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Accountancy and Book-keeping

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Accountancy and Book-keeping

Got a feel for finance? A career in accountancy or book-keeping could pay off.

What’s involved?


Accountancy is a career that offers variety, professional qualifications, the opportunity to work internationally and, potentially, a high salary. Many accountants go on to use their qualification to set up their own business or to move into general management. Accountants are more highly qualified than book-keepers (who may also be known as accounts/finance clerks), and will generally manage, interpret and advise on accounts, while book-keepers keep them (as their name suggests!). Accountants may also be licensed to carry out functions like auditing, and may specialise in a particular accounting area.


Book-keepers record financial transactions. In a large organisation book-keepers may work in a finance office with other staff, perhaps supporting senior finance professionals. Their duties are likely to include completing VAT returns, preparing accounts, keeping records of payments, invoices and receipts, checking bank statements, calculating wages and filing paperwork.

Related skills gained in the Services

Each Service has its accountants and book-keepers, and many of them gain relevant professional qualifications while serving. However, many other Service people deal with accounts as part of their duties, too: supervisors of bars and messes, treasurers of sports and adventurous pursuits clubs, managers of non-public facilities and so on may be responsible for assets and cash that add up to a tidy sum. They may not have formal training or letters after their name, but they are certainly involved – and experienced – in the field.

Accounting is a recognised and valued skill that can open the door to a number of second careers, either as a full-time occupation or combined with other responsibilities. If it’s something you are interested in, it can be mastered at a distance while you are working in an unrelated career, although some years of experience are usually required before you can become fully qualified.






Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) - careers:

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS):

Chartered Accountants Ireland:

Get qualified!

Several professional bodies (some of which are described below) regulate the training and work of accountants in the UK but, as a general rule, qualifying as an accountant will involve three years of study, exams and relevant employment. Training for professional exams is provided by employers. Early responsibility and fast promotion are available if work and exam results are satisfactory. The main professional bodies are described below. For details of others, please see ‘Key contacts’.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

The range of professional activities carried out by chartered accountants includes auditing, financial reporting, taxation, personal finance, corporate finance, financial management and information technology. To become an ACA (Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) you must complete a training contract, which will last between three and five years, pass ICAEW examinations and complete specified work experience requirements.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

CIPFA specialises in accountancy and financial management in the public services. Chartered public finance accountants influence decisions through financial management; they also assess the financial viability of proposals that influence services in a changing environment. Its members work, often at the most senior levels, within public service bodies, in consultancy roles, in the national audit agencies and in major accountancy firms.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

ACCA is the world’s largest accountancy body. Its qualification can open up a career in financial or management accountancy. ACCA accountants work throughout the financial sector in public practice, financial services, the health service, industry, commerce and the public sector. It operates joint examination schemes in many countries, and works closely with tuition providers and employers across the world.

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Chartered management accountants are professional accountants who apply their skills to enhance management decision making. They are able to give financial matters a commercial focus – equally important for the executive chairman of an international group or a junior project analyst.

International Association of Book-keepers

Many book-keepers are highly competent at accounting, and some are experts in specialist areas. They are the people who actually complete the books of accounts, providing financial support to other professionals. The IAB’s syllabus offers exemptions for holders of other accountancy awards. It offers a number of qualifications and many of its exams lead in to higher-level qualifications with other accounting bodies.

Finding employment

Employment in accountancy and book-keeping varies enormously, from finance director of a large multinational to part-time bookkeeper working from home on the accounts of a few small local businesses. There are opportunities in public service and in private business, in public practice and in-house.

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