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Starting my career

Helo

I have been working in a sales environment for the past 5 years and would really like to know how to start a career in finance/accounting. My current career choice does not seem to offer the structure that a finance career can and I'm willing to take the necessary qualifications in order to progress. Starting at the bottom does not bother me as I'm very driven and ambitious.

I have a 2:1 Psychology degree, 3 A-levels (220 UCAS points) and over 5 years commercial experience. 

In a perfect world a company would pay for my studies but which qualification should I aim for to get going? I understand I may have to pay for my own studies but not sure which one to go for (AAT, CIMA, ACCA)

I'm 26 years old, am I too old to join a graduate scheme?

Any words/advice that could help me on my way would be really useful. 

Many thanks

WW

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14th Mar 2012 16:21

I think it's great that you are ambitious and driven and happy to start at the bottom and work your way up, but you have to make sure that you use that drive to take you in the right direction.  Firstly I think you need to decide whether you want to work in industry or practice and what you ultimately want to end up doing.  If you want to work in practice I think you would be better off studying with ACCA or ICAEW rather than CIMA simply because those qualifications are geared more towards practice (although many ACCA and ICAEW qualified accountants do work in industry).  It may be helpful to have a look on various big jobsites such as Reed and Hays for the type of job you realistically think you want to get in the future for the long term and then look at the qualifications that are required.  This should help you decide what you need to study.

I trained in practice and studied as I worked and I honestly can't imagine trying to study without having the work experience to back it up so I would recommend that you try to find a job where study support is provided.  Of course this is easier said than done and if you are currently working in sales I suspect you will need to be prepared to take a fairly sizeable salary cut.  In general jobs in industry tend to be better paid than jobs in practice, but a career as an accountant is sadly no longer the guaranteed comfortable lifelong career that it was once perceived to be. 

You say you are after structure and a career in accountancy can provide that to some degree but so can any other profession and lots of other jobs.  I don't want to put you off as ultimately I love my job and wouldn’t really want to do anything else, but if you truly want to succeed and be a great accountant, you need to love what you do and have a passion for it, a desire for a structured career isn't enough.

If you do decide that accountancy is definitely for you, is there any scope to move into the accounts department at your existing employer, maybe on a trial basis?  If not, I would write to as many businesses / practices as I could and send them copies of your CV highlighting your strengths and your commercial experience as this is something that fresh graduates don't often have and it is very valuable.  I don't know if you would be considered for graduate schemes, but if I were you I would try to go direct to businesses rather than through recruitment agents because in my experience, particularly in the current climate where there appear to be more candidates than vacancies, agents only tend to bother with people they know they can place and as an unknown quantity I suspect they won't be terribly interested in trying to help you.

I hope this is of use and I wish you the best of luck 

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15th Mar 2012 09:13

Some good advice there from Kadmandu

You need to be aware that starting in industry/commerce as opposed to in practice may mean that your opportunity to get study leave is reduced.

Ultimately there's not a lot of difference between ACA, ACCA, CA and CIMA once you have the qualifications and experience. (others may argue but they are wrong).You just need to decide which suits you best for both study and career development.

There are some full time and part time courses which may assist you in getting certain exemptions from examination by whatever Institute you elect to join. The upside is that you may be ablke to do part time course whilst remaining in your current employment. The downside is that it doesn't necessarily make a switch easier when you need to apply for a job in accountancy.

 

Have you spoken to your current employer about your ambitions in this area. (No idea of what size they are but they may be supportive) - having someone in finance who has first hand experience of other areas of the business can have certain attractions for the employer. Normally we accountants do know everything and all other departments are wrong, but occassionally it helps to have a fresh perspective.

 

Best of Luck

D

 

 

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By WW
15th Mar 2012 11:21

Thank you

 

Thank you so much. It’s a big decision to undertake and given the options available, it can be very daunting as to where to start. I have been applying to as many graduate schemes as possible because I’m not sure studying whilst continuing with sales would be a wise option. The competition for places is high but I expected this.

 

Katmandu – I suppose it’s difficult to say if it’s something I’ll have a passion for as I have no experience in that field. I have developed a passion for understanding how businesses are running/performing and accountancy is the language of all business. I seem to come across a lot of top CEO’s, Directors etc who have a background in accountancy.  

 

Democratus – I currently work within a smallish company (25 peeps) with 1 person in accounts but others help out. I have asked to help out but given the lack structure at my current company, it’s difficult to get involved given I was hired to deal with sales. Our accounts lady is due to go on maternity leave in July and this could be good timing for me.

 

I really appreciate you both taking time to reply to this post. It would appear the voice of a unbiased outsider can sometimes be the most valuable.

 

Thank you.

 

WW

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avatar
By WW
15th Mar 2012 11:21

Thank you

 

Thank you so much. It’s a big decision to undertake and given the options available, it can be very daunting as to where to start. I have been applying to as many graduate schemes as possible because I’m not sure studying whilst continuing with sales would be a wise option. The competition for places is high but I expected this.

 

Katmandu – I suppose it’s difficult to say if it’s something I’ll have a passion for as I have no experience in that field. I have developed a passion for understanding how businesses are running/performing and accountancy is the language of all business. I seem to come across a lot of top CEO’s, Directors etc who have a background in accountancy.  

 

Democratus – I currently work within a smallish company (25 peeps) with 1 person in accounts but others help out. I have asked to help out but given the lack structure at my current company, it’s difficult to get involved given I was hired to deal with sales. Our accounts lady is due to go on maternity leave in July and this could be good timing for me.

 

I really appreciate you both taking time to reply to this post. It would appear the voice of a unbiased outsider can sometimes be the most valuable.

 

Thank you.

 

WW

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15th Mar 2012 12:13

I know it's difficult to say whether you have a passion for doing something that you haven't even tried yet, but it sounds to me like you very much enjoy being in business and are looking for some training in accountancy in order to take you up the career ladder.  Although I don't mind doing the odd bit of debiting and crediting, it's not this that drives me to go to the office every morning, rather I love meeting people, seeing how their businesses run and looking for ways to help them achieve their goals and I think that this is what makes me a good accountant because at the end of the day anyone can sit at a desk and post debits and credits.

Again I'm not trying to put you off, but if you do want to train as an accountant you will most likely have a few years ahead of you on a reduced salary and be working probably in a slower paced environment than that of a busy sales team.  Once you are part qualified you will have more options open to you, but only you can decide if you are willing and able to make the sacrifices required to train.  Also don't underestimate the studying, it is definately doabe but shouldn't be undertaken lightly because you will need to devote a good portion of your time to it.

You are right in that a lot of captains of industry trained as accountants, but there are also a lot who didn't.  I really don't belive that in a lot of those cases it's the accountancy qualification that got those peope there, rather it's their passion for working in business and their business skillls and it sounds like you have a lot of that already.  Don't forget that most of those top companies have sales directors too and by the time you get to that kind of level nobody is going to be too worried about what qualifications you have.

If you do decide to study, I agree with Democratus that once you have an accountancy qualification it doesn't really matter which it is (although I think it is fair to say that you do tend to see less CIMA people in practice) but I think the important thing for you is to decide firstly whether you need to go down the this route or if you can achieve what you want to by other means.

Best of luck whatever you decide to do

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