In the United Kingdom, only a few regulatory bodies issue certified accounting qualifications. None of them requires specific GSCEs, BTECs or A-levels to be taken.

Within accounting exists specialities such as management accounting (focusing on budget forecasting and cost reports and statistics), financial accounting (focusing on producing financial statements based on market trends and companies results) or tax accounting (that focuses on advising companies on how to complete their tax form and maybe claim some taxes back along the way).

Though you don't need a specific degree to become an accountant, a good analytical mind and a knack for numbers will definitely go a long way, as you will probably spend a fair amount of time reading accounting reports.

From accountant to finance manager and maybe one day Chief Financial Officer of a listed company, the road may be long but not impossible.

how to become an accountant
You will have to learn how to analyse financial reports if you hope to be a certified accountant.
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Why Should You Consider Becoming An Accountant?

If you love maths, have good organisational skills and love to solve problems, this career is probably for you.

With software getting more and more advanced, most people think that accounting will soon be a job of the past. They could not be more wrong. It seems that getting an accounting qualification has never been easier, with unemployment rates for the industry being lower than the national average.

Even if the software has taken over a huge chunk of accountants' work, the job description evolved to be more consultancy based than a simple bookkeeping profession.

You can also work in any industry you want. Accountants are all-rounders, and your accountancy skills will be needed by most if not all, companies in the world.

Crunch the numbers right, and you might be working for one of the Big Four: Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Combined, those four accounting firms audit most of the 350 biggest British companies and employ more than one million people around the world.

High salaries, recognised and sought-after skill and the possibility to work anywhere in the world is what an accountant career could have to offer.

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The AAT or Association of Accounting Technicians

The Association of Accounting Technicians was created following the merger of the Institute of Accounting Staff and the Association of Technicians in Finance and Accounting in 1989.

Today it counts more than 140,000 members worldwide, and it provides the minimum qualification for anyone wanting to start their accounting career.

The AAT is also a member of the International Federation of Accountants, giving its provided certification recognition everywhere on the planet.

The AAT qualifications are divided into four different modules:

  • A Foundation Certificate in Accounting
  • A Foundation Diploma in Accounting and Business
  • An Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • A Professional Diploma in Accounting

The Foundation Certificate in Accounting will prepare you for an entry-level accountant position. You will learn the basic accounting principles, how to finance administration works and the rudiments of bookkeeping and cost. You will also be taught how to use accounting software. It takes one semester to a year to complete.

The Foundation Diploma in Accounting and Business is reserved for 16 to 19 years old. It will deliver the same teachings as the Foundation Certificate in Accounting, along with business communication skills. It takes six to twelve months to complete.

The Advanced Diploma in Accounting approaches more complex accounting specialities such as final accounts, ethical practices and intricate bookkeeping. Again this qualification can be achieved in six to twelve months.

The Professional Diploma in Accounting is the highest qualification the AAT provides. It takes up to 18 months to get and covers highly specialize accounting skills such as managing budgets and evaluating the financial performance of a company or performing internal and external audits related to business or personal tax. You will also learn how to manage cash flow and treasury.

This qualification is the equivalent of a High Education Diploma in the UK.

Check Superprof for the best online accounting courses.

Learn all you need to know about becoming an accountant
Budgeting is an important part of management accounting.

The ACCA or  Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has been training accountants since 1904, but it only obtained its royal charter in 1974.

It has more than 208,000 members across the world and is currently training more than 500,000 students in 179 countries (out of 195 countries in the world).

To follow ACCA training, you will need at least three GCSEs and two A-levels in five separate subjects, with Maths and English being mandatory.

During the three to four years it takes to complete, at least three years of work experience will be needed to validate the qualification.

The ACCA's Ethics and Professional Skills module is the first set of exams usually taken by ACCA students. It covers the complete range of the basic accounting courses and skills needed by employers.

After that, students will have to take Applied Knowledge exams (including Accountant in Business, Management Accounting, and Financial Accounting), followed by a set of Applied Skills exams (which includes Corporate and Business Law, Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Audit and Assurance and Financial Management).

Finally, to complete your training, you will have to take some Strategic Professional exams (Business Leader and Business Reporting), and you can also choose to take some optional specialities.

Make sure to check the ACCA's exemption pages if you hold a university degree, you may be able to skip some exams.

In total, if you work and study at the same time, you could complete this accounting certification in three to four years.

 

This three to four-year placement lets you learn while gaining valuable work experience and getting a competitive starting range (between £12,000 and £30,000 a year, depending on your university degree).

You can also join the AAT-ACA Fast Track course, which is a joint training program that will give those already training for the AAT to get some credits towards the ACA. If you start this program, you will have to pass the Level 3 and Level 4 AAT Diploma in Accounting before starting to take the ACA exams.

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The CIMA or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Victorian industrialisation led to the creation of more complex companies, large-scale businesses and intricated bookkeeping requirements. The need for a new form of accounting that delves more into the analysis of the performance of a company was filled by a new kind of accounting, one that merged management and accounting.

This is in this context that the CIMA was created, and it counted nearly 300,000 students in 2017.

In 2012, the British Chartered Institute and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants founded the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which recognises more than 100,000 highly skilled management accountants throughout the world.

The Professional Qualification provided by the CIMA is one of the most recognised global finance qualifications for a career in the business industry.

To undergo the CIMA qualification, you will need to hold a relevant degree from a CIMA-accredited institute or complete the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting. The different levels of qualification offered by the CIMA revolve around four main subjects; Technical Skills, Business Skills, Leadership Skills and People Skills.

In total, the 12 professional qualification exams will take you four years to complete, including the three years of work experience needed to validate the certification. Most students have gained enough work experience before registering as CIMA students.

Hard Work, High Rewards

The journey to becoming a chartered accountant can be long and daunting. You will most certainly have to juggle between working a 9 to 5 job and studying at the same time. However, the reward of obtaining such certification is almost always worth the effort.

Following qualification, a chartered accountant in the UK can expect to earn around £56,000. Once a chartered accountant has five or more years of experience, the average salary rises to $90,000, and most of the chartered accountants will also receive a yearly bonus (around $20,000).

Besides the salary rewards, this certification is also a guarantee of finding a job in pretty much any industry you wish to join.

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Certified accountants often offers private tuition.
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Steps to Becoming a Better Accountant

You must possess specific characteristics/traits to make you stand out as an accountant. Although being the best may not seem possible at first, chances are if you keep these characteristics, you'd be named among the top accountants in your company.

  • Detail oriented 

Little mistakes in the accounting process could cause significant financial problems. Firms and companies prefer to hire an accountant who pays more attention to details.

For accountants to become better, one crucial skill to polish is their attention to detail; This may not look like anything at first, but you will find that this is sometimes the backbone of the accounting profession.

  1. See money as a number

Money has a way of sending emotional attachments to whoever handles it. However, for a better career as an accountant, you should only regard money as figures; this would help you make better financial decisions for your organization.

  • Be Tech savvy

Being an accountant doesn't revolve around knowing your math only. With the current trend and updates, accountants need to be tech-savvy— learn how to use software and other financial tools. Being tech-savvy as an accountant gives you an edge over many other accountants.

  • Be Creative

Being creative is often a must-have trait for accountants. When you are creative, you could easily get a more expansive view of a problem and can quickly develop solutions. Also, an innovative mind can help build strategies and reasonable steps toward meeting company goals.

  • Be trustworthy

Being dependable, reliable, and trustworthy is one of the traits of top accountants today. An accountant needs to be trustworthy because you would be entrusted with tasks and deliberations. Clients and top management need a guarantee that you can handle your job responsibilities flawlessly.

  • Be adaptable

Your ability to adapt to changes in your environment as an accountant is essential if you want to climb the corporate ladder fast. There would be various changes to financial laws, technical tools, and organizational principles. How well you adapt to these changes will determine how far you can go in your career as an accountant.

  • Persevere

In the accounting profession, perseverance is a crucial skill. Challenges are inevitable as you seek growth and fulfilment. Some of the obstacles may sometimes be demanding. You need to persevere and make sure you can create lasting solutions to the problem. This could go a long way to increase your value in the eyes of top management and make them see you as a great asset to the organization.

  • Take proactive approach

You would become better as an accountant if you proactively approach problem-solving and matters in your organization. Being proactive means you can know and prevent problems even before they arrive. In cases where there is a problem, you can strategically devise solutions as early as possible. Being proactive could give you an edge and add more value to your resume as an accountant.

A man discussing a problem
What is your approach to problem-solving? Source: Pexels
  • Team player

Are you a good team player with excellent team management skills?  Most accountants work with various employees to achieve organizational goals. If you are not a team player, you may be unable to work efficiently with others. Being a team player is also one of the skills most employers watch out for before hiring anyone for the role of an accountant.

  • Great communication skills

During your career as an accountant, you will meet a few people unfamiliar with some of the accounting terms they come across. You will stand out when you explain these somewhat technical terms in accounting to people in relatable and easy-to-understand instances. So the take is that excellent communication skills may appear irrelevant to an accountant, but it is a skill every accountant needs.

  • Great at time management 

Accountants need a good time management strategy because, during some times of the year, you can become overwhelmed with the many tasks on your desk and the short time you have to complete them. With the right time management strategy, accountants can better manage their time and complete tasks more effectively.

  • A strong work ethic

One of the ways to become a better accountant is to develop a strong work ethic. Most times, especially when filing taxes for businesses, you may need to be more available and work longer hours than usual. With a strong work ethic, you can complete projects even when it takes longer than average. A strong working ethic would always be a plus in any accountant's career.

  • You value integrity

Integrity plays a vital role in your career as an accountant and a person. Your employers and clients would share lots of their financial information with you. Some of this information is personal, and you should only use them within allowed limits. Integrity is when you can maintain privacy with all these details and continue to maintain trust. To become a better accountant, you should always be honest and use your customer's information discreetly.

What Are the Common Challenges Most Accountants Face?

No doubt, in your quest to become a better accountant, you will face challenges. Some of the problems accountants face are cash flow, automation, artificial intelligence, and adapting to new regulations, among many others. 

Let's see these  problems in detail and possible ways to solve them:

  • Automation

One of the problems facing accountants today is technology and automation— this is because accountants may find it challenging to deploy some of this modern-day automation to improve accounting as a process. However, this problem doesn't stand as a threat to the profession. As an accountant, you will learn to adapt and understand the usefulness of automation and technology in finances. Automation could also help improve accuracy and reduce errors.

  • Little or no adequate IT literacy in accounting

Now more than ever, the updates in digital accounting are continuous and rapid. These days, accountants complete almost all financial processes on the cloud. Without a vast technical knowledge of cloud accounting software and how to use them, they may risk losing their jobs. Both work remotely, and the office now uses cloud accounting. These, therefore, demand that accountants with little to no knowledge of cloud accounting should adapt and further educate themselves on it. 

Also, the importance of business financial data analysis further promotes the need for experts who know how to explore various cloud accounting tools.

People in a meeting
Your IT skills matter if you want to climb the corporate ladder fast. Source: Pexels
  • Updating skill requirements

Following updates and advancements, there is a continual demand for finance experts with up-to-date skill sets. There are various skills you need to be valuable in your organization. The more adept you are in those skills, the more valuable you become in the financial market. They include 

  • Financial forecasting
  • financial analysis 
  • Cash flow projection

Due to advancements in technology, accountants need to be vast in these skills to help financial companies make accurate, informed financial decisions. Also, an accountant needs to be proficient in providing a stellar business report that answers the company's objective in meeting a particular goal.

  • Constantly changing tax laws

The continuous change in tax laws creates a level of challenge for accountants. However, they need to stay up-to-date on various amendments or new tax laws. Also, they must be proficient in using technological software to handle tax cases online.

  • Upskilling

With the continual update of technical tools for financing, there is a constant need for updates in skill requirements among accountants. Some of the skills needed in the financial market now include the following—

  • cloud-based payroll and human resource information systems 
  • enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems
  • data analytics and financial modeling 
  • forecasting

Additionally, accountants must have some soft skills in addition to their hard skills to climb the corporate ladder fast. Employers watch out for these skills during an interview. Some of them are: 

  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work under several working conditions
  • Good time management
  • Securing Financial data

Cyber threat is a major challenge for most organizations. Although these threats will continue to remain and may even increasing the future, an accountant can easily tame them with the proper knowledge and technical know-how of cloud tools and the processes that need to cover any loophole and counter cyber attacks in the financial system.

To do this, the accountant must be proficient in using cloud software and tools to help manage and counter threats like malware and ransomware. 

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Marvis

Marvis Osarhenrhen is a freelance SEO writer focused on helping businesses reach their target audience, get leads and increase revenue using optimized content.