A chartered accountant (or CA) has working experience in accountancy (usually three to five years), has completed a graduate programme, and has a qualification from a professional accounting body, such as the ACCA. They only achieve this qualification after passing a series of exams.
They mainly cover areas from auditing, insolvency and taxation, to forensic accounting, corporate finance, and financial reporting. A chartered accountant is there to help a business grow by giving expert advice and managing risks. They are an essential part of a variety of industries and businesses. According to a 2017 study by the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB), there were 260,000 in the UK and Republic of Ireland*.
What is the difference between an accountant and a chartered accountant?
While anybody who has completed the foundations in accountancy can call themselves an accountant, to become chartered you must:
Have had at least 3 years’ experience working alongside an existing chartered accountant, under a graduate programme
Have completed a qualification with a professional accounting body, like the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)
An accountant doesn’t need to be qualified and often doesn’t have as much experience. They usually specialise in one area, such as tax, VAT, or payroll. However, an accountant with a chartered status is a qualified expert and will be registered with a professional accounting body.
Unqualified accountants are still subject to the same laws, however CA’s are also bound by a Code of Ethics. The codes depend on the body they are registered with, but they all provide their own framework of behaviour for their members. Non-compliance results in disciplinary action from the body, so it’s important for a CA to understand and apply these in their everyday tasks.
What do chartered accountants do?
It is their responsibility to understand the complicated, financial aspects of a business and advise on the best ways to proceed. A typical day could include:
Managing financial budgets and systems
Carrying out financial audits
Providing financial advice
Reviewing company systems
Analysing company risks
Testing and implementing financial information and systems
Advising on tax planning, business transactions, and tax and treasury issues
Maintaining account records
Producing regular reports and recommendations on accounts, management information, planning, and forecasting
Detecting and preventing fraud
Liaising with internal and external auditors
Dealing with financial anomalies
Managing junior team members
Preparing financial statements and accounts
Negotiating terms with business suppliers
Planning and analysing budgets
Where do chartered accountants work?
Their main role is to provide accurate records for all financial transactions. This means they are more likely to work in commercial sectors, such as large charities, fashion businesses, and councils.
What skills do you need?
As well as having a general interest in business, finance, and accounting, they also need to show the following skills to be successful:
Self-motivation and commitment – both for the day-to-day role and to complete the necessary training
Communication – to speak to people at all levels in an organisation and be able to explain complicated details
Organisation – good time-management and a logical approach are key
Trustworthiness – as accountants deal with finances, they need to be trustworthy and transparent
Analytics – problem-solving and reporting are a big part of the role
Numeracy – although modern systems can do a lot of the work, it still needs to be set up, checked, and confirmed
Teamworking – finances are always part of a bigger picture, so it’s essential to work with all areas of a business
Passion – a general interest in accounting and the employer’s industry is essential!
Is it difficult to become a chartered accountant?
CA exams can be tricky. You will need to be committed and have the motivation to stick to your studies. And it’s important to remember that it takes a minimum of three years to be fully qualified. However, if you have the drive to learn and want to pursue a career in this field, you will be able to succeed. The key is perseverance! All your time and effort will be rewarded. The role has the potential to earn up to £90,000 and even newly qualified CA’s can earn around £30,000.
The starting salary depends on the size of the business and industry, however a graduate could expect to earn up to £30,000 per annum. With relevant training and experience, this could increase to £60,000 per annum. The average salary for this position in the UK is £84,500 per annum, excluding bonuses**.
As well as being highly rewarding, the role also offers plenty of opportunities and progression in a range of exciting industries.
If you’re interested in opening new doors and becoming a chartered accountant, click here to download our ACCA course brochure.
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