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Chartered Accountant

Chartered Accountant

Chartered accountants are professionals with years of experience in dealing with the finances of businesses and organisations. They are highly respected, and that respect is accompanied by some of the most generous salaries in the world of finance and accounting. Top chartered accountants will find themselves in board meetings, and will have direct and comprehensive responsibility in the leadership structure of a business.

It is a highly respected and very lucrative career.

What’s it all about?

A chartered accountant (often known as a ‘CA’) can find themselves fulfilling a number of accounting duties, in a variety of settings and industries. However, chartered accountants will carry out their role within four distinct areas. These areas are:

  • Management accounting
  • Taxation
  • Financial accounting
  • Applied finance

While fulfilling the role, they could find themselves focusing on one key area of business or organisation and its accounts, or be responsible for a business’s entire financial activity. It’s a wide-ranging role and a very fulfilling one. As a chartered accountant is fully qualified to take on the entire range of accounting duties.

Your responsibilities will include:

  • Setting up and carrying out financial audits
  • Maintaining full detailed accounting records of businesses and organisations
  • Reporting on the accounts of a company or organisation
  • Developing and delivering financial information and advice
  • Advising on particularly complex financial matters, such as insolvency
  • Providing financial input regarding business improvement
  • Liaising with external auditors if and when needed
  • Preparing and delivering key financial statements, including management accounts
  • Analysing financial risk and advising clients
  • Managing budgets in a company or organisation
  • Advising clients on significant business transactions, including working on mergers and acquisitions
  • Providing comprehensive advice on tax issues, including over-payments, tax breaks, and dealing directly with HMRC

There are many more areas of responsibility alongside what is detailed above. It’s important to remember that a chartered accountant is relied upon for their expertise and experience within the full extent of accounting and financial issues, including issues concerning directors and board-level decisions.

How do you get there?

As you might imagine, this particular career has an extensive ‘way in’ when it comes to professional qualifications.

However, the career is open as regards entry. People from a wide range of disciplines have entered accountancy and become chartered accountants. The transition from applicant to chartered accountancy status is managed by a training contract, similar to the process that lawyers undergo.

A company that wishes to provide a training contract will often accept applicants from a wide range of backgrounds. However, as you might expect, graduates are given priority over those who apply with other qualifications, such as an HND.

It’s important to remember that it is not impossible to enter the profession without a degree qualification though. If you are in this situation and want to become a chartered accountant, it would be worthwhile seeking further advice. No matter your background educationally, you can usually enter this field as long as you are determined and ready to put in the work.

The school leaver route

One of the best things about chartered accountancy is the fact that it is actually quite inclusive as a career choice. Rather than have a strict, linear route as in medicine, chartered accountancy can be entered at various stages in education, and via a wide range of disciplines.

It is possible to enter the profession straight after leaving school. Some of the most ambitious young people take the direct entry route as soon as they have left school education. The training contract must be undertaken with a recognised employer. The only true stipulation here is that the student has strong A-Level results, which must be of a level that would normally enable entry to a university.

This route does not carry a need for any accountancy knowledge. Employers who offer these training contracts are looking for ambitious, skilled young people who want to receive work experience and instruction immediately after their A Levels. The training contract normally takes five years to complete.

The graduate route

After achieving a degree award of a high standard, post graduate students can apply to take on training contract with an employer for three years. It doesn’t matter which degree the student has, as long as it is of sufficient quality, results-wise.

Once accepted by a company, your three year’s training will be varied and focused on you achieving the knowledge, skills and experience to become a chartered accountant. The qualification itself will formally include work experience and exams.

There are a number of other routes a person can find himself following. For example, a student could complete a Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) to add to their portfolio. This is often viewed as a valuable stage between a degree qualification and a training contract.

Employers may also offer more in the way of training. Some offer employees the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification. This does not require a degree for entry but it can offer a direct route into chartered status.

In the United Kingdom, the profession falls within the authority of three separate organisations:

These professional bodies offer protection, support and representation to chartered accountants.

After five years, salaries can increase significantly. Here, with chartered accountants working in business, salaries can leap up to over £90k a year.


Every business and organisation with public and private dealings will involve some form of financial management needs. A chartered accountant will be able to help all organisations, from small businesses up to international conglomerates.

These organisations are anxious that their financial affairs are managed professionally. Mistakes cannot be made, and an astute finance professional can be relied upon to manage the finances in an efficient manner.

Financial matters often involve legal requirements and as organisations have to complete financial returns annually, there is plenty of work to be done. In addition, errors in such matters can, at best, involve financial loss. At worst, there could be severe consequences within the law.

It cannot be stressed enough that chartered accountants are highly sought-after individuals. If such an individual wants to, they can end up in a huge international corporation, earning an extremely high salary.

The easiest way to understand this is to put yourself in the place of a CEO of a large company. With the business bringing in millions in turnover every year, having a professional in charge of all of that money makes perfect sense.

Chartered accountants can also find themselves working for public organisations. These can be very large, and have similar rewards when it comes to financial packages.

Show me the money

As you would expect, the people who handle the finances of businesses and organisations are often high earners. In fact, it’s very rare to hear of any chartered accountant who is not earning a significantly attractive salary.

At the start of their career, a graduate who has entered the field can expect an annual salary of around £25k. After that, the salary can rise sharply, and is directly linked to the years of experience the chartered accountant accrues.

Put simply, the salary becomes very attractive after around two years of post-qualification experience. It is not unheard for a chartered accountant to have a salary of around £55k with just four years post-qualification experience.

After five years, salaries can increase significantly. Here, with chartered accountants working in business, salaries can leap up to over £90k a year.

In addition to the salary, it is also common for bonuses to be awarded. These bonuses, at the top end of experience, can easily total over £20k a year.

Is it for me?

Like any career choice, becoming a chartered accountant does need some careful consideration before taking the plunge. Bear in mind that standards are high, and the work is professional, rigorous and does involve some very rigid legal parameters. And for perhaps very obvious reasons, you have to have a keen interest in financial matters.

At the same time, the low barrier to entry means you can have some real flexibility, as long as you have good grades and results. The main requirement is ambition and professionalism.

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