When you’re considering registering for an accounting and finance degree, whether at undergraduate or postgraduate level, you’ll also be considering your end goal – to gain employment you enjoy, with a great salary. If you aren’t sure about your career choice yet, then you might be tempted to choose a different type of degree – but there are some excellent reasons to choose accounting and finance. In this post, we’ll look at the types of jobs that your degree in accounting and finance might lead you to.
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Aren’t my career choices restricted with an accounting and finance degree?
Absolutely not! It is a misconception that if you study a degree in accounting and finance that you’ll have to either become an accountant or a banker – which means that many people decide to study for a different degree instead. The good news is that accountancy and banking aren’t the only jobs that are open to you if you study accounting and finance. During your studies, you’ll have gained plenty of skills that are transferable to other fields, even if you decide accountancy or banking isn’t where you want to be long term. You might decide to move into management, become an entrepreneur – in fact, almost any kind of role in business will benefit from you having knowledge of accounting and finance processes and theory.
Having studied accounting and finance will put you ahead of graduates of other programmes.
Do I have to study accounting and finance to get a job in the sector?
It isn’t essential, but it depends on what your dream job is and how quickly you want to move into employment. As we discussed in this post, there are routes into accounting without a degree, but these may mean you enter at a lower pay scale and study as you work – as an apprentice. There are similar arrangements for apprentice and trainee roles in the banking sector, whether you are a school leaver, or a graduate.
While having a degree in accounting and finance may not be an essential requirement for entering some of the roles that we will be discussing in this post, having studied accounting and finance will put you ahead of graduates of other programmes. Once you’re in your job, you’ll have more knowledge and may find it easier to progress too.
What careers are in accounting and finance?
There are plenty of career options to be found within the field of accountancy and finance – it isn’t just bookkeeping or banking. Here we’ve rounded up some examples of careers that you can find in the sector.
Chartered accountants provide traditional accountancy services to businesses and individuals. Once qualified and experienced, there are a huge number of opportunities to be found to diversify your career, or to specialise. Auditing and business recovery are just two such specialisms that you might decide to pursue, or you might progress to any of the opportunities that we mention below.
Chartered Certified Accountant
Chartered certified accountants are accountants that have gained professional qualifications. They provide similar types of accountancy services, and may work across different sectors, from private or public practice, or within the corporate sector.
Tax specialists work with both private individuals and companies to ensure that their tax arrangements are the best for their situations. Tax advisors can specialise further, focusing on business tax – such as corporate tax, VAT, and international tax, or focusing on personal arrangements such as National Insurance, trusts and estates.
Chartered Management Accountant
Chartered management accountants handle the preparation of, and communication of financial data for management teams within organisations. In addition to interpreting and analysing data, they may be required to provide advice about strategies for the future of the business.
Chartered Public Finance Accountant
Organisations where public money needs to be used effectively – such as in local councils, or national bodies such as the Home Office, the NHS, and charitable trusts – require the support of accountancy professionals. Chartered public finance accountants often study the CIPFA programme to qualification, which is specifically designed to help accountants learn the different needs of these types of organisations.
Forensic accountants tend to be employed to investigate situations where there has been fraudulent use of money. They investigate where missing money has gone, and establish what steps can be taken to recover it, and may investigate cases where financial misrepresentation has occurred. Where illegal activity has taken place, they may be required to submit evidence and to testify in court.
Investment bankers are typically involved in acquisitions and mergers, bonds and share issuing, lending and privatisation of businesses. They may also be required to be involved in company buyouts and the securing of capital to increase their operations, or to advise on any of these activities.
Opportunities for investment bankers to specialise tend to be in the fields of corporate finance, debt capital markets, and equity capital markets.
Working within banks and building societies both on the high street and online, retail bankers provide financial services to individuals and small businesses. These services may include the setting up of current accounts and savings accounts, and arranging loans and mortgages with the organisation. Within retail banks, opportunities for progression tend to arise quickly for motivated individuals, particularly for supervisory and management positions.
When people want to arrange a mortgage, or want financial advice that is independent from banks or building societies, they look to businesses that offer financial services. Roles within the sector include mortgage brokers and specialists, Independent Financial Advisor (IFA), will writing services and investment specialists. Some businesses may offer a mix of these services, or offer them alongside accountancy services, but tend to have individuals within the company that handle each specialism. Once qualified, it is possible to open a private practice offering these services.
What careers are suitable outside the accounting and finance industry?
There are huge numbers of jobs that require the skills and qualities that you’ve gained from studying accounting and finance. If accounting isn’t for you, you want to have a go at something different, or perhaps you want to diversify your experience to increase your employment prospects, here are some of the jobs that you might consider.
The insurance industry
Many companies in the insurance industry value graduates of accounting and finance programmes. They’ve developed the attention to detail that is necessary for these types of roles, and can easily adapt accounting skills to other types of statistical analyses that are required by the industry.
Insurance broker is a role that many accounting and finance graduates are suited to. The role is a middle-man between clients (who may be private individuals or commercial businesses) and the insurance companies. The role involves understanding the risk that the clients face, which will help them to identify insurance policies that provide the right amount of cover. There may be rewards for arranging policies with certain insurers.
Insurance underwriter is another role that may be an option for accounting and finance graduates. Underwriters work for insurance companies and make decisions about whether to accept applications for insurance policies, what terms may need to be imposed and so on. The aim of the underwriter is to minimise risk, and to ensure that the company continues to make a profit.
Where graduates are aiming to move towards c-suite positions, there are management opportunities to be found for graduates of accounting and finance.
Management consultants are employed by organisations to find opportunities to improve efficiency, lower costs and so on. This type of role requires critical thinking, and the impartial assessment of problems. Investigating problems, identifying solutions, and making recommendations to business owners to increase efficiency and further the business are key aspects of this role.
Risk managers may be utilised by businesses where change needs to be implemented, and may work alongside management consultants to provide senior management teams with a clearer approach to change. This role reports specifically on potential risks to the company, especially where there may be a threat to profits or even the long-term viability of the company. Risk managers are required to report on threats, identify contingencies and ways that risk can be reduced or avoided completely.
Purchasing managers are usually found within all kinds of businesses, but also organisations such as public sector bodies. They identify and authorise the purchase of goods, equipment, or services, with the aim of the role to help save the organisation money and to increase profits. Negotiation skills may be required within this role, which means building strong relationships with other businesses, in addition to managing budgets, potentially from multiple departments.
Wherever there are elements of understanding numbers and statistics within a role, accounting and finance graduates may find opportunities for employment. We mentioned some of these types of careers in our post about how to become an accountant, but you might consider:
- Audit and assurance
- Business development (becoming an entrepreneur)
- Business restructuring
- Commercial finance
- Compliance and risk
- Consulting and advisory
- Corporate finance
- Education and training
- Global business services
- Investor relations
- Market research
What skills do accounting and finance graduates have?
Whether you’re yet to begin your studies in accounting and finance, or you’re considering where to apply for your first job post-graduation, it is important to know the sort of skills that you’ll have gained from your studies.
Many individuals will have other skills and qualities gained from extracurricular activities and work experience they undertook during their degree, but knowing what qualities and skills you have gained from studying will enable you to write a much more effective CV and covering letter.
Accounting and finance graduates have the ability to:
- Fully understand and execute accountancy processes
- Think critically, and to evaluate arguments and evidence
- Analyse data and to reach conclusions about how to tackle issues on the basis of that data
- Identify additional information that is required to reach a solid conclusion
- Find data from appropriate sources for analysis
- Work independently (particularly while studying for certified status)
- Work effectively as part of a team
- Manipulate numerical and financial data, and understand and interpret statistics
- Use relevant IT software for managing data and analysis
- Present quantitative and qualitative data to the required audience, along with the analysis and understanding using the appropriate language for the audience
- Understand how accountancy relates to the rest of the business world, including capital markets, legal issues, and the public sector
Aside from these skills, businesses expect employees to be highly organised, with incredible attention to detail, and to be able to manage time effectively. The ability to keep sensitive information is also essential.
Getting started finding your first role after completing your studies can be a daunting prospect, but armed with an accounting and finance degree you should find that there are plenty of opportunities that could suit you.
Where can I search for a suitable job?
Getting started finding your first role after completing your studies can be a daunting prospect, but armed with an accounting and finance degree you should find that there are plenty of opportunities that could suit you. Although we’ve divided this list up, you can search any of these websites when you are job hunting, since different companies may post their vacancies on specific websites.
If you are just out of university, graduate schemes are a great place to start your search for a job, and can help you progress within an organisation quickly, with additional training on offer as part of the package in many companies.
The Prospects website details graduate schemes that are being advertised at the moment.
Milkround has graduate jobs, but also internships and placements that are available from the biggest and best employers.
Glassdoor has graduate jobs, and is a great place to find out more about a company, since employees can leave reviews about their experience working there.
Accountancy Careers is a specialist website listing graduate jobs, employers, and careers advice for the accountancy profession. They also have internships and placements.
What postgraduate study options are there for accounting and finance graduates?
There are relatively few accounting and finance graduates that decide to pursue further study when they graduate, since their degree is highly in demand and means that they can start earning, and getting promoted sooner. For graduates who want to become qualified accountants, further study may be required to become fully certified, particularly for those who want to acquire chartered status. Professional qualifications such as the ACCA, AAT or CIMA are usually studied after graduation and while working, so work experience can inform the coursework and aid understanding.
Although few accounting and finance graduates go directly on to higher level study, programmes are available for those who want to get an advantage over their peers. Individuals aiming to work in the banking sector will find they can get ahead by studying for an MBA. Programmes that place an emphasis on banking and finance, are ideal, while MBA with Leadership programmes may suit individuals who want to move into management roles.
For students that want to achieve chartered status can progress quickly by studying programmes such as an MSc Accounting and Finance, which will cover some of the necessary modules required for the ACCA certification. This programme doesn’t require a degree in accounting and finance, so is an ideal route if you’ve studied a more general degree subject, like business.
For students that want to change direction or specialise further, there are other master’s degrees available, and beyond master’s degrees, studying for a Ph.D. can lead to teaching roles and research positions.
While at first glance, studying for a degree in accounting and finance might appear to restrict your career options, the reality is that the ability to interrogate, manipulate and interpret numbers and financial data is highly sought after in all kinds of roles, and in all kinds of industries. Your degree in accounting and finance – whether undergraduate or postgraduate – will provide you with a huge amount of skills and qualities that employers want, whether they are in the accounting or banking sectors, or in a completely unrelated field.