16 April 2014
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Accountancy degree

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Accountancy courses tend to attract some of the brightest and most intelligent university students, most are enticed by the prospects of having financially rewarding careers that offer long term career advancement opportunities. Although they are challenging and rigorous degrees they are also the ones that are more likely to enhance a students work ethic, improve their decision making skills and also increase their ability to occasional do mind-numbing work for a long periods of time.

Experienced accountants with proven financial skills are invaluable to companies and are in great demand right across the business world. Once qualified and suitably experienced, accountants will be providing accurate financial advice to their clients or employees on matters to do with cash flow, profit and loss, tax and auditing etc. Accountancy is a growing industry and there are many job opportunities for bright, enthusiastic graduates with enquiring minds.

Indeed it’s widely recognized as a recession proof sector, with potential earnings far in excess of other professions. However all of these benefits come at a price, it’s a job that can be extremely complex, requires a lot of concentration and carries a great deal of responsibility.
An accountancy degree will give students many highly marketable job skills.

Choosing an accountancy degree course
If you are not sure what accounting field you want to enter then to make the best informed decision you need to sit down, do a bit of researching and think a few things through. Remember than earning an accounting degree is not easy, it will take effort, a lot of number crunching and discipline. It’s therefore better if you know exactly what you want before you start to choose a university or course, rather than having second thoughts half way through your course. Key points you should consider are:

Why do you want to become an accountant
Carry out a self assessment of your ambitions, for instance has it always been your goal to become an accountant or is it the earning potential and job security that attracts you. Think about this and write down your answers in detail, this process will stop you from drifting into a course for no apparent reason.

What field
There are so many specialties to choose from that it can be confusing. If you know exactly what job role your after then this can go along way to helping you with your course selection. When deciding be practical and try to take into consideration your strengths and weaknesses i.e. subjects you like doing and those you don’t like doing.

Which university and were to study
This is also a important question to answer, for practical reasons just as much as academic ones. Do you want to stay at home whilst studying or do you prefer to move to another town or city, and if so would you be able to afford it? The first thing to do is to start researching the best universities to learn accounting for your area of specialization. Once you have this shortlist you will have a better idea of the options available to you.

ACCOUNTING PERSONAL STATEMENT

Below are three professionally written accounting personal statement examples. You are advised not to copy them word for word, but to instead use them as guides.

Accounting personal statement example 1

"The City of London is a world leader in international finance and business services, a global powerhouse at the heart of the UK’s financial services. This is a world that I aspire to eventually work in, hopefully for exciting and rewarding companies like J P Morgan, Merrill Lynch, CSFB and Morgan Stanley.

I have chosen to study this degree because it will give me a chance to step into the economic world and an opportunity to benefit from the high demand that there currently is for accounting graduates in the jobs market. On top of this, accountancy it is something that has struck a cord with me, as I have always liked numbers and mathematics.

On a more personal level my experiences to date have led me to understand the importance of listening to others, as well as thorough research, preparation and the significance of being flexible. As an independent person I feel that my strongest individual strengths are an ability to work quickly and accurately, concentrate for long periods of time and to be able to work to deadlines. In problem solving I am logical, analytical and give attention to detail, I also have an ingrained habit of analysing everything before I make any important decisions.

Whilst at college I gained four A levels, with the help of my teachers who were really involved and experienced. There was a lot of different courses and the rhythm of work was quite intensive. I took part in many also took part in a schooling programmes and am proud to say that I was also awarded a certificate for my 100% punctuality and attendance. I really enjoyed my time at college and an looking forward to continuing my academic studies at university.

Over the summer months I was lucky enough to get two months work experience, as an intern, with an accountancy firm. This was a great for me, as I was eager to see at first hand how things worked in the real world of accountancy. My ability to pick up new information and skills pretty quickly came in use, and for the first time in my life I was involved in solving problems in a real case scenarios, and not just using theory from a book. It allowed me to really gain an understanding of what is involved in all areas within the industry, and has enabled me to discover the areas I most preferred. I leant a lot of skills on the job, including filing accounts, financial reporting, taxation, auditing, forensic accounting, corporate finance, business recovery and insolvency.

I believe that my personal attributes, academic achievements and relevant financial experience to date all make me an ideal student for you course. I posses a genuine passion for the subject, and have a keen interest in what’s going on in the financial world. On top of this I am a very sociable person, who possesses excellent interpersonal skills that allow me to inspire and motivate people I work and study with. In this way I can make a positive contribution to your university, as I will actively be involved in student events and activities that will help to promote a healthy learning environment for all. 

My core ambition right now is to build up my knowledge of the areas that I have learnt about so far, and just as importantly, develop those accountancy skills that I don’t have. I believe that studying at your institution will help me to achieve these aims and also prepare me for a better future and upon graduation will give me a competitive edge over other graduates. Right now I am greatly looking forward to the challenge of university life, both socially and mentally. In conclusion I can assure you that I will be a capable and dedicated student who has the commitment and dedication to finish your course, whilst at the same time contributing greatly to your university in more ways than one."

Accounting personal statement example 2

"I once read that people are either blessed or doomed to be accountants, to me the choice is a bit more complicated than that. I feel that a career in this profession can be a bit of both, as at times you can be doomed to long periods of repetitive work, whilst on the other hand there is the very real  prospect of a secure, well paid, rewarding career.

Choosing this subject was a natural choice, despite the fact that as someone who aspires to become an accountant, maths was never my strongest subject at school. Having said that I always enjoyed number crunching, working out calculations and the opportunity these activities gave me to exercise my mind like never before. For me the most interesting part of accountancy is the problem solving aspect, I always get a little excited when I have solved a problem or figured out why an account does not balance. I feel that its a combination of all these factors which have really attracted me to this subject, along with an inquisitive nature that encourages me to pry into the financial workings of companies. I always enjoy studying and examining in detail the financial dealings of individual businesses or industries, and learning about their profitability, earnings and potential. Although this may sound unusual for someone who wants to become an accountant, it is the truth.

There is a huge demand for accountants who understand the specific needs of small businesses, and who have the ability to work quickly and accurately to achieve strict deadlines in a high pressure environment. I feel that I have all of these attributes, along with being commercially astute and having proven problem solving skills. All my academic experience to date, coupled with my work experience has helped me to become an excellent communicator who is able to plan and prioritise a busy and varied academic workload. I feel I am equipped with the ability to drive strong dialogue across all levels and have the confidence to present my views on an internal and external basis.

At college, where I achieved straight A’s in three A’ levels, there were some extremely talented people on the course. By associating with these students and learning from my tutors I received a well-rounded introduction to the numerous aspects of accountancy and related subjects. My academic experience at college, where I excelled, confirmed to me that I had made the right choice to look at this subject as a possible career, and it only increased my drive to become fully qualified in accounts.

Recently I have held down a temporary job at an accountancy firm which provided me with in-depth knowledge that in the future can be directly applied to a career within finance or other business-related working environments. I was part of a small and very busy finance team, dealing with a range of accountancy related activities, such as; accounts preparation for SME’s, Partnerships and Ltd companies. I was also involved in projects that serviced company profit and loss accounts by reviewing income streams and compliance with service level agreements. Reporting directly to the Finance Manager of the company, I was responsible for key areas of activity, including; coding of invoices, balance sheet reconciliations, analysing costs and producing associated commentary, and also internal invoice recharging. I came away from this experience with a strong combination of technical accounting ability, commercial awareness, team leadership skills and empathy for an environment in which customer service is paramount.

Having the right temperament is vital to being an effective accountant, and I am glad to say that I am both analytical and patient when it comes to problem solving. It can be very frustrating at times when you cannot reconcile numbers, and the last thing you want to do is loose it mentally.   

After looking at all my options I have decided to continue my studies at your institution. The level of teaching and reputation of your university is well known and after meeting the lecturers and current students, it stood out even more from the rest. It's in a great location, everything is so close, and it appears very student orientated. If accepted on your course I also want to assure you that not only will I be a model student, but I will also work tirelessly to sustain and enhance your institutions mission statement, and support and promote its vision."  

Accounting personal statement example 3

"Accountancy has traditionally been a detail-oriented profession, and although that is still important, modern accountants require a much broader set of abilities. They need highly developed analytical skills, along with the ability to effectively and clearly communicate financial information to a broad audience. In a nutshell I believe that I have all of these abilities as well as the IT skills, patience, painstaking eye for detail, and great diligence required to become an effective accountant.

If you hate it, you’ll be bad at it, if you love it you’ll be good at it. With this in mind I can say with sincerity that I have a real passion for accountancy, the thing that really excites me about it, is that you will not only be dispensing technical advice but you will also be helping clients with their businesses in a real way, making them more cost effective and hopefully more profitable. Practising accounting not only helps you to understand the basics of how businesses work, it also gets you closer to the people who actually run them. Building up these contacts can help accountants move into areas of management later on in life.  

As a growing field, it also offers superb career prospects, with much of this growth due to increased regulations, which in turn has led to many different areas of specialism developing. On top of this is the fact that once an accountant has become established in their field, they then have opportunities to move to other areas of business. I am constantly reminded of and reassured by the fact that virtually every company and organisation in the country needs the services of an accountant.

I feel I can differentiate myself from the ‘crowd’ to some extend by my extensive interpersonal skills and my belief that accounting is not only a numbers business, but also a people business. This attitude will I feel allow me in the future to interact positively and effectively with the people I will run across on a daily basis, be they clients, professionals or ordinary people. I am also able to work at pace and maintain a high level of accuracy for long periods, my other personal strengths are having a ‘can do’ attitude and a willingness to challenge established ideas. As a confident and proactive character, I like to think that I can inspire and motivate others, whilst at the same time build confidence with people I am communicating with. 

During my time at College I took on a part-time job with a accountancy firm to try and build up my work experience. I was a member of a small team responsible for the preparation and consolidation of corporate revenue budgets, financial statements, and Government returns. Although the daily routine was rather repetitive, I was able to work quickly and accurately on tasks to achieve strict deadlines in a high pressure environment. Given a high workload that had conflicting priorities, I applied logic to every decision I had to make in areas such as payroll preparation, Sales, Bought, Stock and Nominal Ledgers, and cost control. I was commended more than once for identifying opportunities for cost reduction and revenue enhancement.

Whilst at the company I learnt about co-ordinating the annual financial cycle, including budget preparation, budget monitoring, accounts preparation and the external audit process. I also gained extensive knowledge of excel and PowerPoint and discovered the importance of being able to articulate oneself in a very business-like and professional manner.

I am serious about a career in accounting and am now actively looking to enrol on a degree course which will give me the skill sets that any future prospective employer will be looking for. My  previous academic achievements, work experience and extra-curricular activities, have allowed me to mature as an individual to the extent that I feel I am now ready to enrol at a university. I would like to be considered as a student at your university, as I feel that I have the key skills, personal attributes and relevant experience that would not only make me a successful undergraduate, but also a asset to your institution."

MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ACCOUNTANCY DEGREE COURSES

The advantages of having a accountancy degree

  • In the UK you do not need to have an accountancy degree to become an accountant. However the advantage of having one is that you are exempt from having to sit certain professional stage examinations that non degree holders have to take.
  • These degree courses provide students with practical experience as well as theoretical know how.
  • A degree course will give you a real practical idea of what an accountant does on a daily basis. This experience can help you decide on whether you really want to commit to a financial career were you’ll spend most of your working life number crunching. If not then all is not lost, as an accounting degree is still highly prized by many  employers outside of the financial industry.
  • You will have under your belt a internationally recognised qualification that carries a lot of weight and that you can use in job applications anywhere in the world.
  • The degree will prepare you for a career in investment banking, professional accountancy and financial management or consultancy.
  • Help you to develop the accounting skills and academic qualifications that are vital for a successful career in accounting.
  • Understanding finance, commerce and industry.
  • Studying regulations and standards in an increasingly globalised environment.
  • The essentials of Corporate reporting.
  • How to produce authoritative reports and assignments on business related issues.
  • Accounting history.
  • Comprehensive understanding of accounting practices.
  • Financial techniques.
  • Learn about economics and the world of business.
  • The uses and limitations of financial management accounting.
  • Budgeting and control.
  • Mathematical techniques.

Breakdown of typical modules studied in a accounting degree during each academic year:

First year

  • Accounting theory and practise.
  • Contemporary accounting issues.
  • Introduction to financial accounting.
  • The regulatory framework within which statements are prepared.
  • The basic techniques of management accounting.
  • Quantitative methods.
  • Introduction to the basic principles of economics.
  • Microeconomics.
  • Learning skills.
  • Market and business structures.
  • Introduction to marketing.

Second year

  • Intermediate Financial Accounting
  • Practical and theoretical introduction into the management of a company's finance.
  • The various sources of finance.
  • Taxation in Theory and Practice.
  • Capital structure.
  • How investment decisions are made.
  • Accounting standards.
  • Corporate social responsibility.
  • Principles of organisations and management.

Third year

  • A deeper analysis of financial accounting issues.
  • Consolidated balance sheets and income statements.
  • Types of entrepreneurship.
  • Vertical group balance sheets.
  • Financial instruments.
  • Financial statement analysis.
  • Performance measurement.
  • Business planning - buying a business, franchising.
  • Dissertation.

Optional modules may include

  • Strategic management
  • E-marketing
  • Marketing ethics
  • Public sector Accounting
  • Advanced accounting theory and policy

Other possible areas of study

  • Business law
  • Portfolio analysis
  • Financial reporting and analysis
  • Financial accounting
  • Accounting information systems
  • Auditing
  • Cost accounting
  • Payroll accounting
  • Information systems
  • Net income
  • Gross margin
  • Revenue
  • Equity
  • Tax planning
  • Business Acquisitions and Mergers

Starting out
Before starting any degree course you have to decide which of the main accounting bodies you want to become a member of. All qualified accountants are members of one or more of the regulatory bodies listed on this page. Below is a list of key accounting qualifications and bodies that you can consider:

  • ICAEW - The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales - www.icaew.co.uk
  • CIMA - Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (management and tend to work in trade or industry) - www.cimaglobal.com 
  • ACCA - Chartered Association of Certified Accountants - www.acca.co.uk
  • CIPFA - The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (mostly found in government) - www.cipfa.org.uk 
  • ICAI - The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland
  • ICAS - The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
  • AIA - The Association of International Accountants
  • AAT - Association of Accounting Technicians
  • ACT - Association of Corporate Treasurers
  • CF - Corporate Finance Qualification
  • CFE - Certified Fraud Examiner
  • JIEB / CPI - The Joint Insolvency Examination Board / Certificate of Proficiency in Insolvency
  • AAPA - The Association of Authorised Public Accountants

Virtually all of the above will only accept applications for membership from individuals who have passed the relevant accountant examinations. Some chartered bodies also insist that members have relevant work experience. All of these bodies are governed by rules and regulations which they must strictly adhere to.

Which one you choose really depends on what ‘sort’ of accountant you want to become, for example only ICAEW and ACCAs are authorized to sign off audited accounts. It’s therefore advisable to spend some time researching and thinking about which body to go with, as they all have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.

Financial Reporting Council (FRC)
This is the UK’s independent regulator body whose job it is to help set the standards for the accounting and auditing industries. Their role is to encourage professionalism and high standards throughout the sector, look after the public interest and when necessary to undertake and complete disciplinary procedures. 

What will a accountancy degree course teach you?
You will learn about the various aspects of financial accounting and upon completion of your course should possess the professional skills and accreditation required to progress to the professional and practical training stage.

During the first and second year under graduates will learn the basics and undertake modules which will give them a firm understanding of accounting practices. In the final third year students can tailor their studies and specialise in subject areas that are targeted at their own career aspirations.

How to build up a intimate understanding of a clients industry, their requirements and also what key issues are important to them.

Devise solutions and ideas that are cost effective and address the core fundamental problems.

IT
Learn how to apply technology in the accounting field.

Managerial accounting classes
Will show students how accountants and managers use accounting numbers to make important business decisions, pricing decisions and strategy decisions.

Audit classes
Discover financial techniques on how to evaluate and audit the financial statements of companies. This could include having to visit the offices of a business to ensure and confirm that the financial information disclosed is accurate.

Tax classes
Learn how to file tax returns for corporations, companies and also individuals.

Personal skills accountancy students can develop at university
Universities can give students lessons in personal skills that are central to success in the working world. Although many students may not realize it at the time they will be learning new communication techniques every time they attend university. Below are a list of the main lessons that undergraduates can learn whilst at higher education:

Discover what your strengths are
The long hours constant studying and researching can instill discipline and also help you to discover if you have a particular talent or gift for something that you were not previously aware of.  

Networking
There will be certain days at university where you will get an opportunity to meet industry professionals and leaders as well as other unique people who may be able to help you in your future career. These occasions are excellent opportunities to network and make initial contact with these key individuals and to then maintain communication with them after you graduate.

Find out what you’re passionate about
It’s often the case that through university people discover what their serious and enthusiastic about. This can be anything from being concerned about the environment and wildlife to having a keen interest in say the nuclear industry. 

Core personal skills that you will learn on  accountancy degree course

  • Ability to make decisions in ambiguous environments.
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • How to exercise professional scepticism.

Accountancy qualifications 
Possessing the right accountancy qualification is a valuable asset as it  permits graduates the opportunity to apply for a wider range of accountancy jobs. Putting in the hard work to obtain the degree should be seen as a long term investment as it will show potential investors that you are serious about your career.

ACCA qualification
To become a ACCA member you will need to take and pass up to 14 exams (although this number does depend on any previous qualifications you hold). On top of this you must undertake three years of practical experience of working as a accountant. These are the minimum requirements.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants as it is also known is a international body for chartered accountants. ACCA issues globally recognized qualifications to accountancy students, these can go along way in helping graduates build a successful career in the world of finance.  The organization currently has over 147,000 members as well as a network of 83 offices located in different countries around the world.

To become a member of ACCA applicants must pass a set of exams. These examinations cover not only accounting modules but also subjects such as business management, finance and bookkeeping.  

An ACCA qualification can help graduates become a Chartered Certified Accountant and also allows them to use the letters ACCA after their name. Other benefits include:

  • Enables you to work in the finance department of companies.
  • Demonstrates to potential employers that you have the ability, discipline and skills required to pass professionally st accountancy exams.

ACA qualification
Training to become ACA qualified can up to three years, although long it is required for anyone who wants to be at the heart of decision making in a company. ACA registration can lead to senior positions in multinational companies where you will be offering advice and solutions to your clients business needs. 

Career prospects and degree relevancy
A good degree in accounting can open the door to a lot of possibilities, however you want to make sure that they are the opportunities that you are looking for. Below are some of the most common options that accountancy graduates choose:

Accounting Departments
Major employers or corporations can have a whole department dedicated to business transactions, financial data and ensuring regulatory compliance. A respectable degree can go along way to getting a entry level position in such a company.

Self employment accountants - working for yourself
If you specialize in a particular field, are good at what you do, have experience and can market your services effectively then this may be a option to consider. Although no easy, for those who are successful at building a brand for themselves the rewards can be great. 

Auditing
In the UK only Registered Auditors can carry out audits of limited companies. To qualify as a Registered Auditor an accountant must possess the required qualifications and also hold a practising certificate from one of the Recognised Qualifying Bodies or ‘RQBs’ as they are also known. Currently the six main RQB’s are; ACCA, AIA, ICAEW, ICAI, ICAS and the CIPFA.  

Tax Firms
These are also major employers of newly qualified accountants and providers of graduate training schemes.

Possible careers

  • Auditor
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Underwriter
  • Chartered Accountant

Industry sectors

  • Accountancy
  • Banking
  • Financial Services Industry
  • Fraud Investigations
  • Insurance

Graduate accountant salary
In the UK the estimated starting salary for a recently graduated accountant is between £20,000 to £25,000.

Accountancy graduate training schemes
If you can convince potential employers that you have the required passion, ambition and drive then you may be fortunate enough to be taken on as a graduate trainee. 

How many accountancy training providers are there in the UK?
It has been estimated that there are roughly over 1900 authorised organizations in the UK that can provide training to accountants.  

The accountancy training that comes after a degree
Graduates who accept three year training contracts with accounting firms go through a period of professional examinations and also practical experience. This final qualification process can be tough and stressful as trainees will be working full time whilst also studying for exams. 

Tips for student choosing a accountancy degree

  • Try to enrol at a university that has a good reputation for accountancy and financial degrees.
  • Research the university beforehand and try to discover if employers actively recruit graduates from there.
  • Enquire if there is an option for flexible study.
  • Aside from the academic aspects look for a university that provides a stimulating, supportive and friendly environment for students.
  • Ask about the total fees payable and then look into any discounts or grants that you may be eligible for.
  • Find out what study material will be required or provided i.e. past exam papers, specialist guides and books etc.
  • What level and amount of student support will be provided, for instance will there be additional classes or are useful online resources and libraries available.

What are the typical entry requirements for a accountancy degree
This really depends on each particular university and it’s own standards. However typically high grades (A’s B’s) are required in both GCSE and A levels.

University interview questions for accountancy applicants
Some universities insist on interviewing applicants for their accountancy degree courses. If this is the case then it’s wise to practice as much as possible to ensure your ready for the big day. To help you in this matter we have listed below some sample questions that will give you a taste of what you will be asked:

  • Why did you decide to enroll for a accountancy degree?
  • Why made you apply to our university?
  • Why do you feel you are suited to be an accountant?
  • What other universities have you applied to?
  • If a decision in a project were to go against you, how would you take it?
  • Do you feel satisfied with your academic achievements to date?
  • Why should we allow you to enroll on the accountancy degree?
  • What recent accountancy news stories have caught your eye?
  • What do you know about our university?

Questions that students should ask the university

  • How will your degree course prepare me for the jobs market?
  • Do you have a dedicated career advisory service?
  • How will I be taught?
  • How will I be assessed?
  • Who will teach me?

The ‘big four’ public accountancy firms
These UK giants collectively dominate the financial services industry, they are not corporations in their own right but a series of partnerships. Their core business services revolve around; consultancy, corporate tax services, corporate audits and tax preparation.

  • Deloitte  
  • Ernst and Young
  • KPMG
  • Price Waterhouse Coopers

Accountant job description
Listed below are some of the typical daily work duties and tasks that a accountant may have to perform;

  • Preparing and approving a companies accounts.
  • Scrutinizing and analysing business finances.
  • Involved in all of a companies financial negotiations.
  • Being part of a audit team and visiting clients.

Links to other accountancy resources:
Public Finance - www.ipf.co.uk
Institute of Financial Accountants - www.ifa.org.uk/
Institute of Business Advisers - www.iba.org.uk


Accountancy career links 
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Relevant degrees
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Student resources
Essay writing
Graduate internships
Introduction to graduate fasttrack schemes
Revision timetable
Revision tips
Student accommodation
Student loan company
Study skills
UCAS personal statement
University interview questions
University courses

Personal statements
Personal statement examples
All about the UCAS personal statement


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