Careers clinic: It all adds up
A chemistry degree could well lead to a career in accountancy, writes Charlotte Ashley-Roberts
Q I recently saw you at a careers talk where you talked about doing something different with a chemistry degree. One thing you mentioned was accountancy. I am treasurer for my local rugby club and really enjoy this; can you tell me a bit more about it and whether it is something that I really could do?
A Accountancy is certainly something that you can get into with a chemistry degree. Entry is open to graduates of all disciplines and, although some employers will want a degree in maths or economics, a large number have business-related degrees and other subjects are strongly represented, including science. According to the publication What do graduates do? around 10 per cent of chemistry graduates go into business and financial roles (you can find out more at Prospects.ac.uk.
There is no 'typical' employer, as chartered accountants can opt to work in any sector and in all sizes of organisations, but you may find it worthwhile to look at graduate schemes. Getting a place on a graduate training scheme is a very respected and popular way into accounting. Firms of all sizes offer graduate training schemes and often it's the balance of the training and benefits package that will help you decide where you'll best fit.
When it comes to applying for a job, competition to enter the profession is strong and the selection process rigorous. I am not sure if you are still doing your degree or if you have finished, but it is best to start applying in the autumn to ensure access to the widest range of opportunities. Some employers have application deadlines at the end of October, and most of the larger firms only recruit once a year at this time. So make sure you research all your options and get your application in with plenty of time to spare.
From your degree and also your treasurer position you will have gained many skills, some relevant and some transferable, such as problem solving, analytical, logical thought processes and numeracy abilities. As well as these skills you will have skills in dealing and working with people, management and the ability to prioritise. It is worth highlighting these in your application.
One of the biggest benefits of being on a graduate training scheme is that not only does your employer pay for all your training; they try to work time for studying into your working hours. Some companies offer a set number of study days for their graduates. Others will make sure you go on part-time courses; although you will probably be expected to do your homework and assignments in your own time.
Once you've secured your place, you'll need to balance building up work experience with getting your professional accountancy exams. On-the-job work experience will involve working as part of a team to learn the basics of accountancy such as legal requirements; how to balance and check books; setting budgets and watching that they are kept to; and analysing financial data to provide reports and predictions.
Training lasts typically for around three years (longer for the vocational route), and combines professional development, approximately 450 days of technical work experience, a structured ethics component and of course various stages of exams.
As you learn more in your studies, you will probably find that your interests lead you in a certain direction, which means you can go on to specialise in that area if you want - tax or management accounting for example. There are different exams that you can do depending on which area you would like to go into; public or private finance, auditing and so on.
Speak to an accountant
I would recommend that your next steps include looking at some of the websites I have mentioned and researching whether it is something you would like to pursue. I would also encourage you to speak to someone who is an accountant and find out more about it from someone who has been through the process. Additionally, any work experience that you can get in the holidays could make all the difference in showing a potential employer how serious you are about the role.
I hope this gives you some food for thought and as always if you need any more support please get in touch with us at careers.
The UK's official graduate careers website
Association of Chatered Certified Accountants
The global body for professional accountants
Association of International Accountants
Creating world class accounts
Association of Accounting Technicians
The UK's leading qualification and membership body for accounting and finance staff.
Specialists in graduate careers
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