Thinking about becoming an accountant? Maybe you’re already an accountant looking to progress. You’ve picked a good time to be in this line of work, as there's no shortage of opportunities.
There’s been a rise in the demand for workers who’ve got expertise in finance and accountancy in recent years. It’s been suggested an additional 80,000 accountants will be needed by 2050, throughout the United Kingdom.
Demand is high, but competition is fierce. And technology isn’t something to fear. Experts believe new technology will create more jobs than it destroys, ensuring there’s plenty of job security to go around. An exciting opportunity could be right ahead.
We’ll be explaining where to find accounting jobs, what to consider when applying for them, how to prepare your application for interviews, and how to negotiate your salary or rate.
Table of Contents
Where to Look for Accounting Jobs
Looking for a fantastic opportunity? You’re in luck! You can easily find jobs in finance and accounting, from entry-level junior accountant to financial controller, in several places:
- Job boards
- Social media
- Big accounting firms
- Small accounting firms
Each of these has its own pros and cons.
With your CV on a job board like Reed or Indeed, recruiters can contact you on behalf of the organisations they work for. This is useful if your current role is demanding. If you have time to search for roles, you can set the criteria based on financial accountant salaries, start dates, and other information. And you can get job alerts to hear about new accountancy jobs when they’re added.
The downside to having your information on a job board is that it’s there for everyone to see. You may find you get a lot of phone calls and emails that sound promising at first, but the recruiter never gets in touch again. You may get a job alert in your email every day, but these job alerts may come so often that they become easy to discard. And, if the options listed aren’t what you’re looking for, it can be discouraging.
General Job Boards
Accounting and Finance Job Boards
- Finance Jobs Now
- Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Jobs
LinkedIn can be handy when it comes to finding accounting jobs. It has a job board, like Reed and Indeed, and finance professionals can share posts about the roles they’re recruiting for. This gives you an opportunity to contact them directly. You can get personalised job recommendations here too.
Job postings aren’t always up to date. It’s not uncommon to see roles that were first advertised months ago. And sometimes, posts can disappear quickly due to the volume of candidates applying. If you do see a job alert you like on LinkedIn, submit your application sooner, rather than later.
Big Accounting Firms
The ‘big 4’ accounting firms are Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PwC. They employ thousands of people in the United Kingdom and across the globe. Having your name associated with one of these companies means nobody will question your credibility as an accounting professional. But you may find you need to put a lot into working with them, in order to get a lot out of them.
You’ll meet a variety of people in a large accounting firm. Many will have similar responsibilities to you, giving you something to bond over during busy (and potentially stressful) times. This will help make these periods more enjoyable. Or, at the very least, bearable.
Big firms can offer comprehensive benefits. This could include private healthcare or discounts on sports and leisure memberships. It’s worth considering what kind of benefits you want, and how important these are to you, before applying for jobs.
Another benefit of working with top accounting firms is the training on offer. Accounting professionals are pleased with the mentoring they get. Senior management can also provide plenty of guidance.
Expect to work very long hours at a big company, especially during tax season and other filing deadlines. Many accountants say this is their least favourite part of the job. Weekend work is common.
Others say promotion routes could be clearer. This varies from firm to firm, but professionals say they want to progress as soon as possible if they’ve done good work, and not have to wait a certain period of time.
Big firms have also reported being understaffed. This makes busy periods even busier. Plenty of work needs to be done, which helps ensure job security. But the volume of work can lead to damaged employee morale and burnout.
Large Accounting Firms in the United Kingdom
Small Accounting Firms
Small accounting firms have fewer people working for them. You’ll be part of a close-knit finance team and communicate regularly with the same people. You may also develop closer relationships with clients. How well you get on with colleagues and clients will have a big impact on your job satisfaction.
In a smaller team, you may find you have more direct involvement with clients. This can make it feel like you’re making a difference in their lives. At a big firm, you may feel a bit removed from the results of your work.
Your work-life balance may be easier to strike. This is because there’s normally more flexibility in working hours in smaller accounting firms. As long as you’re doing the work that needs to be done, you can schedule your life around your job.
The firm’s owner is likely to be your boss, too. That means there’s only 1 person to please. In a big firm, with multiple shareholders who have separate views on what ‘success’ means, you may find yourself being pulled in several directions.
In a smaller finance team, you may find roles are less defined. Even if you have a specific title, you’ll be expected to take on a few more responsibilities you might not have anticipated. This can make promotion routes less clear. But it can make you a ‘go-to’ person for several things. And you’ll develop expertise in areas you may not have considered before.
You’ll be communicating with the same team members and clients most days. If you don’t get on well with someone, this can make working tricky. And damage your motivation.
Smaller firms may have fewer systems and resources than larger firms. This can include project tracking and sharing work. Projects may be more straightforward, such as completing tax returns for smaller businesses and individuals. Think about if this is the kind of work you’ll be satisfied with before applying for roles in small accounting companies.
Small Accounting Firms in the United Kingdom
- Braant Accountants
- Accounting Connections Limited
- Haines Watt Accountants
- Makesworth Accountants
- Clarative Accounting
What to Consider When Looking for a Job
Focus On What You Want
Before you start applying for accounting jobs, think about what you want from your new role. Try answering these questions:
- Where do I want to be in 5 or 10 years’ time?
- Which areas of accounting do I enjoy the most?
- How important is work-life balance to me?
- Does this salary match my worth?
Knowing all of this will help you apply for the most relevant jobs. You can avoid wasting time by cutting out applications that don’t fit your criteria.
Networking can help you meet people who can share accounting job opportunities with you. This can take place in person or online. You may not find a role right away. But tell people what you’re looking for now, and they may think of you if they hear about a job opening later. Ask others what they’re looking for too, so you can keep an eye out for opportunities for them.
Look out for networking events and add these to your calendar. It’s also worth reviewing your social media profiles regularly to make sure your information is up-to-date, and shows off your most relevant achievements.
Create and share posts about what you’ve learned from your experiences, too. With LinkedIn, you never know who’s watching—your post might get the attention of a finance manager or hiring manager.
Plan Your Job Search
Having a plan can help you stay organised as you look for accounting jobs. It can also help you use this time efficiently. If you’re already working full-time, you can schedule 1 or 2 hours of searching before or after work, or during weekends.
Use this opportunity to review your CV, and update this with any new achievements. This could include any continuing professional development (CDP) you’ve completed, or showing you’ve learned to use accounting software such as FreshBooks.
Being a Freelance Accountant
People go freelance for a variety of reasons. Accountants are no exception. Running a freelance accounting business comes with advantages. You can pick hours that work around the kind of work-life balance you want, and accept more of the projects you want to work on and less of the ones you don’t.
Before you start freelancing, there are a few things you need to do.
Tell HMRC You’re Self-Employed
You need to let HMRC know that you’re working for yourself. And you’ll need to decide if you’re going to be a sole trader or a limited company. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and one may be better than the other depending on your circumstances.
Register With the Information Commissioner’s Office
As you’ll be collecting clients’ data, you’ll need to show you’re responsible for this. You’ll need to register as a data controller with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
Take Out Professional Indemnity Insurance
Even the best professionals make mistakes. Having professional indemnity insurance can help you protect yourself against negligence claims. There are several insurance companies that specialise in serving freelance businesses, including PolicyBee and WithJack.
You’ll need to comply with anti-money laundering regulations, register with HMRC’s agent services, and be monitored by a supervisory authority such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).
When it comes to marketing your freelance business, it’s worth setting up a website and reviewing this every so often. This is so you know it reflects who you are now as a professional. Support this with up-to-date testimonials and case studies from clients, if possible.
Be active on social media, too. Connect with the prospects you’d like to work with, and your fellow accounting professionals. Far from being competition, other freelancers tend to share projects that aren’t right for them or that they’re too busy for.
And look into gaining new qualifications and expanding the services you provide. You’ll be able to help your clients in more ways and increase your income. The FreshBooks Accounting Partner Program has opportunities for learning and development and lets you connect with other small business owners.
Preparing Your Cover Letter and CV
A good cover letter shows you have accounting expertise and are the right person for the job. Try keeping this to a single page, with no more than 5 short paragraphs. Make it easy for your prospective employer to read by using bullet points to condense key information.
Not every hiring manager or recruiter will be familiar with financial jargon and acronyms. Spell out terms like ACCA and CIMA when you use them for the first time.
With your cover letter sorted, it’s time to focus on your CV. Here’s an accountant CV template from Reed you may find useful. Keep this to around 2 pages if possible.
In the overview section, you’ll give a brief explanation of who you are, your technical and soft skills, and your career ambitions.
You should list your education qualifications early. Some recruiters will be looking for evidence of this and won’t want to crawl through pages to find it. Be clear on what grades you’ve achieved, and emphasise relevant topics you’ve studied.
You don’t have to list your hobbies. But you may want to, depending on the role you’re applying for. Sometimes it can help to show your personality this way. Be careful, as this can be subjective. To be safe, only include hobbies that are relevant and will strengthen your application. If you don’t have any hobbies related to the job, it’s best to ignore this section.
Applying for Accounting Jobs
Know what your strengths are. It’s likely you’ll be asked about these during the interview stage. Be ready to respond with your best qualities, and have examples of when you’ve used these to back up your claims.
Focus on your accounting speciality if you have one. To help prepare for this question, speak to colleagues and peers who specialise in your area too. Find out exactly what they like about their niche.
Appear professional and responsible. Even on video calls, you need to project respect and confidence. Be well-rested and well-dressed. And show up on time.
Research the company before your interview and prepare questions for them. Remember, an interview is a 2-way street. This is your chance to learn more about them, too. Find out if working for them will help you achieve your career goals. If they can’t help you with this, they might not be the best fit.
Negotiating Your Salary
You’ve been offered an accounting job. Congratulations! But before you say ‘yes’, know what typical salaries in your industry are. This will help you know if you’re going to be paid what you’re worth.
According to Prospects, starting salaries for accountants come in around £40,000 per annum. This can depend on your location, sector, size, and type of firm. During your training, your earnings can increase to up to £65,000. And chartered accountants typically make around £84,500, with an annual bonus of up to £17,300.
Jobs in banking and capital markets often have higher salaries, and larger companies generally pay more than smaller firms.
You may find you’re offered a lower salary than the job description advertised. Ask the employer why this is. If this doesn’t reflect your experience, try negotiating for a compromise. This could involve working fewer hours, but be sure to work towards and advocate for a competitive salary.
Then there are raises. Find out the typical requirements expected for securing a raise within the company, and how often salaries are reviewed. You need to know there are opportunities to progress with your new employers.
Accounting jobs are needed now, and data suggests they will be in the future too. Whether you choose, part-time, full-time, or freelance work, it’s easy to see that the future of the accounting profession in the United Kingdom is bright. So get online, set up a job alert for your local area (town, city, or even neighbouring locations—London or the entire UK), polish up that CV and cover letter, and get applying for accounting jobs. Your next great opportunity is on the horizon.