Why would you choose a career in accounting and finance? Where on earth could you end up with that qualification?

Did you know that a fifth of FTSE 100 CEOs are qualified accountants? 51% now have a background in finance in contrast to traditionally having held positions in sales and marketing. (https://www.icaew.com/insights/features/archive/fifth-of-ftse-100-ceos-are-accountants)

Now, I'm not saying if you enter the accounting and finance profession you will become a CEO! But with a qualification in accounting, the path could be a little smoother.

What are the skills that companies are seeking today within Accounting and Finance?

The range of roles have never been more diverse from Financial Controller to Transfer Pricing Specialist to Financial Planning & Analyst. Skills and expertise with VAT, Tax, GAAP and IFRS are highly regarded.

Let’s start with the basics – Qualifications!

You can call yourself an accountant without any formal qualifications, often you will have worked in the area for several years building up your knowledge and experience. This is referred to as QBE – Qualified by Experience. To sign off on accounts or use any of the below acronyms – you must take and pass the exams.

To be a formally recognized Qualified Accountant you will need one of the following:

ACA, ACCA, CIMA, CPA – a jumble of letters.. but what do they mean, what is the difference,  and which is best?

There are several different paths you can take to become a Qualified Accountant. The most straight forward would be a training contract with an accountancy practice following successful completion of a degree course. This course is often the B.Comm. Completion of a training contract within practice will give you an ACA – Chartered Accountant Qualification.


ACA - Chartered Accountants are widely recognised as Ireland’s premier business professionals, providing essential strategic guidance, expertise, and consulting across a vast array of business activities and sectors. They have come through a rigorous regime of training and examinations, combined with a strong emphasis on generating deep practical experience. You must complete all your exams in three years and training is based in practice.(https://www.charteredaccountants.ie/about-us)


ACCA Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is based on international accounting standards, providing students with the skills, knowledge and values to have successful careers and lead the organisations they work with into the future. You have 10 years to complete all your exams and you are generally based in industry. (https://www.accaglobal.com/)


CIMA – Chartered Management Accountants have a strong overlap with business and are forward thinking. The CIMA qualification is designed to bring together management accounting, financial accounting and business, so you’ll have the practical skills employers need. That way, you’ll be qualified to work in a wide range of roles from finance to consultancy, IT to senior management positions. 12 exams that can take from 3-6 years to complete. (https://accountancyschool.ie/chartered-institute-of-management-accountants-cima/)


CPA – Chartered Public Accountant is the title of qualified accountants in numerous countries in the English-speaking world. It is generally equivalent to the title of chartered accountant in other English-speaking countries. In the United States, the CPA is a license to provide accounting services to the public. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certified_Public_Accountant)

These are the direct routes.

Indirect routes to becoming a qualified Accountant

There is also a path to take if you are not in the position to start with a degree. You can begin in an accounts department as an Accounts Administration and work your way and build your knowledge. Undertake an IATI (Accounting Technician) qualification that will give you a sound grounding in the accounting exam world and then move on to your ACCA with several exemptions. (https://www.accountingtechniciansireland.ie/)


There are a number of key factors that will aid you during your studies and throughout your career

Different companies use different software depending on their size, their business type, the reporting ability that they require and more. A strong grounding in Excel with knowledge and ability to Pivot Tables and V – Lookups will always be a positive.


For SME companies one of the new systems that is gaining ground with its cloud – based applications is Xero. One thing to remember about accounting software is that they generally need the same information – you will just need to find the new box. When your knowledge base is strong – IT systems will become second nature.


With this fast-moving world we are living in – Data analytics and analysis has become a key area for companies and several roles are now in high demand from Financial Analyst, Business Analysis to FP&A positions. Larger organisations will have dedicated teams crunching the numbers relating to minute cost savings. Big Data and people having the desire to work within Big Data on the accounting front is an area of growth.


Do you enjoy a broad role, or would you prefer a more defined role within accounting? This will be down to the organisation you work with and the size of the team you work in. A smaller company will generally have a small team and often the role can be broad as all areas of accounting need to be covered. A larger company (multinational for example) can have different departments within the accounting function with roles broken down into specific components. You only see your bit and not the whole picture. All the same accounting duties need to be covered but with higher volumes of everything so more defined roles and more people. It is important to think about the type of role you would like to have.


FRS Recruitment have specialist recruiters covering all areas of Accounting and Finance from Finance Director to Management Accountant to Accounts Payable and everything in between.


Why not give us a call and see if we have your next career within finance and accounting waiting for you!


Bernadette Sisson https://www.frsrecruitment.com/about-us/our-team/bernadette-sisson/

Louise Glennon https://www.frsrecruitment.com/about-us/our-team/louise-glennon/

Maria Weafer https://www.frsrecruitment.com/about-us/our-team/maria-weafer/