Accountants are hired by companies to provide financial advice, audit accounts, and undertake accounts administration. Accountants will often decide to specialise in one area of practice such as tax, audit, assurance, management consultancy or corporate finance.
In Northern Ireland there are over 30,000 people employed within the accountancy sector, with traditional accounting roles such as payroll and finance still greatly sought after, complimented by the growth in demand for roles in in areas such as auditing as well as data & analytics.
Many people who enter this industry will have to have a degree or professional qualification in order to be able to provide financial advice to clients. Your clients could range from large multi-national corporations to government bodies, right down to small-medium sized local businesses. Large amounts of money can be involved; therefore, it is important to know what you’re talking about.
A degree in accountancy is good in that it doesn’t limit you to one type of industry. Every firm across every industry will have some type of accounting support. You could be an accountant in an industrial organisation, a government body, a charity or non-profit organisation or in the public sector, working in a hospital for example.
Accountants can be employed in ‘industry‘ as an accountant in a company, or in ‘practice‘, which can involve working for one of the ‘Big Four’ specialist accounting firms, such as Pwc or EY, or other firms such as Baker McKenzie and Allen & Overy.
Working for one of the Big Four will accelerate your career at a much quicker pace than if you were an in-house accountant in a small company. You will have greater responsibility and will work on more complex tasks, with progression prospects also faring better compared with a career in industry.
A career in industry can also be very rewarding. Granted, progression opportunities may not be on the same scale as in the Big Four, but as an in-house accountant you can utilise your skills to add value to the business, seeing the fruits of your labour for the company that employs you rather than the many businesses you have as clients in when working in industry.