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Thinking of a Career in Finance or Accountancy?

Are you a Business graduate looking to pursue a career in Finance or in Accountancy? It can be difficult in deciding which is the best route for you to take as there are various different options that you can explore from training within industry, in smaller practices or in one of the Big 4.

I have gained some valuable experience in the recruiting for job opportunities in Accountancy and Finance in Ireland that I’d like to share. I’m responsible for sourcing talent and providing job opportunities to people looking to work in the area as; Financial Controllers, Financial Accountants, Management Accountants, Cost Accountants and so on.

Then comes the question of which body to be affiliated with, whether it is ACA, ACCA or CIMA, in order to obtain a career in Finance or Accountancy, each body offers something slightly different. I have explained these below to give you a better understanding of what each set of exams require.

It can be a difficult time to decide which is the best option for you, I have listed some of the advice that clients and candidates have shared with me in what helped them decide they wanted to pursue a career within Finance & Accountancy.

By going down the Practice route it usually means doing the ACA qualification as it is the preferred examination body for accounting practices. To gain a place in an accountancy practice the application process can start months in advance.

The exams are split into three separate sittings;

CA Proficiency I which has five subjects
CA Proficiency II which has four subjects
Final admitting exam (FAE) which combines six modules examined over two days plus an elective
A training contract is usually signed and lasts for typically three and a half years in which the trainee must complete all the exams. Study leave is given for the exams with as much as three months given off for the FAE. The failure rate for these exams is very high so a lot of study is required!

The career prospects from doing the ACA are both diverse and rewarding. Typically there’s a very high demand for ACAs qualified candidates within internal audit, financial control, financial planning and analysis, financial and management accountant roles.

After deciding it is the practice route you want to explore, then comes the next question – Where will I train? One of the Big 4, one of the Top 10 or a smaller practice? Each will offer something slightly different – typically when organisations are hiring they state that having Big 4 experience can be advantageous. I have explained some of the reasons that my clients have shared with me why they would prefer a candidate from a Big 4 background:

Learning Curve – When entering one of the Big 4 it puts you in a great place in terms of the experience you can gain. You develop skills very quickly in comparison to smaller practices. The exposure you receive means you are constantly learning new things and faced with new challenges.

Responsibility – During your second year you will start to gain managerial experience. Typically you will have one to two people who will report in to you. You will be responsible for their progress and in turn report to your boss. By the time you are a fully qualified accountant you will also have gained people management experience, something you may not gain from smaller practices.

Transfer of knowledge – You will get to work with great mentors who are extremely hard working and successful. This will be the foundation that you can build your own career on. You will gain experience through observing your seniors and by picking up some very good habits.

Promotion – Within the Big 4 firms hard work is rewarded. The model they work of is that there is always room for high performers to advance. This is possible because of the size and scope of the organisations and the amount of clients they work with. Promotion can be a little harder within smaller organisations because of competition.

Exposure – The Big 4 work some of the best companies in the world. You gain exposure to these organisations that will make you stand out against other accountants when on the job hunt. There is also a possibility of international opportunities, this allows you to gain experience outside of Ireland, something that may not be possible with smaller practices.

By having Big 4 on your CV it demonstrates that you are a cable, hardworking and focused individual. Big 4 working hours can be long and sometimes the environments are stressful. It’s not only about the work that you do but it also shows potential employers that you can cope with stressful environments and succeed and prosper.

Alternatively there is the option to train within industry; this can vary from large Multinationals to small Family run orgnaisations. To pursue a Finance or Accountancy career within industry typically the ACCA, CIMA & CPA route is preferred. These bodies are much different, both in relation to exam structure and professional experience gained. The candidate would work in an organisation as an assistant accountant in various different finance functions. These functions could span over Credit Control, Financial Planning & Analysis, General Ledger and many more.

The ACCA exam process consists of 14 exams:

9 fundamentals
professional exams
The majority of graduates who have studied accountancy will have some exemptions gained from their degree.

The CIMA exam process is split into 3 levels:

The operational level
The management level
The strategic level

There are 3 exams in each of the level along with a case study exam. Again graduates have a possibility to gain exemptions from their studies.

ACCA tends to focus more on the technical side of accounting practices and leads to jobs such as corporate accountant, tax accountant, auditor etc. CIMA has much more of an emphasis on management reporting, corporate strategy and organisations. CIMA jobs tend to fall more within the remit of forecasting, budget making, variance analysis and strategy. However there is a lot of cross-over between the two particularly in recent years.

Whatever path you chose you can expect to enjoy a rewarding, diverse and challenging career ahead. You can work in a wide variety of areas for many types of sectors, organisations and roles.

Please contact me if I can be of any assistance to you regarding job opportunities in Accountancy & Finance in Ireland.

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