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.
EY is a multinational professional services firm headquartered in London. EY is one of the largest professional services firms in the world. Along with Deloitte, KPMG and PwC, EY is considered one of the Big Four accounting firms.visit profile
PwC is a multinational professional services network with headquarters in London, United Kingdom. PwC ranks as the second largest professional services firm in the world and is one of the Big Four auditors, along with Deloitte, EY and KPMG.visit profile
613,100 people employed in accountancy roles in the UK during 2017, of which over 400,000 were employed as in-house accountants, while 180,000 worked in specialist accounting practices
The average bonus for an accountant in Northern Ireland comes in at just under £2000
The average hourly rate for a self-employed accountant in Northern Ireland is £22.50
£59 billion - this was the total contribution to UK GDP by the accountancy profession in 2017, encompassing the accounting sector plus in-house accountants
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Salaries in this industry vary depending on the company. Starting salaries can range from £15,000 to £17,000, which will depend on your experience and the needs of the business. In the Big Four you could be looking at around £20,000 starting salary, once again; depending on experience.
If you enter as a graduate in a company, one of the major benefits that companies offer is the opportunity for further qualifications which the company will pay for. Undertaking a course with Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) will give you an extra qualification, increased earning potential and will ensure your professional knowledge is up-to-date. As part of this, the company will also offer study support, allowing you to take a number of days off to prepare for the exam.
Another major benefit is the chance to earn a bonus. Many employers will offer an annual bonus of 10% of your salary, which, if you’re earning £20,000 as a graduate, can be a hefty 2 grand extra in your pocket at the end of the year.
Other popular employee benefits include the chance to work from home, flexible working hours and the opportunity to buy extra holidays, which can prove to be a godsend come Christmas when there is tumbleweed rolling around the office.
Both Queen’s and Ulster offer courses in Accountancy if you decide to study a degree in this area. In Ulster you can study Accounting and Law, Accounting with Specialisms, whilst in Queen’s you can study pure Accounting, Economics and Accounting or even Accounting with French.
If you do decide to study a degree in this area, try and pick a course which allows you the option of doing a placement year. Doing a year in industry will really benefit your chances of gaining employment after graduation, as the job market can be very competitive. If you not only have a degree but also have professional experience under your belt, this will help set you out from the competition, making it easier to get an interview than someone without placement experience.
There are lots of benefits to doing a degree in accountancy. Employment rates for this industry are quite good, with 88.7% of finance and accountancy graduates in employment, in further study or in work and study 6 months after graduation. You are also able to work across a variety of different industries, as every business in every industry will have some sort of need for an accountant. As long as money still makes the world go round, accountants will still be in a job!
If uni just isn’t for you, there are alternatives. Belfast Met offer a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Accountancy, based in their Titanic Quarter campus. The benefit of doing a Higher Level Apprenticeship over university is that not only will you be studying towards a recognised qualification, but you will also be getting paid for it AND get real-life work experience at the same time, working four days a week in a company and studying one day a week on campus. Plus the course is completely free!
Upon successful completion of the apprenticeship, apprentices are then registered with Accounting Technicians Ireland. The benefit of this is that many employers may ask for this as a requirement when applying for jobs, so this can help get a foot in the door if you are already a member and have two years work experience on your CV! There is then also the opportunity to progress to full Chartered Accountancy status through Chartered Accountants Ireland professional Level 7 programme.
Accounting Technicians Ireland is a professional body for Accounting Technicians on the island of Ireland. They have over 10,000 members and students in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland.visit website
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants is a professional body offering training and qualification in management accountancy and related subjects.visit website
Founded in 1904, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is the global professional accounting body offering the Chartered Certified Accountant qualification.visit website
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