Should you choose a career in accountancy?


I cannot answer that question for you, only you can make the decision but I can tell you my story…

How did I get there?

How many of you when growing up had a life plan? Things that you wanted to achieve by certain ages? I know I did. It hasn’t been very straight forward and I’ve had some detours getting to my end destination; becoming a Company Accountant.

Here is how it all started.  

I was fresh into college having chosen to do A levels in sociology, psychology and economics. Three contrasting subjects but I had no real idea of what I wanted to do. Does anyone at that age? After a week I had decided economic A level was not for me so I went to see my form tutor and told him that I wasn’t enjoying economics but was unsure of what else to do. He asked me if I was good working with numbers. He taught A level accountancy and suggested I give it a go. After a year I gained my GCSE and then after the 2nd year the A level.

After completing my A levels I decided against going to University. While I was at college my friends were all working, they always had money to go out and I didn’t so I decided to go into full time employment.

I managed to get a job as an accounts clerk the money wasn’t great and after a year I started to get itchy feet. I asked myself, how can I earn more? I decided getting a degree in accountancy would help, that along with a bit of nagging from my mum, who had seen my 4 older siblings through university and all gain degree’s, so off to University I went

I graduated from university aged 23 with a BA Hons in accountancy. I thought I was ready to tackle the world! I wanted a job working for a big company and live the dream earning lots of money.

Living in Birmingham jobs were plenty.  I managed to get a temporary role before moving on to a permanent position with a very well-known chain of book stores. Working in their head office, life was good.

Although I enjoyed accountancy I never thought it was a job I would be doing forever and deep down I always knew I wanted to try something else. After a few years of working I had a change in personal circumstances which meant I had to relocate to Devon.

I was given an opportunity to have a career change and try something new. I will not bore you with the details. But being self-employed can be tricky. You have no guaranteed security or money coming in regularly. I was approaching my 30th birthday so started analysing what I had achieved in life. I was way off my life plan, I didn’t own my own house, had no kids, I was struggling for money. I was way off. I had to get back on track so I asked myself the, how I can earn more question (déjà vu!)

I decided to go back to accountancy, it seemed a waste to have a degree in accountancy and not put it to use. I made the decision that as well as work I would study for the CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.) After having a 5 year break from the accountancy sector I was lucky enough to get a job with a small company that would allow me a half day release to attend college. I had to pay for it myself but I thought it was worth doing.

Working for a small company came as a complete culture shock. In my last accountancy roll albeit 5 years previous I was working in the key accounts department whose responsibility was to look after clients whose sales accounted for over £100m and now I was working for a company with a turnover of approx. two million a year.  I was debating whether I had made the right decision going back to accountancy after all!

After a year I was made redundant. Most people in my situation might think that their world had ended, but I can say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I took some time off and spent 5 weeks in the Caribbean visiting a friend that had emigrated then on my return I felt recharged and ready to start a new chapter of my life. I applied for jobs, I  had no joy for a couple of months but then all of a sudden I had 2 companies both offering me full time employment.

I decided on the one that would give me day release to continue my CIMA studies and pay for it too.

That was 16 months ago, in that time it’s gone from having a turnover of £6m to acquiring two new businesses’ in London and doubling their turnover to £12m.  I have now finished my managerial stage and am entering the final year of my CIMA Qualification.

Things that I have learned along the way

I always thought that I wanted to work for a big company, however I am lucky enough to be able to compare working for a large corporate company to a much smaller company,  I found that in a big company you are just a ‘worker’ you have one job that you have to do day in day out.  Your boss’s boss probably won’t have a clue who you are or what you do. Working for a smaller company I have a much more varied role, I am able to do so much more. This not only helps fill your CV with experience but I have found I am considered a person, everyone knows who you are from the CEO to the MD.

I am thoroughly enjoying my new role. It can be hard, having to work from 8am untill 6pm with either no lunch or 10 mins to grab a quick bite to eat. I guess this is the price you pay for working for a smaller sized company however all you do it is noticed and you get rewarded for it.

Should you study?

Studying can be really hard work. If you are not prepared to put the effort in then don’t attempt it. Working long hours then going home and picking up the books is not easy. Towards exam times I can sometimes do a 10 hour day at work before going home and doing up to 2-3 hours of revision a night. It is a long day. Weekends are not about catching up with friends they are about doing lots more revision!

At university I used to take it easy and a week before an exam I would have a cramming session. I cannot emphasise enough how you are unable to do this with CIMA. You have to put the work in to pass the exams. There is so much material to cover you need to know it all well.

In this day and age jobs are hard to come by. So many people have degrees now that you need something extra to help you stand out from the crowd. Having a professional qualification like CIMA opens up some many more doors. In the 16 months I have worked in my role I have gone from being an accountant to having my FD introducing me to a visitor from another company as Company accountant/ financial controller. Would this have been possible if I had not been studying CIMA? In my opinion no!

Was it worth it?

It may have taken me to the age of 32 to decide that I made the right choice in my career and to get to the end line of my studies which I could have done a long time ago but I have no regrets.  I have tried another business venture which was successful in its own right, it just didn’t pay as much as I hoped. I will never think what if in my later years.

Strange but true

Last year at the age of 31 I went home for a visit. My mum had found some old school stuff of mine; A piece of paper asking me and my class mates what we wanted to be when we were older, mine said accountant! I was 14 years old at the time…. so I did know I wanted to be all along! I just didn’t take a very straight forward route to get there!

Written by Nick S

About tpearce2012

Works for Gravitas Recruitment SW, specialising in Accountancy, Finance and Office Support roles in the South West.
This entry was posted in Accountancy. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s