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Career Change-Accountancy(27 Posts)
I posted here before asking about career change. I was considering Project Management as the pay in the industry I work in at the moment is pretty much capped. After a long research I decided that PM perhaps won’t be the route for me.
I am 35 and have been in Education for over 10 years (teaching and management) and have really had enough. The money really is a joke considering the stress and the workload. Since having children I suddenly started to think about my financial stability and now am exploring a more lucrative career options.
I looked into accountancy, especially doing the ACCA course. It will be useful to hear from current accountants or those who have made a similar career change. Do you have to be good with numbers to be a good accountant? Is the profession in demand? How much is one expected to earn as an accountant (chartered or not)? What are the qualification and job search routes?
Basically what I am looking for is a quick career change (3-4 years) with great career progression and a decent pay. Any other career change suggestions and welcome.
I'm CIMA qualified, it was a career change for me at a similar age. You don't have to be as fantastic at numbers as you might think, but you do have to be good at processes and problem solving. With your education background you will make an excellent finance business partner, as a lot of it is about working across the business and explaining finance to the bewildered. If this is what you fancy, I would go for CIMA over ACCA. But if you want to work in a finance office doing processing ACCA might be more a appropriate. To be honest in my experience people want qualified or part qualified, less fussed about the qualification. All the main UK qualifications teach you the same things, just in different proportions. Have a look at this for salary expectations www.roberthalf.co.uk/salary-centre/finance-accounting-salary-guide It is hard work to study and work full time but worth it in the end.
Thank you for your comments choppolata, very useful.
What does partly qualified mean? I mean, how further along into the CIMA/ACCA qualification do I need to be in order for someone to offer me a job. Is it that at the end of it is to be qualified as a chartered account and the initial stage is to be a technician? How about study/work schemes? Can I work in an accountancy environment and study towards a qualification at the same time? What are the routes? How about the big 4?
Too many questions I know but any advice would be greatly appreciated
Ah well, now it gets complicated! The definition varies, CIMA don't have a set definition but my point is that employers want someone who is either fully qualified or working towards it. Often people do start off in technician roles and move up as they take their exams but all depends on the employer really. Ideally you want one who rotates staff through different teams. It makes sense to be working in accounting/finance as you study because on top of the exams you'll need 3 years of relevant professional experience to qualify. There are a few things you can't do until you are qualified and there tends to be a jump in salary once you get your letters.
Big 4 firms offer graduate training contracts and afaik they are usually geared towards ICAEW. And very high pressured! What I would do in your shoes is talk to an agency (Michael Page have been good for me) about what might be available work-wise for someone just starting their exams but who has plenty of work experience in other fields and also crack on with the entry level qualification for one of the institutes (the certificate/foundation/first levels are pretty much interchangeable if you change your mind about who to join) Given your timeframe ignore the AAT route as it will take way too long and will only gain you first level exemptions from the institutes. You can get through CIMA certificate in 6 months while working full time if you put your mind to it, that would be a good start although obvs I am a little biased. ;) I imagine the same would go for ACCA foundation level.
The ideal scenario is to find an employer who will support your study either through paying for it, study leave or both. You will have selling points that your average graduate doesn't which you can spin in your favour.
Please note that ACCA would make you a Certified Accountantant, not a Chartered Accountant. ACA is a Chartered Accountant. This would generally not be as easy to go into as a career change, although age discrimination laws prevent questions about an applicants age, I have not seen any applicants taking this route when they are older.
I'm ACCA qualified and work in industry, always have. I have been qualified for 10 years now and specialised in economic investment for 5 years which pays a premium (as will other specialisms). You need to enjoy working with numbers, be logical with calculations, be fairly creative and a good communicator to do well. You also need to be v smart and determined, the exams are tough although they've relaxed the final exam criteria since I passed.
Expect good earnings, but some roles are unbearably tedious. You need to find what suits you. My role involves me advising the company which projects to invest in and I find it rewarding as it's for an ethical cause and forward looking, not reporting on whats already happened.
Having said that, I now desperately want to retrain to be a speech and language therapist!! Doubt it's going to happen though!
I used to be an accountant (CIPFA) and although the money was good, I found it unbearably tedious, and had no choice but to get the hell out of the job when I was about your age. I know of many others who burned out too, it seems to be a job you are either suited to, or really really not. I was really really not.
I wondered whether I might hijack this thread to ask whether there's any difference between ACCA and CIMA in terms of how well they're recognised in other countries (specifically Germany/Switzerland)? And whether, if you were looking to start a career in Europe, you would look at other qualifications?
Also - can I ask, generally, how do you find your working environment - how are the hours, how pressured is it? Last year I managed to talk my way into a short contract as a financial controller with one of the big banks and I really enjoyed it (before becoming a SAHM I worked in banking in a statistics role, but I have no accountancy qualifications) and while the learning curve was steep I did really enjoy the work. But it was a very stressful, corrosive sort of environment to work in. I know that commercial banking, post financial crisis is under particular pressure but would you say that stress/long hours is typical?
I don't have time to reply fully now too much but I work for a German company and can tell you they don't particularly value any professional accountancy exams.
Ill respond fully later on!!
I started off in chartered accountancy (ICAEW) - a graduate traineeship in audit- and found the work very, very dull and lacking in meaning/purpose.
I then went into teaching - lots of meaning there! Left eventually for all the same reasons as you, but would never go back to accountancy.
Think very seriously about whether or not you will actually enjoy the work.
What about HR? Some skills from teaching are potentially transferable.
Thanks for all your replies.
Just had a look at the Kaplan and BPP courses. The prices are ridiculously expensive. For in-class training you pay over £500 per paper and only the certificate level has five papers. Ouch!
MaybeDoctor, I also did a graduate traineeship in Audit, and found it soul crushingly dull. There is a reason why accountancy is relatively well paid, and that reason is boredom. There is a certain type of people that it suits perfectly (and they are not necessarily boring people, quite the contrary I found), but I did find to be good at the job you require a certain mind set. I didn't have it, and nearly lost my mind. After ten years, despite being in a lovely cushy internal audit job with great pay and 33 days leave a year, I had to quit. That was audit of course, other jobs may be a little more stimulating, but I doubt any of it would have been for me.
I moved from teaching to accountancy after 5 years of teaching, so a bit younger than you are and before I had children. I did a big 4 audit trainee role with ACA qualification and thought that the training was excellent.
Unlike most training in industry (AFAIK) you get a lot day release to attend college, so that makes life a bit easier. There was pressure not to fail exams and some people did have their contracts terminated for failing exams. I found my teaching background useful for the exams as I really listened to the tutors . I think I would struggle with the amount of exam preparation work now that I have children. But I don't think that would be better for any of the qualifications.
I worked at a regional office, rather than London, and got the impression that we had more smaller clients, so got to do a bigger range of work and better understanding of their business than you might on larger clients, thought I did work on some larger clients too. The larger ones often had tighter deadlines and the hours were long at times, but not constantly.
I don't think that applying as a slightly older candidate would be a problem, as long as you wouldn't have an issue with most people managing you being younger than you. But if you are in management in teaching I'm sure that some of the teachers you manage are older than you, so you have experience from the other side. There is a push for diversity in many organisations and that can include age.
A downside to training in the Big 4 in audit can be the amount of travel - you may find you have a long commute to client sites or that you have to work overseas. However I found that you can negotiate and they will take family commitments into account. I moved into industry after qualifying as I wanted to reduce the time I spend travelling. if you like the sound of the Big 4 but want less travel then the tax teams are out less. But if you want to leave practice, fewer jobs are available for those who specialise in tax.
Which qualification you take depends on what type of accountant you want to be (to a certain extent). If you do CIMA then you are likely to work as a management accountant in industry. ACA qualified people seem to work in all sorts of roles both in practice and industry. I think that our senior leaders are mostly ACA qualified. The Big 4 name on your CV does open doors at times.
The amount of maths involved in accountancy is fairly limited - it is mostly arithmetic and percentages. The only bit that I can remember being a bit harder is discounting. But that doesn't come up until later exams and the college tutors know that it is the more challenging maths In the course.
The money is good, though I am currently on 'the mummy track' a bit because I don't want to work FT or travel far.
Firstly training to be an accountant is not a quick career change
I would go for ACCA over CIMA every day of the week - definitely if you are not sure if you want to be in industry or practice
Exams alone will not get you a good job, you need to get experience, which means starting near the bottom and working your way up. In industry the salaries are better than in practice at all levels, but starting salaries are not high
The exams are expensive and hard, but that's because it's a professional qualification - taking these exams is a big investment of time and money
In my experience the accountancy market is currently saturated and there are many applicants for every job, so you might struggle with no practical experience to get where you want to be at the moment. You will be up against many applicants who have many years relevant experience
I'm not trying to put you off, I am just giving you the reality
I disagree with IceMaiden - I've found the salaries to be comparable in industry and practice. Though perhaps that only works for bigger firms.
I don't think the market is saturated either. Obviously there will be regional variations, but I've seen plenty of entry level jobs going at my organisation and I get contacted regularly by recruitment consultants with real vacancies that match my experience level and qualifications.
Accountancy is sometimes billed as hard to get into, but it is much easier than things like law or medicine.
Sorry toomuchtooold I said I would respond and totally forgot!
I work in a 'Controlling' (risk, investment appraisal, mgt accounting) team of about 12 and am the only one left now in the UK. Only 1of my German colleagues has done any professional accountancy exams, ACCA when he moved to the UK as a student ad stayed for a while afterwards and had a placement in practice. There is no preference at all to studying CIMA or ACCA.
The Germans, Russian, Bulgarian, and Hugarians in my team have all studied business administration or economic type degree's in Germany (often with 'controlling' in the title, and go on to do a Masters and Phd rather than do accountancy exams. Then they learn some more.
We are currently recruiting for another UK role and it is an essential that they are ACA/ACCA or CIMA qualified, so it seems a little hypocritical but it's the way it is.
So, I think if you wanted to work for a company based in Germany you'd be able to apply for a job without the qualifications (but they like to see evidence of continuous study), but in the UK it would be much more tricky.
I hope that's helpful! Do you have a partcular company in mind??
I did AAT rather than ACCA, which is supposed to be the sort of basic level. I'm not particularly good with numbers and I really struggled to understand some of the accounting concepts. I've been in a few finance roles in my organisation and I've come to to the conclusion that I'm not going to get any further because I still find it really hard.
Lots of people where I work study CIMA and it does seem that the younger they are the easier they find it. It's one of those areas where your brain really has to be wired a certain way. Some people can just get it, and others don't.
I'm an accountant (CIPFA), I work in a business partnering role as a pp described above, in a local authority.
I've been qualified for 12 years, started training in a graduate role straight out of uni.
Tbh I would love to have a career change! But it's wider than accountancy for me - I just don't want to work in an office any more.
It's not a quick option and you would definitely need to be working in a finance environment whilst you trained. In the public sector, there are very few jobs around (certainly within local government anyway - everyone is shedding staff) but that may all change in the next few years.
You obviously need to have decent number skills, although there are spreadsheets for that. It's also important to have a logical and analytical brain.
To reply to GoOnThenYouMightLike
I think yes the Big 4 are comparable to industry, however, everywhere else there is definitely a large discrepancy
The market in the Hampshire area is definitely saturated. I run an accountancy practice and people write to me every single week asking for jobs, especially at entry level. I have also spoken to many other practices who say the same
Thanks Maki! I was mainly thinking Switzerland, as we're near the border - with my background I would have been thinking industry, either banking or pharma. But tbh with what Icemaiden is saying I think it's maybe not the right thing for me - I don't care so much about the money but I am looking for a qualification that's really in demand, as I come with baggage (kids, career break, non native German speaker). I think I might be as well sticking with my original plan which is to pick up a masters in statistics and then look at pharma and possibly banking or insurance, there seem to be a lot of risk statistician posts around these days. I get job ads for stato jobs on linkedin about once a week, which might not be an indicator of anything, but it sure never happened to me as a chemist!
What branch of accountancy? Do you want to go into practice or work in industry or the public sector? Different professional bodies and different entry routes. Regardless of that, experience is just as, if not more, important than the qualifications which are inadequate on their own. You'd need to find a trainee position so you'd be competing with school/uni leavers and trainee pay during the 3/4 years would be relatively low. I'd say CIMA for industry, CIPFA for public sector or ACCA for practice. I'd also suggest you spend your efforts getting a job in the first place rather than spending too much time thinking/studying for a qualification. Most employers will support you through training, i.e. study leave, day-release, study materials, etc. AAT is a good stepping stone qualification which may be a better solution if you want to study and pass some exams before leaving your current job as you can usually do it by day release or evening classes at a local college of FE - it's not an accountancy qualification in it's own right - it's "technician" level, but getting some AAT qualifications may help you get a foot in the door with an employer and usually some exemptions for the CIMA/ACCA exams. I really, really wouldn't spend 3/4/5 years doing CIMA or ACCA in your own time whilst working as a teacher as you may end up passing the exams, but you won't have experience and won't be admitted as a member to say the ACCA without approved relevant experience.
By the way, I've been ACCA for over 30 years and run my own practice. If I had my time again, I wouldn't have bothered and would have done something else. Every man and his dog thinks they can do their own accounts these days, there is NO protection, anyone can call themselves an accountant or trade as an accountant, unlike say solicitors. Pay/profit in small accountancy practices is fairly pitiful and isn't rising at all at the moment due to intensive competition. I get loads of hopeful applicants wanting training jobs. Unless you're in a city, accountancy is one of the lower paid professions - more akin to teaching pay scales. Public sector and industry are different so if it's money you're after, maybe you should be looking in those areas rather than practice.
Watching with interest .. does anyone know how to get into charity accounting? I already work in charity management and would like to be able to contribute more to the financial side. I have done bookkeeping, budgeting and management accounts. Is there a qualification I could do to consolidate this knowledge, and learn more?
I have transitioned into accounting (audit of broker dealers to be precise) here in the US. I did the CPA exams and now have a license. I also work for a big4 firm.
I would be wary of doing this transition. If I were to do it all again I would have done an MBA and gone into an HR or marketing role. Far more potential and HR is one of those areas where you need someone who is mature and has experience even at the junior levels. Working for big4 we have young HR people and every single time it's awful dealing with them. When I worked for an IB our HR manager was 50 and a father of 5. He was the best HR manager hands down I have ever had to deal with.
Marketing is only well paid at the higher levels but if you look at brand management at say pharma or chemicals companies (I am thinking of GSK and BASF type companies) the junior levels are well paid and the work is somewhat interesting. You do however need a strong MBA.
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