Accounting and professional services provide the most vacancies among the top 100 graduate recruiters.
The Graduate Market in 2016 (PDF: 602KB) report shows that in 2015 there was a 12.3% increase in the number of graduate roles compared with the previous year.
The same report also shows that accountancy and professional service firms are among those offering the highest graduate starting salaries, an average of £30,300.
Qualifying with a professional accountancy body can give your career, bank balance and professional reputation a huge boost. It can take three or four years, but most accountancy employers will give you time to study and pay for your exams.
The following websites give advice about careers in accountancy:
- Accountancy, banking and finance (Prospects)
- Chartered Accountancy (Inside Careers)
- Accountancy and financial management (TARGETJobs)
- City & Finance (TARGETJobs)
- Accounting – accounting careers newspaper for students (The Gateway)
- Accountancy – news, job profiles, featured employers and online forum (AllAboutCareers)
For tax and financial management there is:
- Tax: graduate area of work (TARGETJobs)
- Tax Profession (Inside Careers)
- What does a financial manager do? (Wisegeek)
- Corporate treasury (TARGETJobs)
- A Career in Treasury and How to get into Treasury for graduates
You can also view video case studies:
- PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) UK Careers Channel – overviews of PwC financial careers
- Careerplayer: Accounting and financial services – an overview and specific job profiles
- Journey to Work – log in to access off campus
News and research
They represent the interests of people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates. Follow professional associations on LinkedIn or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies.
The main professional UK institutes for accountancy include:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW)
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
- Institute of Financial Accountants – for non-chartered accountants
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
- Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors
- Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
There are also accountancy associations and financial regulation authorities, including:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- Association of Practising Accountants – for medium-sized firms
- Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)
- Financial Conduct Authority – regulates UK financial services
- Prudential Regulation Authority – regulates banks, building societies, insurers etc
Organisations looking at tax include the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Irish Tax Institute and Association of Taxation Technicians. The Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) deals with financial management.
Making contacts is useful for success in this sector. Gaining insight and arranging work experience comes through networking and speculative applications. You could start with:
- Graduate Connections – working graduates happy to give you advice
- social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter – useful for contacts, employers and finding opportunities
- connecting with our alumni on LinkedIn. Find out what they did after graduation and how they got there, and contact them for advice and inspiration.
Recruitment fairs, open days, talks and other sector events give valuable insight. There is also the opportunity to make useful contacts.
Many big employers and the professional bodies in this sector run events and other opportunities, for example:
- Discover EY - one or two-day programme run in EY's offices across the UK
- PwC’s offer a range of networking events and opportunities, such as Women in Business, a 3 day paid placement.
- TARGETjobs Events lists Deloitte’s ‘Guiding you to amazing’ opportunity to help anyone thinking of applying to them.
- KPMG: Ace the Case – two day workshop to advance your analytical, case writing and presentation skills.
- ICAEW – Women in Accountancy, Finance and Business
Or see our other Sector-specific pages for more options.
Roles and Skills
Accountants analyse and prepare financial records, which are vital to the efficient running of any business.
There are many different areas of accountancy to work in. You can focus on a company’s current position or use financial information to make decisions for the future.
The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties, entry requirements and case studies.
Chartered certified accountant
Chartered management accountant
Chartered public finance accountant
Skills employers look for
- analytical and problem-solving skills
- numeracy skills, particularly working with statistics
- a methodical approach, with accuracy and attention to detail
- communication and interpersonal skills
- leadership and effective team working skills
Employers will want you to show a real interest in and awareness of finance and business. They will also expect you to be proficient with IT. Most graduate roles in this sector require you to study while working, so self-motivation, commitment, time-management and working under pressure to deadlines are all important.
For roles in tax, you need the ability to interpret and explain complex legislation to non-specialists. Tact and discretion are also essential, as you will be working with confidential information.
Finding a job in accountancy is competitive. Relevant work experience is invaluable in developing expertise and demonstrating motivation and commitment.
Most large companies advertise summer internships early in the first semester. These are usually aimed at undergraduate students in or above their second year of study.
Applications open early, around August, with closing dates usually between October to January. Placements with smaller companies are not always advertised. You'll need to contact the employer with a speculative approach.
Several recruiters are now offering ‘insight days’ to first year undergraduates. These tend to be for one to five days during Easter and/or Christmas vacations. They are a good way to find out more about a company and get the edge for internship applications.
Finding work experience
Use the following sources to find advertised opportunities:
See Internships, placements and shadowing for additional ways to find work experience.
Speculative applications are when you contact employers directly, ie not in response to an advertised vacancy.
They are a useful way to approach smaller employers who don’t offer formal internships. They also help with finding opportunities in a specialised field or specific location.
Find companies by:
- using our North East Graduate Directory to search for local companies who may offer work experience
- researching employers, including company profiles, business directories and databases
- checking social media for connecting with employers, particularly LinkedIn
- accessing professional bodies' member directories of accredited organisations
Other ways to gain experience
To develop your skills, or if you are having difficulty finding relevant experience, you can:
- look out for employer events
- take part in competitions
- volunteer, eg Oxfam Finance Office in Newcastle offers voluntary work to students
- become active in student societies, eg acting as treasurer
- think about part-time work. Finding a part-time job in accountancy or tax is less likely; however, working in other sectors can help you to develop relevant skills.
- take a free online course, eg The importance of money in business (FutureLearn). This will help demonstrate your interest in and commitment to the sector.
- read Why you shouldn’t panic if you haven’t got an accountancy internship on your CV (TARGETjobs)
Taking part in competitions is a way to enhance your CV, raise your profile and gain valuable skills while having fun.
You could also win a cash prize, an internship or even a chance to travel abroad.
There are lots of national and international competitions open to students. Those listed below are relevant to the accountancy sector. Deadlines are throughout the year, so check each link for up-to-date information.
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants' Global Business Challenge
- KPMG International Case Competition
- ModelOff – financial modelling work champions
- Undergraduate student of the year – includes a Future Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Year award
See Awards and Competitions for details of general competitions and those for other sectors.
Competition is strong, especially for entry-level positions. Use these resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications.
Careers Service: Vacancies Online - graduate vacancies in the North East, UK and overseas. Log in to sign up for personalised email alerts.
Occupational profiles on Prospects website link to employers and vacancy sources for specific jobs.
- Inside Careers
- National Audit Office
- HMRC Tax professional programme
- HM Treasury graduate opportunities
Professional bodies – training vacancies and immediate start jobs
- ICAEW – training vacancies and jobs search
- ACCA – graduates and jobs board
- CIMA – undergraduate club (requires free registration) and Global jobs
- CIPFA – trainee vacancies (requires free registration) and jobs available now
- ICAS – training vacancies and job search
- Chartered Accountants Ireland – training vacancies and jobs listing
- eFinancial Careers - worldwide jobs in all financial sectors. Site also includes examples of real interview questions, listed by employer.
- City Jobs
- Accountancy Age Jobs – search by experience level
- Guardian Jobs – under ‘job level’ select ‘graduate’ or ‘entry level’
Public sector, audit, tax and corporate treasury
- LG Jobs - vacancies in local government
- Civil service jobs
- Taxation - Jobs
- Careers in Audit
- ACT Treasury Jobs
See more sources of graduate jobs.
Specialist recruitment agencies
Recruitment agencies often advertise graduate and entry-level positions. They also have a wealth of industry knowledge.
Search Agency Central for a list of specialist recruitment agencies.
Not all jobs are advertised. You can approach firms or find work through networking in the industry.
Find firms that interest you and get in touch, always with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.
Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen.
Professional body directories
- ACCA employers
- ICAEW recruiters
- CIMA recruiters
- Chartered Accountants Ireland – listed by county
Company reviews and listings
Study and Training
To become a qualified accountant or tax adviser you'll need to complete professional training. This usually takes three to four years.
It is legal to work as an accountant without training with one of the professional accountancy bodies. But being qualified will vastly improve your employment prospects. To work in audit or insolvency, by law you need a certificate from a recognised qualifying body.
Choosing a trainee position
Most graduates will break into this sector by taking up a trainee position with an employer. Employers usually have preferred training providers and will support you through your qualifications.
The support you get from employers can vary, from paying for exams to giving you study time off, or providing a mentor. It is important to consider the support open to you when deciding which trainee position to apply for.
You should also consider the different qualifications available, and what impact they have on:
- the type of accountancy and sort of role you would like
- which employers you would like to work for
- what title you want to use – eg chartered accountant or chartered certified accountant
- what the training will involve – some qualifications are longer and require more exams
- whether you already have exemptions from studying an accredited course. That could fast-track qualifying time for specific professional bodies
- whether you want to work abroad – is the qualification internationally recognised?