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Everything you need to know about jobs in Accountancy and Finance

25th March 2020

As an accountant or finance professional, your role is integral in the smooth and profitable running of any business; large or small. Accountancy roles offer excellent opportunities for advancement, great pay and often job security. Flexible learning means that many roles don’t require specific qualifications to get started, with the opportunity to study and qualify while on the job. 

Here we answer many of the queries we regularly get asked about jobs in finance and accountancy; covering questions such as how much you can expect to earn, what a career path in accountancy would look like and interview questions to expect.

What roles can you find in Accountancy and Finance?

Generally speaking there are a number of different types of roles available across a broad range of sectors. Some job titles may combine different roles together, depending on the size of the organisation and team. To give you an idea of the types of roles you might find on your job search, we have listed some of these below.

Purchase Ledger

An excellent attention to detail is a must for a Purchase Ledger; the role involves overseeing the day-to-day running of the purchase ledger, processing invoices and payment runs, managing supplier statements and reconciliations, as well as assisting with bank reconciliation.

Credit Controller

A Credit Controller is responsible for recovering monies owed to a business. This is usually a telephone-based role and involves chasing outstanding payments, evaluating new credit requests, negotiating repayment plans and dealing with escalated queries.

Payroll Manager

Managing the payrolls of all employees, a Payroll Manager audits and reviews all relevant information received in order to process the monthly payrolls, whilst ensuring statutory requirements and company policies are adhered to. They will also oversee monthly and weekly submissions of BACS payments and if relevant oversee Payroll Administrators.

Business Finance Partner/Analyst

The focus of a Business Finance Partner is to enhance and improve the understanding of business performance. This is done through the development of daily and weekly performance data and production of management accounts and associated reconciliations and reports.

Financial Accountant 

A financial accountant takes ownership of financial reporting across the company – the role usually demands a fully qualified accountant with a strong technical background. It is a detail-driven role which involves recording, summarising and reporting transactions for the business. 

Management Accountant

Working towards tight deadlines is a prerequisite for a Management Accountant, where supplying prompt analysis for the business is a large part of the role. Aspects of the role might include preparation of the monthly management accounts, liaison with budget holders to produce timely annual budgets and assisting with year-end reports.

Finance Manager

Often reporting to the Finance Director or senior finance figure, and partnering with senior stakeholders, a Finance Manager is integral in providing financial accounting, forecasting and support to the business. The role requires management experience and usually an ACCA/CIMA equivalent qualification.

What would a career path in accountancy and finance look like?

An Accounts Assistant or Purchase Ledger role is a good place to start and doesn’t necessarily require an accounts qualification; it’s a great way to get a feel for the industry and gain essential experience. Once you have accounts experience then opportunities could include a Payroll Assistant role or Credit Controller.  

As a part-qualified accountant studying towards a professional qualification you could move into roles such as an Assistant Management Accountant. After completing your qualification and gaining more experience in the industry then further roles will be opened up to you as a newly qualified accountant.

After three or more years’ experience then fully qualified accountants could explore roles such as a Financial Accountant, reporting into Finance Manager – or at a higher level, a Financial Controller. Once you have gained management experience then roles such as Finance Manager are open to you. 

After being chartered for five years or more then career progression will include opportunities in leadership roles such as a Finance Director or Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) Manager 

Why is the finance and accounts team essential to an organisation?

Efficient management of finances is the keystone of any sound business practice. Larger companies may have more roles to manage each of the tasks needed, but ultimately the finance and accounts department is essential in ensuring the smooth, efficient and profitable running of a company. 

In order to do this effectively, the senior team members need to have a good understanding of all aspects of the company so that they can develop a successful financial strategy.  

As this team also oversees tasks such as payroll they provide a very useful service to employees too in ensuring everyone gets paid the right amount, on time!

What qualifications do you need to work in finance and accountancy?

Not all roles require qualifications, in fact many entry-level posts such as Accounts Assistant do not require any finance-specific qualifications – a good attention to detail is key though. 

Due to the nature of finance and accountancy roles, there are some positions that require part or full qualifications. Roles such as Assistant Management Accountant require you to be actively studying a professional qualification such as AAT, CIMA or ACA. These diplomas allow you to study accountancy without any previous qualifications.

If you want to pursue a career in chartered accountancy for example, or move further up the finance ladder, then you would need a professional qualification such as the ACCA. This accountancy-specific qualification can help further your career and increase your paygrade. A degree-level qualification or completion of another professional qualification such as the AAT diploma is often a prerequisite for the ACCA. 

Salaries vary depending on accountancy role, experience and qualifications, but in general you can expect to earn up to £80,000, although salaries will go above this if you are working at a director-level. 

As a Credit Controller or Accounts Assistant in the CMA regions you could expect to earn between £20,000 – £30,000, or up to £28,000 with previous experience. Some roles will also offer AAT study support for employees. A Management Accountant might expect between £35,000 – £45,000 depending on experience and qualifications.

The level of your qualification and the number of years of Post Qualified Experience (PQE) that you have will also dictate your pay grade. 

Many accountancy and finance roles, particularly at the higher end of the pay scale, offer additional benefits such as a company car, healthcare or bonuses. You can read a more detailed analysis of market trends and salary expectations within the accountancy and finance sector in our Salary Guide.

Preparing for the interview: potential interview questions for finance and accountancy roles

We have previously written several guides with dos and don’ts to help you get ready for your interview and the tips to make sure you are well-prepared. It can be useful to have an overview of some of the questions you might be asked when interviewing for a finance-related role, so we have covered some popular questions below. 

What accounting applications are you familiar with?

The interviewer wants to know that you have experience with different accounting tools, so demonstrate your knowledge by listing the ones you have used, with comments on what you like and don’t like about using them and which one(s) you prefer. Of course, you will not be expected to have used all of the software that is available but demonstrating that you are confident in working with more than one application is a must. 

Describe any accounting process that you have sought to improve in a previous role.

Innovation is a desirable skill for finance and accountancy roles and this question seeks to understand how you have engaged these skills in a previous role. If you are just starting your career then you may not have yet implemented or developed any processes, so instead try to think of a similar situation where you have used outside the box thinking or creativity to streamline a process.

Are you able to convey technical information to someone outside of your department? Please give an example.

Great communication and the ability to be able to convey complex financial information or technical knowledge to someone without your background is an essential skill for an accountant. The interviewer wants you to demonstrate your excellent communication skills here; showing how you can break down information step by step, so be prepared with an example ahead of the interview; it doesn’t even need to be related to accountancy. 

Our final tip would be to speak with your recruiter, they are a valuable resource when preparing for your interview. They are here to help you.

If you’re looking to start a career in accountancy and finance or searching for your next role, then our expert consultants can help you take that step forward. View our current job listings or contact us today to speak to one of our dedicated consultants.