The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is one of the world’s leading providers of training and professional development for accountants. The ICAEW also offers graduates like you – yes, even you – a route into a career in accountancy, no matter what degree you’ve studied.
From the largest multinational corporations to the smallest, most entrepreneurial start-ups, accountants are needed in every business, everywhere in the world, to help them run efficiently and successfully. Because of this, training providers like ICAEW look for graduates that are as diverse as the opportunities that will become available to them when they qualify as Chartered Accountants.
If some longstanding myths are to be believed though, accountancy careers are all dull, stuffy and reserved for maths or finance graduates.
To help us bust those myths we spoke to two graduates, Aaron and Monique, both of whom trained with ICAEW and both of whom now have very different, very rewarding careers within accountancy.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about accountancy careers is that only certain graduates – namely those with a numerical or finance background – can pursue one.
Aaron is proof that this is not the case; he studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Manchester.
“I never really had an interest in accountancy until I started working for a venture capital firm,” Aaron tells us. While he was there, he says it was seeing the career trajectory of his Chartered colleagues that made accountancy attractive to him, and led him to apply to study for the ACA qualification with ICAEW.
Despite not having an accountancy-related degree, Aaron didn’t feel at a disadvantage when he started his training: “There was an apprehension because I didn’t come from a numbers background, but seeing that half of the students don’t have a numbers background made me feel reassured and encouraged me to pursue the qualification.”
Monique confesses that when she was at university she too believed that you had to be a certain type of person from a certain background to become an accountant. Based on her experience since, she assures us that this is definitely just a myth.
“I work alongside people from many different backgrounds and nationalities with a wide variety of interests and passions, and I cannot think of anyone that 'fits' the stereotype of an accountant,” she tells us.
Like Aaron, Monique was motivated to pursue an accountancy career by seeing how much other Chartered Accountants were enjoying and benefiting from it. “I was inspired by a PwC Senior Manager whilst studying abroad at the University of Florida. I could see how passionate he was about a career in accountancy, about what it meant to him and how his ambitions were being exceeded by the opportunities.”
"I cannot think of anyone that 'fits' the stereotype of an accountant"
Another enduring myth about accounting is that it’s a relatively boring career choice – all crunching numbers in a stuffy, corporate office day in, day out. We ask Aaron and Monique whether that’s true.
Aaron says: “There are some days where you’ll be number crunching depending on your level, but that has to be done because we’re responsible for the financial numbers that are produced in the business.”
Aaron goes on to explain that this is only one part of an accountant’s responsibilities, and the further you progress, the more exciting and integral the work you do becomes.
Monique agrees with this. “The profession where the stereotype was born does not really exist today,” she explains. “It would take me too long to explain the variety of roles and tasks that a Chartered Accountant does that are outside of the stereotype!”
As for the part about corporate, stuffy working environments, that all depends on where you end up working. With the ACA on your CV, your skills will be required within a huge range of workplaces globally, from the most renowned professional services firms to charities and government bodies, so you’ll always have plenty of options to choose from.
Both Monique and Aaron say that they received support in steering their careers in a direction that would be most suitable for them individually.
Aaron took advantage of events hosted by ICAEW which “helped visualise life after qualification and provided a useful network of people.”
Meanwhile, Monique started her accountancy career on the PwC Deals Graduate Scheme, through which she was able to train with ICAEW while rotating around different areas of the business, gaining an idea of where she wanted to direct her career after receiving her qualifications.
"People who recognise the qualification acknowledge it’s very hard to do and you’re given a level of respect immediately"
The final myth we want to bust about accountancy is whether there is any career progression after you’ve qualified, or whether you just become pigeonholed into the same kind of jobs.
Aaron says that since completing his training through ICAEW, lots of doors have opened for his career: “People who recognise the qualification acknowledge it’s very hard to do and you’re given a level of respect immediately. It’s given me the confidence to attempt new things, learn new strategies and apply the principles I’ve learnt during my studies to new ideas.”
When it comes to progressing his career, Aaron has certainly been able to climb the ladder quickly; he now works as a Financial Controller for digital mortgage broker Habito, where he oversees all of the accounting, budgets and forecasts.
The same is true for Monique, who now works as the Global Programme Manager for PwC’s New World, New Skills Programme on which she helps clients and broader society face the challenges brought on by technological evolution and the growing digital divide.
Monique tells us that she feels very proud to be an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, especially because it has benefited her life outside of her career too. “The knowledge, skills and experiences I have gained have enabled me to do voluntary work, adding value to the school where I am a Governor and several small charities.”