Most graduates work in public practice – professional accountancy firms ranging from the Big 4 (KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PwC) to mid-sized and smaller firms. There are also opportunities within commercial organisations and industry, as well as with government departments and regulatory bodies.
What will I do?
In public practice, the main areas of work are:
- • Assurance and auditing: Assurance is a service that ‘assures’ an organisation that it is complying with legal requirements or fulfilling best practices. Its largest specialism is external auditing, a legal requirement that financial statements be examined to determine whether they are ‘true and fair’. Internal audits, similar processes held internally in an organisation, are best practice rather than a legal requirement.
- Tax: Accountants working in tax help clients to understand and meet their tax obligations, and to understand the impact that any changes within their organisation or to the tax laws will have upon their tax bill.
- Business advisory/financial services: This specialism helps businesses achieve their objectives through a package of services including tax compliance and financial planning.
There are lots of specialisms within these areas so research what different employers offer before applying. Graduates in public practice become trainees and, in areas such as auditing, will spend considerable time at clients’ offices. In larger firms, graduates rotate around different clients to gain exposure to the industry and often specialise from an early stage in a particular aspect of work, such as charities auditing. In smaller firms, there is less opportunity for early specialisation; instead, you are more likely to work on a range of tasks for clients. When working for other organisations, financial accountants maintain financial accounting systems and financial reports on the organisation’s performance.
Graduates of all disciplines are accepted into the profession and train to become qualified accountants, combining work and study. Employers help choose the professional association/qualification that best suits the graduate’s chosen career route. Those graduates with a finance-related degree are exempt from some parts of the qualification process.
On top of being numerate, accountants require strong communication, analytical, time management and teamworking skills. They also need an ethical approach to business and the ability to combine a tough work/study schedule.