How to Gain Work Experience in the Accounting Industry [Guest Post from The Accountancy Partnership]

Want to break into the accounting industry? There are several ways to get a job in accounting. We’re covering some of the steps to take to gain that all-important work experience you need to kickstart your career.

Do you need an accounting degree?

One of the first questions you might have is – do you need a degree in accounting? While a degree in accounting will certainly help and give you a headstart, it’s not essential for a career in accountancy.


If you’re currently studying something else, or have recently graduated in another subject, accountancy is still a path you can pursue.

What skills are necessary for accountancy work?

If your research into accounting as a career path has only just begun, it’s worth looking into what skills are typically required for this line of work.


Don’t worry, it’s not all about maths and equations, so you don’t need to be a whizz with algebra. However, as you can imagine, being comfortable with numbers and statistics is definitely a plus.


Other skills to think about include:

  • attention to detail
  • fact-checking
  • multi-tasking
  • working to strict deadlines
  • communicating with clients and colleagues
  • using bookkeeping software effectively.


These are great skills to have that apply to most accounting positions – whether it’s in an accountancy firm, a business, or a charity.

Research firms in your area

Your first step towards finding work experience is to sit down and do some thorough research of accountancy firms in your area. While you may not necessarily end up working in an accountancy firm, it’s a good place to get experience.


During your research, you’ll want an idea of what types of firms are in your area so you can start making some contacts. LinkedIn is a good starting point!


Focus on finance department managers or senior accountants at local firms. If you can start to network with these people, you may find some opportunities start to open up for you. If you make a positive first impression, they may keep you in mind the next time they look for a trainee accountant.

Ask about volunteering positions

Another way you may be able to get experience in accounting is through volunteering. During your research, try to find firms, small businesses or charities that you think could use a volunteer in their finance department. You may have to focus on small companies or charities as they are more likely to take on a volunteer.


As a volunteer, you may start off with simple things like recording transactions which will give you an introduction to bookkeeping. While you might not get experience with different accounting practices or tax types, it’s a good starting point to learn more about finance within a business setting.


Volunteering is ideal if you are currently in university and don’t have the time to dedicate to a full-time apprenticeship. Also, if you haven’t worked before, having any type of experience is a great addition to your CV.

Apprenticeships and internships

Perhaps the most common avenue to a career in accountancy is through an apprenticeship or internship. Accountancy firms usually have a few trainees or junior accountants on their payroll who are learning the ropes.


However, a common condition firms have for taking on a trainee accountant is that you already have, or are working towards your AAT qualification. So, if this is the route you go down, you may have to pair it with a college course.

Make sure to get your qualifications

Following on from the point above, if accounting is your aim for the future, professional qualifications are key to your success.


Asking accountancy firms for volunteer positions or internships can be a great start but most firms will only hire those who are working towards their qualifications.


If you haven’t already begun studying for the AAT or ACA qualifications, this is one of the best first steps you can take. You can study these qualifications in colleges or through online courses and get some work experience in a trainee role at the same time.

Look beyond accountant positions

If you are struggling to get a position as a trainee accountant, it might be worth taking a broader look at the industry.


There are several different roles which all work alongside accountants such as bookkeepers, auditors, accounting assistants, payroll workers and administrative assistants.


Each role is key to any accounting department so it’s all beneficial experience even if it’s not your primary career goal.


If you would rather not study for formal accounting qualifications, looking at other roles in an accountancy firm or finance department is still an option.

What about COVID-19?

COVID-19 has stopped some of the best-laid plans in their tracks. For those who were planning to start their career in accountancy this year, you’ve probably faced some disappointment. COVID-19 has made it much harder to find work experience and some exams and internships have also been cancelled due to the lockdown.


It’s worth spending time familiarising yourself with remote working practices. Having some knowledge of project management software, communication platforms and email etiquette will serve you well in the long run.


It’s not certain when these temporary measures will ease but recruitment is expected to pick up again next year.


Budding accountants are being advised to try and beef up their CVs through things like volunteering or advanced study. Those who don’t have their professional qualifications may want to start their studies now through online courses.


Those who do, may want to look into advanced qualifications (for example, ACA or ACCA). Another thing you can do from home is to study different types of bookkeeping software to familiarise yourself while you continue the job search.


While 2020 has certainly thrown some curveballs when it comes to starting your career, the current changes in the industry are expected to be temporary. Work experience is key, but developing skills and knowledge of the accounting industry, common practices and bookkeeping software are all important steps you can take to get a foot in the industry.


Article by The Accountancy Partnership

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