University subject profile: accounting and finance | Education


What you’ll learn

Accountants are vital to the running of the financial world: they are numerate, articulate, analytical and understand how companies work. It’s an accountant’s advice that can sway how business bosses make important decisions. This sounds like a huge amount of responsibility – and it is – but a degree in this field can give you the skills, background knowledge and confidence to succeed.

Modules vary between universities, but most cover the same core topics: an introduction to the principles of finance – looking at, for example, the time value of money or the different sources of finance – accounting and bookkeeping. Courses are also likely to cover statistical methods, business law, macroeconomics, and the basics on how organisations are structured. Optional modules might include taxation, pensions or public sector accounting.

Students will leave university with an understanding of accountancy practices, an awareness of how business or public sector organisations are run, and an ability to think critically. Graduates will also be highly numerate and capable of interpreting data. Most courses will introduce you to the IT tools used by the business world to collect, present and analyse financial information.

accounting graph

How you’ll learn

Students are generally taught through lectures and seminars. Some institutions also offer sandwich courses, where undergraduates can spend a year on an industry placement learning on the job.

As well as learning from full-time academic staff, most courses will include lectures from visiting professors who are immersed in industry and can talk about the current challenges facing businesses.

What are the entry requirements?

Requirements vary, so it’s best to check university websites. Some Russell Group universities require maths at A-level (or equivalent). Business studies and economics should also help your application.

What job can I get?

To work as a chartered accountant after graduation you will need to study exams set by the major professional bodies, such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Some degrees are accredited by these organisations, meaning you may be exempt from sitting some of the official tests. Although it can take several years to become fully qualified, it may well be worth it as salaries compare favourably with those of other industries. The average salary for a chartered accountant with five years’ experience is over £90,000, according to careers website Prospect. As well as working in professional accountancy, many graduates find roles in management consultancy, investment banking and financial management. There are employment opportunities at the big four accountancy firms (Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers), smaller companies, and the public sector. Many also work in a private practice.


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