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4 min read

How easy is it to become an accountant?

If you’ve got an analytical mind, skill with numbers and a brain for budgeting, then you may be considering pursuing a career as an independent accountant, perhaps starting your own small accountancy business.

Before looking into the logistics and practicalities of how you can become an accountant, it’s useful to have a sense of, generally, what it takes to carve out this career path. How feasible will it be for you? 

In order to answer the question of how easy it is to become an accountant, we must consider what is necessary to establish yourself as a working, successful accountant. 

Consideration 1: Gaining the necessary qualifications

According to English law, you do not need a qualification to call yourself an accountant.

This might, therefore, make it seem very easy to become an accountant. However, we advise against taking the quick and easy option here, as you will likely find that it doesn’t support you in the long run. Obtaining the industry standard qualifications will ensure that you have the knowledge and skills to make a success of your accountancy business.

Thankfully, a degree in accounting (or any subject) is not essential. Typically, the minimum qualification people look for in an accountant in the UK is the AAT Accounting Qualification. With no entry requirements, this qualification is the perfect starting point for a career in accountancy and typically takes between 18 months and three years to complete all three levels.

Once qualified with AAT, you can progress to full membership and apply to become a Licensed Member. This will enable you to offer your services independently as a self-employed accountant. 

Alternatively, you may choose to progress to a more advanced level of accountancy services and become a chartered a chartered accountant. In order to do this, you will need to complete a further qualification with one of the following professional bodies:

  • ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)
  • ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant)
  • ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales)
  • CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) qualifications.

Earning advanced qualifications such as those that will give you the title of ‘Chartered Accountant’ is a sensible long-term goal which you might consider either before or after starting your small accounting business. This will ensure that you are recognised as a highly qualified, capable and reputable member of a professional accounting body, reassuring your clients and keeping you competitive with your continued professional development.

While it is possible to start training yourself as an accountant without any formal academic qualifications (you can study accounting from foundation level at any age), if you already hold a Bachelors or Masters degree in any subject then you could be exempt from some of the exams.

Consideration 2: Choosing an accountancy specialism

You may have imagined that an accounting specialism would develop over time, depending on the type of clients you found yourself with. This is not, however, the case.

Before you begin thinking about becoming a self-employed accountant, you must consider whether you want to go into management accounting or financial accounting.

While management accounting provides information to people within a company, financial accounting provides people outside of a company (such as shareholders) with information.

It is worth noting that since financial accounting is required by law (in contrast with management accounting), most accountants will specialise in the latter as there tends to be more opportunities for work since companies require their accounting services for audits, tax calculations, etc.

Consideration 3: Demonstrating experience

If you have never studied accounting before and have not worked in an accounting firm before setting up your own small accounting business, then you may have some difficulty demonstrating relevant experience to prospective clients who want to know why they should trust you with their finances.

For this reason, you may find this to be a hidden challenge in your journey to becoming an accountant. What you can (and are willing to do) to remedy this will be dependent upon your personal circumstances, but some things that you could do are:

  • Organise a short work-experience stint with a local accounting business
  • Get yourself hired as a part-time accounting apprentice
  • Get a part-time job in an accounting firm

While these options might seem like a step backwards for someone who wants to set up their own small business, they are, perhaps, necessary solutions that will help you to prove your experience while you are negotiating with your first potential accounting clients.

Why study accounting?

If you have a passion for finances and want to set up your own accounting business, then you will not be deterred by the few considerations mentioned in this article.

While accounting is often represented as a dull, uneventful, paper-pushing job, it can be extremely satisfying and rewarding for those to whom the lifestyle is suited. Just make sure that you consider everything carefully before launching into a new career as an accountant. 

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