Accounting is a fascinating profession where precision, meticulous planning, and an unwavering focus on detail come together to shape the financial aspects of businesses and organisations.
But how does one embark on this exciting journey and pave the way to becoming a trusted financial expert?
In this comprehensive guide, we will give you the necessary information on how to start an accounting profession, providing the steps, qualifications, and remarkable opportunities that await aspiring accountants like you.
So, take the first step towards becoming a trusted financial expert and shaping the financial development of businesses and organizations. The future of your accounting goals awaits!
Roles and Responsibilities of an Accountant
Before we delve into the qualifications required, it's crucial to understand the diverse and essential roles you'll undertake as an accounting professional.
From meticulous financial record-keeping to strategic financial analysis, your responsibilities will encompass a wide array of tasks and these are:
Financial Reporting and Analysis
As an accountant, it is important to properly evaluate financial data and create reports because these tasks form the foundation of accounting.
This is essential in making well-informed decisions and ensuring the success of a business's financial performance and health.
Accountants possess invaluable expertise in handling tax obligations as they deeply understand intricate tax systems, which empowers them to guide businesses through the complexities.
They also ensure that tax laws and regulations are followed while working to lower their clients' tax obligations.
Auditing is a meticulous and comprehensive process of thoroughly scrutinising financial statements, records, and procedures. It involves delving into the intricate details and carefully examining each element. By following globally recognised accounting principles like GAAP or IFRS, auditors ensure that the financial components are accurate, dependable, and aligned. 
Starting with a relevant degree is typically advised to jumpstart your path to becoming a certified accountant in the UK. Thankfully, many universities in the UK offer undergraduate programs in accounting, finance, or business with an accounting emphasis. And these are:
- London School of Economics and Political Science
- University of Warwick
- University of Aberdeen
- University of Edinburgh
- University of Bath
If you don't have a bachelor's degree in accounting, don't worry.
Alternative routes can be taken to pursue a career in this area. You might consider obtaining AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) certifications or registering for foundational accounting courses, for example. These alternate paths offer essential knowledge and abilities for a prosperous accounting career.
Vocational and Academic Routes Compared
Vocational Route to Become an Accountant in the UK:
- Practical Experience: Opting for an accountancy apprenticeship or AAT qualification allows you to gain hands-on experience while studying, providing valuable practical skills in a professional setting.
- Faster Entry into the Workforce: Vocational routes typically have shorter study durations than university degrees, enabling you to enter the job opportunities sooner.
- Cost-Effective: Apprenticeships and AAT qualifications are more affordable than university degrees, as they often involve earning while learning and may have access to government funding or employer sponsorship.
- Limited Academic Focus: Vocational routes may provide specialized knowledge in accounting but might offer a different breadth of academic subjects than a university degree.
- Potential Career Limitations: Some higher-level roles in accounting may require a university degree, and certain employers prioritise candidates with a degree for certain positions.
- Networking Opportunities: University degrees often offer a more comprehensive network of peers, alums, and industry connections, which can benefit future career opportunities and professional development.
Academic Route to Become an Accountant in the UK:
- Comprehensive Academic Education: Pursuing a university degree in accounting provides a broad foundation of knowledge, covering various subjects related to finance, business, and economics.
- Potential for Specialisation: Universities often offer a range of accounting specialisations, allowing you to focus on areas such as auditing, taxation, or financial management.
- Enhanced Career Opportunities: Some higher-level positions and prestigious accountancy firms may require a university degree, and having a degree can open doors to a broader range of job prospects.
- Longer Study Duration: University degrees typically take longer to complete than vocational routes, which means it may take longer to enter the workforce.
- Higher Cost: University degrees often involve higher tuition fees and additional expenses, which can burden individuals financially.
- Limited Practical Experience: While universities may offer work placements or internships, the academic route generally focuses more on theoretical knowledge, and you may need to gain practical experience separately.
Accounting Qualifications in the UK
Let's now look at some outstanding professional bodies available in the UK that can help you stand out as a candidate in the competitive job market:
- ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) - Over the years, the London Association of Accountants has expanded its reach globally and became known as the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants in 1996.
Two levels are available from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), called Fundamentals and Professionals. There are 5 professional exams and 9 exams covering the fundamentals.
Additionally, to demonstrate how students have applied the ACCA's practical experience requirements (PER), students should have 36 months of relevant practical work experience in finance or accounting roles.
- ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) - The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) established the ACA qualification to professionalise the accounting industry and guarantee high standards of knowledge.
The ACA qualification requires candidates to complete 450 days of practical work experience and pass 15 exam modules successfully.
This rigorous combination of practical training and comprehensive exams ensures that ACA holders possess both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, making them well-rounded professionals in accounting and finance.
- CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) - The Federation of British Industries and the Institute of Accountants in London were among the organisations that founded CIMA during 1919 to advance the discipline of a management accountant.
The CIMA exam structure consists of 12 exam components that assess students' accounting and business knowledge. The first nine exams are known as Objective Tests. The three remaining exams are Case Study exams, which assess students' ability to integrate and apply their knowledge to real-life business situations
CIMA has also collaborated with the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation to further enhance the professional capabilities of management accountants worldwide. 
- AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) - AAT was established in London, United Kingdom, back in 1980. Since its humble beginnings, the AAT has embarked on a remarkable journey marked by numerous noteworthy achievements and accomplishments.
In 1994, the AAT became the first professional accounting organisation to be awarded a Royal Charter, reinforcing its commitment to professionalism and setting high standards for its members.
The AAT qualifications are structured across three levels: Levels 2 to 4. Each level consists of comprehensive courses that progressively build upon your accounting knowledge and expertise.
At VIVA, we help CIMA, ACCA, and AAT (2024) aspirants unlock their full potential. With access to hundreds of hours of engaging video lectures, detailed study notes, and mock exams with corrections, we equip you with all the essential tools for your journey.
We understand that education should be accessible and flexible. We offer affordable courses that fit your schedule and cater to your unique learning style. Our comprehensive syllabus coverage ensures you receive a top-notch education tailored to your needs.
But our courses go beyond just preparing you for exams. They're designed to equip you with necessary skills and real-world knowledge, empowering you to thrive in your accounting career.
Costs Associated With Becoming an Accountant
As an aspiring accountant, here are the several expenses to consider when pursuing a career in this field:
- Education and Certification
- Tuition fees for accounting programs or degrees.
- Exam fees for professional certifications like ACCA, ACA, or CIMA.
- Study materials and textbooks.
- Potential Travel and Living Expenses
- Accommodation costs if attending a course in a different city or country.
- Transportation expenses for commuting to educational institutions or exams.
- Living expenses such as food, rent, and utilities.
- Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
- Registration fees for workshops, conferences, or seminars.
- Travel expenses for attending CPD events.
- Accommodation costs during CPD programs.
- Miscellaneous Expenses:
- Membership fees for professional accounting bodies.
- Costs for networking events or industry-specific subscriptions.
- Software or technology expenses for accounting tools and programs.
It's important to plan and budget for these expenses, considering factors such as your financial situation and available finance options such as scholarships or grants, and employer-sponsored programs.
VIVA is committed to providing award-winning, affordable learning material to students of CIMA, ACCA and AAT (2024). With our All Access memberships, you can start learning from as little as £34 per course for CIMA and ACCA - a fraction of the cost of traditional providers!
Career Paths in Accounting
As you set out on your accounting career journey, it becomes vital to gain a deep understanding of the diverse range of career paths awaiting you beyond just knowing where to begin.
This will also help you identify your most substantial areas and unearth a true passion for what you do. Remember that the secret is to find the ideal match where your unique talents shine, your personal interests coincide, and you feel a deep sense of fulfillment.
In the private sector, industry regulations are of utmost importance for maintaining accuracy, transparency, and adherence to financial reporting standards for corporate finance.
Your responsibilities will include tasks like keeping track of financial transactions, creating financial statements and analysing financial data to assist in decision-making within the finance departments of businesses. Additionally, you will support forecasting and budgeting procedures, providing valuable assistance to businesses in their resource planning and allocation.
If you choose to work in an accounting firm, you will have the opportunity to offer clients essential services. These services might involve conducting financial statement analysis, providing assistance with tax planning and preparation, and auditing financial records to ensure accuracy and compliance.
Government and Nonprofit Accounting
Government entities encompass various levels of government, such as local, state, and federal; the primary objective of public finance accounting is to provide financial information for effective resource allocation and accountability.
On the other hand, nonprofit organizations are typically formed for charitable, educational, or social purposes. This focuses on ensuring transparency and reporting to stakeholders who has keen interest in the organisation's social impact rather than profitability.
By focusing on a particular specialisation, accountants can deepen their expertise, expand their career options, and cater to the specific needs of businesses in diverse industries. These specialised areas are:
- Forensic Accounting
- Internal Auditing
- Tax Accounting
- Management Accounting
Looking ahead, the accounting industry is expected to continue evolving due to advancements in technology, regulatory changes, and increasing demand for transparency and ethical practices.
These specialised areas will remain crucial in adapting to these changes. By embracing technology, incorporating data analytics, and staying updated with industry trends, accountants can leverage these specialisations to add value, drive innovation, and provide strategic insights to their clients or employers.
Income and Salary Expectations
After completing your education and becoming a chartered accountant, you can anticipate earning a respectable salary. Entry-level accountants typically make between £30,000 and £45,000 annually.
That amount may significantly increase from £45,000 to £90,000 or even more as you gain valuable experience and advance in your career.
These compensation ranges are merely estimates that may change depending on your location, industry sector, level of experience, and additional credentials.
You can steadily raise your earning potential in the field of accounting with hard work and ongoing professional development. 
The journey to becoming an accountant in the UK demands unwavering commitment, determination, and the necessary accountancy qualifications. To thrive in the competitive accounting landscape, staying informed about industry trends is crucial, participating in valuable workshops and seminars, and continuously enhancing your skills is vital.
As you navigate this path to success, We invite you to explore the resources on our website (CIMA here; ACCA here). Our tailored courses are designed to support your aspirations, whether you're taking your first steps in the field or seeking career advancement. Our comprehensive programs provide the guidance and knowledge you need to excel.