Accountants manage money and prepare, examine and audit a company or client’s financial records.
Ultimately, an accountant’s main goal is to protect the financial health of the business they work for, by ensuring financial statements are accurate and up-to-date and that profitability is maximised.
This in-depth guide includes a full accountant job description and everything else you need to know about accountants, including salaries, skills, qualifications, typical employers and more.
- Accountant job description
- How much do accountants earn?
- What does an accountant do?
- Requirements, skills and qualifications
- Who employs accountants?
- Which junior jobs progress to accountant roles?
Accountant job description
Accountant | JW Chartered Accountancy
About JW Chartered Accountancy
We’re a nationally recognised practice with an unrivalled reputation for providing outstanding client accountancy services across a range of sectors, including real estate, education and corporate consultancy.
About the role
We are seeking a fully qualified chartered accountant to manage accounting, VAT and tax affairs for a range of sole traders, partnerships and limited companies. Reporting directly to the Director of Finance, the successful candidate will deliver full client services whilst supporting the wider development of the practice.
- Preparing accurate statutory accounts, tax computations and returns and VAT returns for a range of clients.
- Contributing to the planning and completion of audit assignments alongside the audit manager.
- Producing quarterly, monthly and annual management accounts for assigned clients.
- Pinpointing and reconciling discrepancies through accounts analysis.
- Handling day-to-day enquiries and questions from clients via email and phone.
- Developing strong client relationships and traveling to client premises when required.
- Maintaining an exceptional level of knowledge around international & local financial and legal requirements and enforcing strict adherence to the requirements.
- Supporting senior management in various financial projects as they arise.
Location & commitments
- Permanent, full-time role based in our city-centre Birmingham office.
- 35 hours per week with flexitime between 8am and 6pm.
- Occasional out-of-hours work may be necessary during the tax period.
- Fully AAT, ICAEW or ICAS qualified.
- 5+ years experience obtained in a general accountancy practice.
- Experience of writing reports that explain complex technical issues in a way that less experienced accountants and clients can understand.
- Sound working knowledge of Xero, Sage One, VT and BTC.
- Experience of managing junior staff members and trainees.
- Advanced Excel skills – this will be tested at interview stage.
- Exceptional written and verbal communication skills.
- 2:1 or higher degree in Maths, Accounting, Finance or Economics.
Contact us to apply
Get in touch with us today! You can apply by sending your CV and a cover letter to our hiring manager Jack Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much do accountants earn?
Accountancy is a prestigious and highly-skilled profession, meaning salaries for fully-qualified accountants are generally well above the national average.
Accountant salaries in the UK
- Low: £21,758
- Average: £30,711
- High: £59,290
Accountant salaries will vary hugely depending on:
- Type and size of firm/sector – For example, salaries in banking and capital markets command the highest salaries, while larger firms generally pay more generously than smaller ones.
- Chartered status – Accountants who have achieved chartered status normally achieve a significantly higher paycheck than part-qualified or unqualified accountants.
- Experience – During training, earning potential is lower. However, after gaining a formal accounting qualification and a few years of work experience, salaries increase dramatically.
- Region – For example, accountants in London command an average salary of £79,207, whilst accountants in Wales have a lower average salary of £41,129.
These are average figures taken from job advert samples and do not include extra benefits such as bonuses, overtime and non-financial benefits such as healthcare, which are common in accountancy roles.
What does an accountant do?
Breaking down the job description, accountants carry out the following tasks and duties in an average working week:
- Preparing accounts – Maintaining and preparing financial statements, such as profit and loss, cost accounting and monthly, quarterly and annual closing reports.
- Filing tax returns – Advising and preparing tax forms and returns in line with current legislation, pinpointing appropriate tax savings and ensuring the right amount of tax is paid.
- Administering payroll – Performing payroll calculations, processing salaries and maintaining accurate payroll records.
- Carrying out financial audits – Undertaking thorough audits of the company or client’s financial position, producing reports and recommendations and ensuring records are accurate and compliant.
- Resolving discrepancies – Identifying and investigating discrepancies, before taking appropriate corrective action.
- Providing financial advice – Liaising with companies or clients to provide informed financial information, recommendations and advice, including mergers and acquisitions.
- Financial forecasting – Review data, market trends and competitor research to provide and present accurate financial forecasts.
- Performing risk analysis – Reviewing financial status and systems, in order to analyse risk and provide recommendations to manage risk.
- Managing and training staff – Managing junior members of the team, such as trainee accountants or account assistants.
What do accountants need?
Accounting is a prestigious and potentially lucrative profession, but it takes considerable time, study and experience in order to become certified or chartered.
There are numerous routes into accountancy, but exact requirements will depend on the seniority and specialism of each job. Generally speaking, here’s what’s needed:
Trainee accountant jobs usually require a good degree alone, but a clear interest in accountancy, maths and finance can put applicants at an advantage. Additionally, pre-entry work experience as an accounts or finance assistant, or any other role that involves working with numbers, can land applicants in good stead to land a training contract.
Chartered/certified accountant roles require candidates to have completed a rigorous training programme and gained chartered or certified status, as well as several years of real-world accounting experience. If the role is specialised — for example audit, forensic accounting or tax — applicants will need to have gained significant experience in the specific area.
Aside from the industry specific skills mentioned above, the following soft skills are essential for a career in accountancy:
- Self-motivation: Having a strong work ethic and motivation in order to complete an intense training programme and work long hours.
- Communication: Breaking down accounting and finance jargon and explaining the numbers in an easily digestible manner to clients, colleagues and stakeholders.
- Customer service: Providing excellent customer service, in order to retain clients or keep internal customers happy.
- Technical prowess: Understanding of the major accounting software and technologies, such as QuickBooks, Hyperion, Sage and Xero.
- Problem solving: Identifying innovative, creative and effective solutions to problems under own initiative.
- Resilience: Capable of working under pressure, maintaining a positive approach during high-pressured periods and handling problems professionally.
- Time management: Managing numerous tasks, deadlines and commitments effectively and planning workloads appropriately.
While it’s possible to work as an accountant without a professional qualification, salaries and career opportunities will be limited. There are several routes into chartered or certified accountancy, all of which lead to a professional accounting qualification. These are normally undertaken alongside an apprenticeship or graduate training contract.
Accounting & Finance Degree
While a degree isn’t a necessity to enter the accounting profession, it is a highly viable route to take into the sector. Most accounting & finance university courses are partnered alongside a professional accounting body, meaning students can graduate part-qualified and are able to take a fast-track route to a professional accountancy qualifications.
However, it’s worth noting that an accounting and finance degree isn’t a necessity. Most professional accounting bodies will accept motivated applicants with a good-quality degree in any subject.
The Association of Accounting Technicians offer several accounting qualifications, including:
- Foundation Certificate (Level 2)
- Advanced Diploma (Level 3)
- Professional Diploma (Level 4)
The courses are highly practical and teach students the real world skills and industry knowledge needed to perform essential accounting functions. Those who gain a professional diploma can then become a full AAT member, which is often used as the quality mark for organisations when recruiting for accounting and finance positions.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants offer qualifications at two levels: Fundamental and Professionals. In order to become an ACCA member, students have to complete 13 exams and provide evidence of three years practical and relevant work experience. This membership is recognised worldwide, and once completed, is ranked at Masters level.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accounts Business Accounting Certificate is another viable option for aspiring accountants. The qualification provides students with the business, finance and technical skills needed to work with the strategic needs of businesses. Upon completion (which also required three years of relevant work experience), students will gain chartered management accountant status.
For roles in the public sector, a CIPFA professional accountancy qualification is essential. The course provides the key skills and competencies required for a finance or accounting career in the public services specifically. Students are required to complete 400 hours of work experience, but once qualified, will receive the globally renowned CPFA designation.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales offer the ACA qualification, another well-respected route which allows students to achieve chartered accountant status. Students are required to complete three years paid training on-the-job, with regular study leave to complete a series of exams.
What is expected of accountants?
Typically, accountants will be expected to commit the following:
- Full-time hours – Accountants typically work full-time office hours (35 – 40 hours per week).
- Overtime – Having to commit to overtime is common for accountants, especially during busy periods, such as tax season.
- Location – Normally based at the employer’s
As accountants are in demand, roles will usually come with a generous benefits package, including things like:
- Paid holiday
- Bonuses – Often based on company financial performance
- Ongoing training towards qualified status
- Options for flexible working
Who employs accountants?
Accountancy is vital for companies and organisations of all sizes, meaning there is an enviable range of potential employment options.
Jobs are available in the public, private and not-for-profit sector, in both large multinational firms and smaller businesses. With experience, some accountants also choose to go self-employed or set up their own accountancy firm.
Typical accountant employers include companies within:
- Public practice (accounting firms and practices)
- Industry and commerce (retail, manufacturing, telecoms etc)
- Public sector (government, universities, charities etc)
Which junior jobs progress to accountant roles?
While a degree followed by professional accounting qualifications is a popular route into accountancy, organisations are increasingly offering apprenticeships, work experience and internships to aspiring accountants.
The following entry-level routes are a good foot in the door to the sector, and often lead to supported on-the-job training into an accountancy role:
Accounting assistants work under the direct supervision of an accountant or finance manager and help to maintain the office, provide administrative support and assist with basic financial tasks. Many accountants start as accounts assistants, before gaining in-house training and qualifications to become a chartered accountant.
Organisations are investing more and more money into accounting apprenticeship schemes, creating an opportunity for entry-level applicants to become a fully chartered accountant in just five years. Apprentice accountants are paid to learn on-the-job, whilst also studying a relevant professional qualification.
Similarly, shorter training contracts and programmes are available for graduates, which normally include paid employment alongside study.
Which senior jobs do accountants progress to?
While accountancy is a rewarding career choice in its own right, opportunities for progression and promotion are varied and plentiful.
As the skills gained from accounting qualifications and work experience are so transferable, employment can be found in senior finance and strategy positions across financial services, banking and commerce, as well as the public and not-for-profit areas.
However, with experience, accountants often move directly in the roles of:
After a few years on-the-job experience, accountants can move into senior accountant positions. These types of roles normally involve managing a team of junior accountants, as well as ensuring the accuracy of all the accounting tasks within the company. While these roles will come with a hike in the level of responsibility, it tends to be reflected generously in the salary.
Finance controller or director
Most qualified accountants aspire to become a finance controller or director. These top-level roles command a high level of responsibility and involve working closely with the CEO to ensure a business is making as much money as it possibly can. This level progression is generally available after 10 to 15 years of experience and can attract extremely high salaries.
Accountant job description – conclusion
Accountancy is a highly regarded profession, with almost 600,000 people employed in accountancy roles in the UK alone. With a multitude of opportunities for progression, paired with strong job security, it makes for a rewarding, wise and lucrative career choice.