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Are you great with money? Do you have a number-focused mind? If you want your job to involve helping people manage their money, a career as an accountant could be perfect for you.

Are you interested in working as an accountant? Explore the current financial services sector jobs available right now.

What do accountants do?

Accountants work with clients to keep their financial assets and accounts in order. You can either work for an accountancy firm where you typically have several clients at a time, or you can work for one organisation managing the money for them. Whilst there are several areas of accounting that you can specialise in - for example, working internally within a company, making public records, dealing entirely with tax or even working forensically with accounts relating to crimes - the tasks that you do on a regular basis remain similar for most. Here are the main responsibilities associated with being an accountant:

  • Meeting with new clients to discuss their accounts and what they want from your services
  • Filling out tax returns for the clients based on their activity and accounts throughout the tax year
  • Making budgets with clients for them to stick to
  • Monitoring budgets and discussing changes to them
  • Analysing financial activities, making plans for future work and looking into any potential financial risk that your clients may come across
  • Making sure your clients’ financial activities and your work fits within regulations and doesn’t break any laws

Do you want to know more? Complete this module to get a great introduction to accountancy.

Accountant career path

Working as an accountant gives you the opportunity to work your way up in any organisation you work in. You also have the opportunity to learn about other related careers. If you enjoy working with money but want to move into a more analytical role, working as an actuary could be a great career move. If you enjoy the management aspect of accounting but don’t want to continue with the financial side, you could move into management consulting. If you decide you want to be an accountant, here is the traditional accounting career path:


You begin your career as an accounts assistant. In this role, you provide administrative support to accountants, filling in documentation and writing reports. Having great communication and mathematical ability help you work well as an accounts assistant.

Alternatively, you could start your career as an accounts administrator. This is a similar role to accounts assistant but with more focus on dealing with the payments that your client or the company you work for makes. 

Career progression

With experience, you become an accountant. As an accountant, you have more responsibility with your clients’ finances, dealing with tax returns, managing accounts and setting budgets. You could become a specialised type of accountant. For example you could specialise in tax, dealing only with returns and tax documentation. Alternatively you could work in forensic accounting where you look into accounts relating to ongoing investigations. You might look for irregularities in spending, any evidence of fraud or tax evasion or any other potentially criminal or suspicious activity.

Future career

Having gained a great skill set and lots of experience, you progress to a senior accountant role. As a senior accountant, you’re responsible for the most complex clients or work with the biggest firms. Part of your job is often training junior colleagues, making sure they’re up to speed with the processes of the job and know how to do all elements of their job.

Accountant salaries

Working in accounting gives you the opportunity to work with different companies. The salaries you earn at different levels of the accounting career path depend on the level you’re working at, the type of organisation you’re working for and its size. Here are the salaries that you could earn as an accountant:

  • In an entry-level role like accounts assistant, you could earn between £20,000 and £30,000 per year
  • As a mid-level accountant, you earn between £25,000 and £50,000 per year
  • Tax accountants earn an average of £40,000 per year
  • Forensic accountants earn an average of £55,000 per year
  • As a senior accountant, you earn an average of £45,000 per year, extending to £65,000 per year

Qualifications and training

Having the right education sets you up well to enter the accounting career path. Here are the qualifications and training that you need to work as an accountant:


Many accountants have an undergraduate degree. You can get a specific degree in accounting but a degree in finance could also set you up well. Having a master’s degree isn’t usually a requirement of the role. However, you could get a more general finance degree then specialise at master’s level. If you want to find out more about the courses you could do, use this UCAS course search tool to explore accounting and finance degrees.

An alternative to the degree route is an apprenticeship. Doing an apprenticeship involves learning about the career you want to go into by working in the role. Industry experts currently doing the job teach you everything you need to know about working as an accountant. Some apprenticeships include a university element where you study for a degree whilst working for the firm. If you’re interested in an accounting apprenticeship, use the government apprenticeship search tool to find out what’s available to you.

Work experience

Having some work experience alongside your education is a great way to stand out to hiring managers. You can get some work experience through an internship, which involves you working for a firm and shadowing an employee. This teaches you how to work in the environment and helps you develop relevant skills that help you once you begin a job. If you’re interested in an internship, you can explore the financial services sector internships available right now and complete this module on converting an internship into a permanent job.

Professional qualifications

Whilst you can technically call yourself an accountant when working in the sector, having relevant accounting qualifications gives you relevant skills and training that you can put into your career, and demonstrates to clients and employers that you have the experience to do the job well. If you complete an ACA qualification with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), you become a chartered accountant. This is an involved and long process but opens the door to higher salaries and larger clients. You can learn more about how to become a chartered accountant on the ICAEW website. The ACA is intended for accountants with experience who want to open up their career options rather than graduates or entry-level accountants, so think carefully if you’re at the right point in your career to do this qualification.

If you want to know more about accounting qualifications, you can read this basic guide to accounting qualifications.

Accountant skills

Combining your education with the right skills helps you impress hiring managers and enter the career path. Here are the skills you need to work as an accountant:

Hard skills

  • Budgets. You should be able to make budgets which the client can stick to. Having this skill means looking through historical data and using it to predict what the client needs for the future. 

Soft skills

  • Analytical skills. You need good analytical skills to work as an accountant. This is so you can look through accounts, noticing any discrepancies and use the data to create budgets for your clients to work from.
  • Attention to detail. Being detail-oriented helps you work well as an accountant. You need to include all relevant information on tax returns, making sure you don’t miss anything which could get you or the organisation in trouble.
  • Communication. You need to communicate well with your clients so you can tell them the findings of any analysis, what you suggest they do with their accounts or how to follow the budgets you set.

If you want to improve your communication and presentation skills, complete this module on developing effective presentation skills. Complete this module to learn the core skills needed for accountancy.

Pros and cons of being an accountant

As with any career path, there are positive and negative factors. Understanding the good and bad parts helps you decide if it’s the right career for you. Here are the pros and cons of being an accountant:


  • You get the opportunity to work with lots of different companies
  • The job offers good salary levels when you reach senior roles
  • It is a stable industry with many jobs available
  • You could get into a great pension scheme
  • If you’re working with a client, you will most likely travel to their office which can be exciting


  • The daily work can be monotonous
  • You might be held accountable if there are any issues with tax returns or documentation that you’re responsible for
  • Traveling can add to your working week
  • It’s quite a competitive field 

Accountant work-life balance

As an accountant, you work standard office hours of 9am to 5pm on Monday to Friday. You might work beyond these hours around big deadlines. Since your work can include traveling to clients’ offices if you’re working as a consultant, this adds to your working week which can impact your free time and throw off your work-life balance.

Unlike some career paths, it’s possible to leave your job at work. However, long hours and commuting may leave you with fewer hours to be at home. This can negatively impact your stress level and wellbeing.

Typical employers hiring accountants

As an accountant, you could work for an accountancy firm or directly for an organisation. Here are the top employers that you could work for in accounting:

Related jobs to accountant

  • Financial risk
  • Actuary
  • Compliance
  • Financial advisor

More information

If you’re interested in joining the accountant career path, complete this module to learn how to navigate the accountancy application process.

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