Whether you are looking for new career opportunities or changing business environment, whether you are looking to boost your analytical skills or take care of your business’s own financial management, a course in accountancy might be a good thing for you to consider.
Not only can it open up new career paths, but strong knowledge of financial planning and financial analysis is a prerequisite for most managerial positions. And if you fancy yourself able to work with information systems, business law, financial reports, and corporate finance, it might be fun. In this sense, it’s a pretty good decision to make.
Think about it. Get a job at the big four. Run your own firm of chartered accountants. Land a cushty gig with an auditors. All these positions will require that you have a recognised qualification – an undergraduate degree of postgraduate, or an CA, ACCA, or CIMA – from a reputable institution.
Luckily, Edinburgh is stuffed full of opportunities to either take a degree-level course in accounting or to take one of the specialised exams. From the ancient university and its business school to accounting courses in accredited colleges, you’ll find the perfect place to suit your style of learning. And you’ll find yourself an expert in bookkeeping in no time.
Get to grips with what this stuff means for businesses – in an accounting class.
The thing about accounting is quite simple. Whether you are a public accountant or a management accountant, no-one is going to trust you to look at their accounts – their financial data and financial records – unless they can trust you to treat it responsibly. Due to this very fact, they want some proof. And a recognised and respected qualification is the only way for you to provide them with it.
So, if you want to be anything more than a dodgy dude only dealing with dodgy firms, really you need to get qualified. Let’s repeat that again for clarity: you need to get qualified. There are a couple of ways to do this – but these ultimately fall back on the same authorities: the Institute of Chartered Accountants, or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
The first guys – the full name has ‘of Scotland’ tacked on the end – dish out the premium qualifications. They have over twenty thousand members working in countries all over the world. One stat from Wikipedia – however reliable that may be – claims that in eighty percent of FTSE100 firms there is an ICAS qualified accountant in a high-level position. This suggests that they are doing something right. Fortunately, they are based in Edinburgh.
Meanwhile, ACCA is a global accounting body with, for some comparison, over one hundred thousand members worldwide. Based in London, they have another office in Glasgow. Whilst an awarding body for accounting, they work in a slightly different way to ICAS.
The point here is that, if you want to be an account, you need to get qualified. Simple as. And if this ain’t reason enough to do an accounting course, we don’t know what is.
But the thing is, these qualifications take really quite an awful lot of time. The ICAS process (the qualification is known as CA, not to be confused – although certain to be confused – with ACCA) has fifteen exams – in things from business taxation to strategic business management. So, get studying.
But the beauty of being an accountant – if such a thing really exists – is that you can end up earning quite a tidy sum. According to this survey, the average salary you can expect from your accountancy work is over sixty-two thousand a year. Not bad, eh? And it sort of puts all that training into perspective. Nicely done!
These qualifications do really set you up for life – opening doors to all sorts of work, in the public sector or private, in business, or in your own accountancy firm. So, whilst you do have to play ball to get through into the ranks of qualified accountants and auditors, once you are there, you’re good.
Being a qualified accountant takes some studying
So, we’ve been through two of the options available for people in Scotland to become a professional accountant: these are the CA and ACCA qualifications. We’ll come to which one is best for you in a moment and the differences between the two.
There is, however, a third option that you should know, and that’s the CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Although the acronym seems to be just the same words as the others but in a different order, the thing to note here is management accountants.
Both are professional accountants dealing with financial information, but, in brief, the difference is that a financial accountant deals with a financial statement, whilst a management accountant deals with the stuff leading up to a business’s financial transactions.
So, the chartered accountant comes from the outside of the company, whilst the management accountant is there in the midst of the company’s action. Bear that in mind.
Good question – and the answer involves both the way the qualification works and the jobs you’re most likely to get at the end.
Firstly, the CA qualification works by you signing a training agreement with an employee accredited by ICAS. You need 450 days of relevant experience – and you have five years to complete the course and the fifteen exams.
In the other two qualifications – CIMA and ACCA – you don’t need this agreement with the employer. You are free to change employers as much as you like, but you need three years of work experience – for both qualifications.
Whilst you are free to move between employers with CIMA and ACCA, the jobs you are going to receive at the end will differ.
In the former, as a management accountant, you’ll be a financial analyst, but your professional accountancy work will take place, after graduation, in a company, rather than an accounting firm. So, you’ll be making business decisions, considering profit and loss, and considering corporate financial transactions.
Whilst your employability or career options won’t be limited, with ACCA or CA qualifications, you are probably more likely to join one of the accountancy firms.
It’s an important distinction to consider.
Become an account!
So, where in Edinburgh is best to learn the language of business, to train for a career among finance professionals, to become a member of one of these prestigious professional bodies?
Well, you have a couple of options.
Whilst they don’t offer undergraduate level degrees in accounting, the University of Edinburgh has a very well-regarded postgraduate level qualification.
It’s unclear why this isn’t a master of science degree, but you’ll be studying everything you might expect from an accounting programme: you’ll focus on international financial services, the theory and practice of accounting in international business, and there’ll be opportunity for specializations, electives, and to study abroad.
The course is accredited by all the bodies mentioned above, so you don’t need to worry about that just yet. It’s a four-year course, and the entry requirements are slightly more than a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Whilst not at undergraduate or graduate level, Edinburgh College offers a number of courses in accounting and for finance.
The college offers an accounting and finance course at AAT levels three and four – which are diplomas designed to get you on the road to your full accounting and finance degree.
In the HNCs and HNDs that the College offers, you’ll be looking at the basics of the technical skills necessary for bookkeepers. These too can prepare you for an accountancy degree – and there are no educational requirements for joining.
Edinburgh College has campuses all over the city – including in Sighthill, Granton, and Eskbank – and it’s a great option for those considering doing the qualifications described above.
The accounting course makes up a fair chunk of the Master of Business Administration and the MSc in Financial Management at Edinburgh’s college of business, the Edinburgh Business School.
In this course, you’ll be clueing yourself up on everything from the cash flow statement to the financial report, from strategic management and financial statement analysis to auditing and other accounting principles – ie all the things you’ll need for professional accounting or for a full degree in accounting.
This school, based at Heriot-Watt University has produced some great accounting professionals, so apply now!
If you’re taking any of these qualifications, you’re going to need to take quite a few exams – besides the practical experience you will be gaining. You may well find that you need a little extra help with these – to ensure that you do as well as possible.
The best place to find this supplemental help is at Superprof, the platform that connects students to tutors of all different subjects. In Edinburgh, we have ten tutors available to support you towards the ACA, CA, ACCA, or CIMA qualifications!