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Accounting and a career choice

A career choice for a new graduate in 2021/22: accounting vs technology vs construction/real estate

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Good Afternoon,

I am wondering which career route you would recommend for a newbie entering the profession in 2021 considering the current economic climate.

In public accounting, I would prefer working in audit, deal advisory, or consulting services etc. On the other hand, I also have an interest in financial planning & analysis and cost accounting, as well as financial and business analyst roles in banking. However, I understand that I would probably need to pursue the CFA at some point. I as I have no interest in tax, I am not sure whether the ACA would be still the best option. I would like to work internationally and pursuing the ACA/CTA route and specialising in the UK tax system seems too limiting and unappealing to me.

Another thing is that due to the current economic climate, I plan to stay a bit longer in school and pursue a masters degree. One option is computing and information systems - I would instead become an IT consultant, data analyst/engineer, business intelligence and systems analyst, finance systems implementation specialist etc. than a software engineer writing code all day.

I've always had a keen interest in the business world (personal finance, investing, new business ventures, stock market, property development, residential construction projects etc.) and accounting & finance seemed to have the most value out of all the business school degrees contrary to marketing or general management. As I have a significant interest in real estate/construction, I am also considering MSc Real Estate Finance programmes and quantity surveying qualifications.

In my research, I came across quantity surveying which could be attainable if I went for a postgraduate diploma or conversion masters. However, I am wondering whether that would be overkill in my case. It is, in fact, a construction role even though sometimes called a 'construction accountant'. 

There is also general practice surveying now split into several specialisms. However, apart from graduate schemes at companies such as JLL or CBRE, I didn't come across many job offers or contracting opportunities. 

Any advice appreciated :)

Thank you

Replies (17)

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
09th Dec 2020 16:25

Blimey - you need to rationalise some of your choices: Jack of all trades etc. I'm not sure an accountancy route is the right one if you have 'no interest in tax' I can assure you your future clients will.

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Replying to memyself-eye:
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By harry98
09th Dec 2020 16:39

That is what I am trying to do at the moment - choose one field which I would enjoy the most and could grow my professional career.

What I was trying to say is that I wouldn't like to specialise in tax. I thought that there were various routes available for an accountant - auditing, financial controlling, deal advisory and business development, managing costs and estimating, financial planning, IT audit and information assurance etc. I would like to finish my chartered accountancy qualification but work in a different field than tax.

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Replying to memyself-eye:
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By harry98
09th Dec 2020 16:39

That is what I am trying to do at the moment - choose one field which I would enjoy the most and could grow my professional career.

What I was trying to say is that I wouldn't like to specialise in tax. I thought that there were various routes available for an accountant - auditing, financial controlling, deal advisory and business development, managing costs and estimating, financial planning, IT audit and information assurance etc. I would like to finish my chartered accountancy qualification but work in a different field than tax.

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My photo
By Matrix
09th Dec 2020 16:42

I would apply for the graduate programmes and see what happens. I personally wouldn’t do a Masters or pay for yourself to do the exams.

I don’t think ACA is tax related, there are just a few tax papers. Small business accounting (which is what most of the posters on here do) is more tax than reporting but it doesn’t sound like you are going in that direction anyway.

If you had ACA then it doesn’t mean you have to be an accountant forever. It is a good business grounding. Anyway, get a job offer first and then worry about it.

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Replying to Matrix:
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By harry98
09th Dec 2020 17:04

Thank you for sharing this, Matrix. I will keep an eye on graduate programmes.

That is exactly what I am planning to do - use the qualification as a grounding for a career in business.

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Replying to Matrix:
By SteveHa
29th Dec 2020 15:37

I'd go further than that re ACA. I have been predominantly employed over the past 20 years, mainly in ICAEW practices where, of course, the managing partner or partners were ACA, and they always come to me with anything other than basic or frequently recurring tax questions. (even to the point of having me do their personal Tax Returns and advising them on tax efficacy for themselves).

For my part, I have found ACA very good at business development and growth (as well as the day to day accounts stuff).

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By paul.benny
09th Dec 2020 16:44

Sorry - TLDR. Although I did skim through.

Have you sought guidance from your university careers service? It's their day job to help you identify a career path and to give you tools to choose between competing options.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By harry98
09th Dec 2020 16:54

I have, yes, but they only referred me to my lectures and any industry contacts I may have for the firsthand information.

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Replying to harry98:
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By paul.benny
09th Dec 2020 17:41

How useless of them. Go back and ask again. Perhaps ask different questions of them.

How ambitious are you (status/money/progression)?
Do you want to be in a particular part of the country?
How important is job security/employment security?
How much are you prepared to do further study? A Masters is a very different prospect to professional study while doing a full-time job
etc
Addressing questions like these may help with diagnosis (don't answer here).

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By Cheshire
09th Dec 2020 16:51

Same a Paul B.TLDR. Plus jack of all trades thought as I was running through it. Agree with Matrix. Besides, about to enter silly season. On the back of covid issues silly season and too tired to even ponder it. Sorry.

Do you have any real world experience.

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Replying to Cheshire:
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By harry98
09th Dec 2020 16:59

Not much, unfortunately. I was about to start an internship/placement between my second and final year as an assistant management accountant. Then it was cancelled due to Covid. I secured a remote internship as a data analyst only because I taught myself some programming basics on Coursera.

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By john hextall
16th Dec 2020 13:01

Quantity Surveying is great if you prefer counting bricks to beans. It is a specialism of Architecture rather than Accountancy. Good luck - whatever you choose doesn't have to tie you into one career for ever..

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Replying to john hextall:
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By harry98
29th Dec 2020 14:21

A severe shortage of skilled quantity surveyors in the UK at the moment... A great career choice, but I am not sure whether I have enough thick skin to handle the builders!

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paddle steamer
By DJKL
16th Dec 2020 13:27

If you want the money then software engineering is the way to go.

You need a decent 2:1 or 1st from a good university with a strong computer science reputation, a graduate programme with one of the big boys (my son did Lockheed), you do not want to sit and just write code you need to be designing parts of the framework of the software, mere coders are grunts, so say the human front end interface may be a better niche, after a few years. by say your mid 20s, you can then start out as a contactor on anything from £400-£600 a day and have pretty steady work if you want it, in addition you can possibly work from anywhere, my son is currently away in New York for a long visit until January but can also work from there for his current UK contract.

One caveat, your mention of school suggests you maybe are not in the UK, if that is the case you may well need a Masters . I was advised by an American when I was at university that most US first degrees are circa year two level of a UK degree, now things may have changed (that was the 1980s) but if so just a first US degree may not be enough.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By harry98
29th Dec 2020 14:17

Thank you for sharing this!

I have my eye on software engineering at the moment.

I initially applied to study BSc Accounting & Finance to become a financial analyst or investment banker, and such combination seemed to be the optimal choice. It wasn't until later that I learnt that banking is not for me (from the workload and 80hours workweeks to people in the industry in general). And I realised I need to reinvent myself and reflect on my goals. I then discovered the world of data and technology. I know now that probably Finance & Software Engineering was the way to go in my case. But I hope to have a shot still! I want to focus on information architecture and big data rather than building mobile apps. I hope to enrol in a master now and wrap my research project around data engineering in finance using various programming languages. Financial engineering and computational finance are also other options.

I am currently based in London, but I want to move to the US/Canada at some point in my career. I also looked at Switzerland and Germany as I learnt German and the tech scene is growing there.

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Replying to DJKL:
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By harry98
29th Dec 2020 14:27

Contracting is an excellent opportunity to make big money fast, indeed! However, I have read on multiple programming forums to stop counting on contracting due to the IR35.

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Replying to harry98:
paddle steamer
By DJKL
29th Dec 2020 15:06

My son is still managing, no idea what tax framework he employs (I know he has wound up his company) but he still gets work, via indirect routes, from the Scottish Government and as far as I am aware his day rates have not changed much. (For an accountant I did the sensible thing and palmed him over to another local firm as I never touched contractors- a man's got to know his limitations)

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