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With a variety of Accounting firms across the country there are many routes you can take to get into the industry.

Resume Surgeon talks with Gemma Pilkington, an Accountant from the UK, to find out how she did it and to ask for some job search advice.

Did You Always want to be an Accountant?

I hadn’t planned on becoming an Accountant. When I went to college I took Psychology, Sociology and Law as I thought I wanted to become a Solicitor. I didn’t mind Maths at school but it’s not something I thought I was really good at! I applied to Colleges to do an Accounting and Law degree as I thought that Accountancy was something I would be interested in.
I then got a job in a firm of Solicitors as a Receptionist. This didn’t work out as I really didn’t enjoy it so I decided to go to College and begin a course. During my time at College I really enjoyed the accountancy side of the course and that’s when I knew it was for me.

How Did You Get Into the Industry?

After completing my degree in Accounting and Finance I joined an Accountancy firm which offered to pay me to train for the ACA qualification so I could qualify as a Chartered Accountant. I got this job after completing some work experience during the summer holidays before my final year at College. This really helped me get an understanding of the industry before I completed my final year and I think helped with my work and assignments.

Are There Other Ways of Getting Into the Industry?

There are different routes; You could complete your AAT to become an Accountancy Technician. You can do this straight from school after completing GCSE’s or after A levels. After this, you could then complete the further accountancy exams in ACA, ACCA or CIMA accountancy bodies.

What’s The Hardest Part of the Job?

All the exams! It is hard work trying to study for them whilst working. Although you get the study leave to go to college you then have to work your revision etc around your workload. I was lucky because my job was 9-5 and therefore I did have the evenings free but it is common in larger accountancy firms for you to have to work longer hours. It takes a lot of dedication.

There Are a Lot of Companies Out There – How Do You Know When You Have Picked The Right One?

It is difficult. There are a lot of companies and a lot of different aspects of the industry that you can get into – this does make it flexible but it can be hard to decide. I decided to join a practice where I knew I would have a varied role; compiling statutory accounts, bookkeeping, preparing management accounts, cash flow projections and auditing. I have now worked for a large Accountancy firm too and I have decided that I am better suited to the smaller firms where my workflow is more diverse and I have a more day-to-day involvement with the companies and their owners. You are likely to have more progression in a larger firm although I think you are given more responsibility in a smaller firm. It’s personal preference.

Is Everyday Different?

Yes. I enjoy having a varied role rather than auditing every day. It’s nice to go out on audits as you get to visit different businesses and get out of the office. It’s also a good insight into different industries and how different businesses operate.

What’s The Best Part of Your Job?

Going out to visit clients. I also love the company – it’s a nice environment to work in because it’s such a close team.

Is There a Lot of Progression in the Industry?

There is a lot of flexibility because you can transfer to different areas – the main two being Industry and Practice. Industry is where you work as an Accountant as part of an accounts department in a company and Practice is where you produce the accounts or audit a variety of company accounts.

What Is Your Advice to Candidates Applying for Jobs?

Work hard to gain your qualifications and be dedicated. There are quite a few different qualifications; CIMA – Management Accountant, ACCA – Certified Chartered Accountant or ACA – Chartered Accountant. From there the opportunities are vast – you could set up a business on your own or provide freelance work for an accountancy firm.

What Are Your Aspirations for the Future?

I just want to work for a firm that I enjoy working for and where the people are fun to work with. I have no fixed career path. I have been qualified for a year so I am just looking to gain some good post-qualification experience which continues to challenge me and develop my skills – who knows what my future will hold!


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