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Why a career in chartered accountancy?

If you think chartered accountants spend their lives confined to their desks, then think again. They are sitting on the boards of multinational companies, testifying in court and advising governments, as well as supporting charities and businesses from every industry all over the world. 

Qualify with ICAEW


Great earning potential

Globally ICAEW Chartered Accountants earned on average £111,000 in 2015

Global recognition

Accountants who have completed the ACA qualification are sought after by employers all over the world

Chartered profession

The ACA qualification enables you to use the title 'chartered accountant' distinguishing you from other accountants

Multiple career choices

ICAEW Chartered Accountants work for businesses, governments and even chairities in a variety of roles


What do accountants do?

Chartered accountants play a vital role in the running of organisations. They offer advice, assurance and information that shape business-critical decisions.

ICAEW Chartered Accountants are the largest source of business advice in the UK, reaching more than 1.5 million organisations.

This support can see them preparing financial statements and developing profit projections one day and identifying strategic risks or advising on business improvements the next.

Their work varies day-to-day and can include:

  • negotiating finance for their organisation;
  • investigating criminal financial activity;
  • planning the allocation of budgets and maintaining financial records; 
  • conducting risk analyses and advising clients; and
  • communicating with senior stakeholders.

Key skills:

  • strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • good analytical and problem-solving skills
  • the ability to work well in a team
  • commercial awareness
  • strategic planning and decision-making skills
  • professionalism and sensitivity
  • excellent time-management skills
  • attention to detail

Qualifying as a chartered accountant with ICAEW

You can only qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant by completing the ACA qualification which is run by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW).

Founded in 1880, ICAEW is one of the oldest accountancy bodies in the world and has more than 145,000 members working in 155 countries.

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To complete the ACA, students must undertake a minimum of three years on-the-job training, pass a series of rigorous examinations and commit to continuing professional development. 

This means that ICAEW Chartered Accountants are highly qualified individuals and in demand from all types of organisations, all over the world. 


What do accountants earn?

As a chartered accountant you can look forward to a very competitive salary both while you train and once you are qualified.

Salaries for those studying to become a chartered accountant depend on the size and type of organisation, the industry sector and the location (see below for the figures from ICAEW's 2015 salary survey).

Graduates in the UK enjoy starting salaries in the accountancy sector of up to £30,000 (Source: High Fliers Research, The Graduate Market in 2016). 

The good news doesn’t end there, many students are able to double their salary during training and earnings for newly qualified ICAEW Chartered Accountants are on a par with those in law and banking.


Where do accountants work?

Across the business, finance and accountancy sectors...

ICAEW Chartered Accountants work at the highest levels of business across all economic sectors. They hold positions within the finance departments of companies and not-for-profits all over the world. They work in accountancy firms, large and small, offering vital services to individuals and business clients. And they operate within public sector organisations helping to shape spending on education, health and other vital services.

Working in practice

Many chartered accountants work within accountancy practices providing their financial expertise to clients.

Accountancy firms vary in size from multinational giants, to small firms with a single office or a specialism in one area of finance, such as tax. 

Regardless of the size of the company, working across a portfolio of clients means that chartered accountants enjoy a variety of work.

You could find yourself working with a new tech business start-up, a global retailer or a national charity.

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Potential services you could offer include:

  • Audit and assurance – visiting client premises and providing independent checks on their financial situation, systems and records.
  • Corporate finance – supporting commercial decision-making including involvement in mergers, acquisitions and developing business strategies.
  • Forensic accounting – investigating fraud and other financial misrepresentations and working with lawyers, insurance companies and clients to resolve disputes.
  • Insolvency – providing guidance to businesses in difficulty, such as advice on improving cashflow or selling assets.
  • Tax – advising clients on tax law and tax planning, alongside completing and submitting tax returns and working with HMRC.
Grant Thornton logo

Grant Thornton

Location: Global

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Working in industry

All types of businesses from football clubs and fashion houses, to manufacturers and media companies, have chartered accountants working within their financial departments. 

In-house accountants forecast and monitor revenue coming into and leaving an organisation, as well as having a broader operational role.

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They undertake work, including:

  • developing cash-flow forecasts; 
  • drafting tender documents;
  • planning the allocation of funds;
  • identifying operational risks; and
  • guiding the board on strategies for growth. 
MacDonalds logo


Location: Global

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Working in not-for-profits

Chartered accountants also play a key role in the running of public services and charities.

They work in local authorities helping to decide how money is spent on schools, housing or policing, for example, and for government departments, including the Treasury, supporting decisions that have an immediate, positive impact on society.

Others work in charities ensuring resources are being managed effectively and raising the profile of fundraising projects.

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You might be involved in:

  • ensuring donations are accurately allocated;
  • creating financial records;
  • preparing annual reports;
  • developing cash-flow forecasts; and
  • keeping up to date with legislative changes.
National Audit Office logo

National Audit Office

Location: UK

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Working in financial services

Chartered accountants are also helping to shape the future of the financial services sector. They work within high street and investment banks making key recommendations on investments, risks and strategy.

Others meanwhile work for insurance companies helping to assess the risk of insurance deals and advising on costs.

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You will also develop a comprehensive understanding of:

  • investments;
  • risk management;
  • strategic planning and decision making;
  • insurance; and
  • valuations.