief executive of a multinational company. In public practice firms, they provide professional services to a wide range of fee paying clients from private individuals to large commercial and public sector organisations, including banks. These services include audit/assurance, accountancy, tax, business advisory, management consultancy, systems and IT, corporate finance, corporate recovery and forensic accounting. In commerce/industry and the public sector, they work in a variety of roles including fund management, venture capital and equity analysis, as well as financial management and financial reporting roles.

Working Duties Expected

As chartered accountants work in a wide variety of organisations their work activities vary accordingly. In public practice, typical work activities include:

Audit/assurance (an audit is an independent check of a company's financial statements and systems to ensure that the business is presenting a 'true and fair' view of its financial position):

• reviewing the company's systems and analysing risk;

• performing tests to check financial information and systems;

• advising clients on areas for business improvement.

• advising clients on the tax issues associated with activities such as business acquisitions and mergers;

• calculating tax liabilities for clients and liaising with the Inland Revenue on their behalf.

• advising clients (individuals or businesses) on tax planning within current legislation to enable them to minimise their tax liability;

• maintaining accounting records and preparing accounts and management information for small businesses;

• advising clients on business transactions such as mergers and acquisitions (corporate finance);

• advising clients who are in financial difficulty to help them turn the business around or to handle the disposal of the business (corporate recovery/insolvency);

• forensic accounting.

• producing reports and recommendations following internal audits or public sector 'value for money' audits;

• preparing financial statements including monthly and annual accounts;

• preparing financial management reports including financial planning and forecasting;

• advising on tax and treasury issues.

Salary Expectations
These figures are purely for guidance only. Salaries may vary for the area the job is situated in, age, experience along with a host of other factors:

• Starting salaries vary considerably depending on location and size of firm, but can go up to £25,000 for trainees.

• Salaries at senior level/with experience also vary widely depending on role and location. On qualification salaries typically double.

• Salary packages can also include benefits such as pay bonuses, share options, pension, medical insurance and company car.

Hours and Environment
• Working hours vary depending on the job and the organisation, but are not typically nine to five. Working extra hours in the evening and at weekends is not uncommon in order to meet deadlines, particularly in larger firms. Trainees can usually have 'time off in lieu' for overtime.

• Flexible working arrangements are possible (usually after qualification) and there is also the opportunity of working independently by setting up as a sole practitioner.

• Gender balance on entry into the profession is around 45% female, 55% male. Around 20% of all qualified chartered accountants are female, reflecting the wider gender split of previous years.

• Jobs are available throughout the UK for trainees and at the qualified level. There are also post-qualification opportunities overseas.

• The working environment for trainees is usually quite young and lively with a good after-work social life. The main challenge is managing professional study commitments with the day-to-dayjob.

• Travel within a working day to different locations is a common feature of audit (which is carried out mainly at client premises) and staying away from home or occasional overseas travel is possible. Working in other areas such as tax or in a small firm tends to be more office-based with less frequent travel.

Working Skills Required
You will need to have some or all of the following type of skills to carry out this job:

In addition to the academic requirements, employers are looking for a range of personal qualities which include: • business interest/awareness;

• good written and oral communication;

• numerate and analytical skills;

• motivation and a hard work ethic;

• good team working skills;

• personal integrity.

Prior relevant work experience is not a requirement, although it will improve your chances. Many firms offer paid work experience and short courses or open days which give an insight into the work of a chartered accountant. However, employers are keen to see applicants with a range of activities and experiences.

Training to be a chartered accountant involves completion of professional exams as well as work-based assessments/targets, together with a period of structured work experience. Employers providing the training are approved by the relevant institute of chartered accountants and trainees enter into a training contract, typically lasting three years for graduates (longer for the vocational route). The majority of chartered accountants train in firms of accountants (public practice). However, there are now also some training schemes in commerce/industry and the public sector known as TOPP (training outside public practice). The exams are the same, only the practical experience differs.

The professional exam training is provided by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), which is the largest, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI). The structure of the exams and methods of training delivery vary slightly between the institutes and full details can be found on their websites. However, the qualifications cover a similar syllabus and are of equal status and recognition, all leading to the designation 'chartered accountant' (ACA or CA). The syllabuses cover subjects such as accounting, audit, business finance, taxation, law and business management, which are assessed primarily through formal exams. Exemptions from some of the subjects may be possible depending on the institute and degree subject studied. The route will usually be recommended by the training firm. It is also possible with the ICAEW to study independently for the first stage of the exams before starting a training contract. Whichever route is taken, study for these exams requires a high level of commitment and determination. Alongside the exam training, employers provide in-house training on technical and general skills to help staff perform well in theirjob . Chartered accountants must remain up to date on technical and business issues, so there is a strong emphasis on continuing professional development after qualification.

The majority of chartered accountants train in public practice and the first three years are devoted to achieving the chartered qualification. During this time they build up experience and take on additional responsibilities, including supervising junior staff and liaising more directly with clients. There is often the opportunity for a secondment to another area of the practice in order to broaden experience. Trainees normally remain with the same employer throughout the training contract.

The chartered accountancy qualification provides a foundation for many routes into business and career opportunities are numerous and varied after qualification. Staying in public practice offers the opportunity for secondments or transfers to different areas of practice (eg corporate finance or management consultancy) or alternatively a move to a different sized firm. In the large international firms, overseas secondments (typically for two years) are possible. Progression to partnership is competitive but is achievable between eight and 15 years after qualification (in small firms progression may be more rapid). The accountancy profession in the UK can be a little confusing for potential trainees because it consists of three other professional bodies in addition to the three institutes awarding the chartered accountant qualification. Usually the qualification followed will depend on the type of organisation joined and the nature of the role. The majority of training opportunities for chartered accountants are in public practice.

Public practice firms range from sole practitioners to the major international firms and there are opportunities for graduates to train with a firm of any size as long as it is authorised by the relevant institute. This means that trainees can choose their preferred working environment. Larger firms (where the vacancies are concentrated) have offices in major cities and towns around the country. Smaller firms may be concentrated in a particular location or specialise in a particular type of client.

Any Related Types Of Jobs?
Yes. This list is not exhaustive but here are some similar and associated types of role:

• Chartered certified accountant

• Chartered management accountant

• Chartered public finance accountant

• Company secretary

• Management consultant

• Tax adviser

• Tax inspector, Inland Revenue.

What trade magazines or publications are available for this industry?

All of the following magazines and journals can be purchased from any good bookstore:

Accountancy - Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales(ICAEW).

Accountancy Age - VNU Business Publications.

TARGET City and Finance - GTI Specialist Publishers.

Hobson's Finance Casebook - Hobsons Publishing PLC.

Inside Careers Guide to Chartered Accountants - Cambridge Market Intelligence Ltd (CMI).

Where can I find further information ?
Further information can be found by visiting any of the following bodies and organisations the addresses and their respective websites are:

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

154 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1R 5AD

Tel: 020 7837 8600

www.aat.co.uk

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)

CA House, 21 Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh EH12 5BH

Tel: 0131 347 0100

www.icas.org.uk

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

Chartered Accountants' Hall, PO Box 433, Moorgate Place, London EC2P 2BJ

Tel: 020 7920 8100

www.icaew.co.uk

Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)

CA House, 87-89 Pembroke Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4

Tel: 003531 637 7200

www.icai.ie

National Audit Office

157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SP

Tel: 020 7798 7000

www.nao.gov.uk




Report this article Ask About This Article


Loading...
More to Explore