If you are considering a career as an accountant or financial planner, it helps to get as much information as you can about what’s involved. That way you can decide whether it’s the right fit for you.
There are common misconceptions about finance and accountancy. Some of these myths can put people off. So, here are five things that might surprise you about the profession.
1. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius
A common myth is that you have to be a mathematician to become an accountant or financial planner. However, that is not the case.
Thomas Westcott Director Veronique Walkey says: “Accountancy isn’t all about numbers. It’s actually about problem solving and helping people get to where they want to be. You will need a range of skills so you can communicate well, both verbally and in written reports. You will also need to be flexible, work well under pressure and be able to meet deadlines. I studied History at university. I chose a subject I loved, but already had accountancy in mind as potential career.”
Head of HR Simon Irvin adds: “A Mathematics A Level or degree is certainly not an essential requirement for the profession. You need a broad range of skills.”
2. Good people skills are vital
Whether you work in an accountancy firm or in-house as part of a finance team, you will need to be good at dealing with people. Veronique says: “The biggest skill you will need is being able to work well with people and build relationships. To be a good accountant, you need to listen so you can understand what drives people and what they want to achieve. You then need to be able to work as a team to help them reach their goals. This is the part of my job that I enjoy the most.”
3. You don’t need a degree
There are many different routes into accountancy and a degree is not an essential requirement. Simon says: “Across our 250-strong team, we have people who have entered the profession in all sorts of different ways. While some joined us as graduates, many start out in their accountancy careers as school leavers or as apprentices. We are currently advertising for trainees in our Axminster and Plymouth offices. These positions are aimed at school leavers who want to train as accountants and establish a career with us.
“There are also many different roles within accountancy: from audit and assurance to corporate finance and tax. You may want to specialise in a particular sector, such as charities or hospitality. A trainee programme with a large firm like Thomas Westcott will give you access to a range of different specialisms so you can find the right fit.”
4. Any work experience can really help
While many people start their accountancy careers early in life, others make the move after working in other types of jobs. Whatever stage of life you’re at, having some work experience will be a big help.
Veronique says: “I always advise anyone looking to work in accountancy or finance to get work experience. You may be able to secure a placement with an accountancy firm or finance team. However, even if you are doing a few hours in a café or shop, you can develop some useful skills by getting involved in dealing with transactions, cashing up or simple book keeping. If anyone in your family has a business – perhaps they’re a builder or hairdresser, for example – you could ask to get involved.”
5. Automation is making accountancy an even more exciting profession
Rapid technological advances may leave you wondering if accountants will even be needed in the future. After all, businesses can use new software to log and monitor transactions and manage their finances in a fraction of the time. This has led to a debate about whether automation will one day make accountants redundant. There is an interesting article about this here.
Veronique says: “Automation is actually making accountancy an even more interesting field. While some tasks, such as book keeping, are becoming less labour intensive, it is vital to check, review and interpret data. We need to interpret financial information and communicate it to clients. That’s how accountants help businesses to make relevant and good decisions. So, while technology is changing the way we work by helping us crunch the numbers, accountancy is – and will always be - about solving problems. And that’s best left to humans, rather than robots.”