Career as an industry accountant

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Marie Smith is a project specialist accountant with a leading car manufacturer. She is involved in calculating the cost of all the individual parts involved in making the vehicles.

What does your career as an industry accountant involve?

As a project specialist, I am responsible for maintaining accurate data on the cost of vehicle parts. Some of my time is spent gathering the information, which must be up to date and accurate. Then I work with the data on various software packages to provide reports for the general manager, who then uses this and other financial information to improve profits.

Did you have to do a lot of training for this job?

All accountants have to train hard and pass a lot of examinations. I joined on a two-year graduate programme after finishing university with a degree in economics. This programme gave me a great opportunity to work in different areas and decide where I was best suited.

What about professional qualifications?

To become a chartered accountant, it's necessary to gain additional qualifications through the Chartered Institution of Management Accountants (CIMA), which I'm currently working towards. The company finances the course and gives me time off to sit the examinations, but all the studying and revising has to be done in my own time.

What skills are needed for a career as an industry accountant?

You need to have a wide range of skills. Because the accuracy of the information is so vital, it is essential to work methodically and with close attention to detail. It's also necessary to see the financial figures in the context of the business and how the products are marketed and sold. This can require good analytical and problem-solving skills. You also need to be able to communicate clearly and at all levels.

Is your work quite pressurised?

It can be pressurised. I'm expected to work to tight deadlines, so it's important to work well under pressure and be good at managing your time. Although I'm part of a team, I also need to have the confidence to work on my own initiative.

What do you like about your career as an industry accountant?

I enjoy the variety of work, the team spirit and the support I receive from colleagues and management. It's a very productive and rewarding environment. Do you have any dislikes? It is difficult studying for the examinations after work – it's exhausting even, but it will be worth it in the end.

How do you see your future?

At the moment my top priority is to successfully complete my final examinations. Afterwards, I intend to stay in industry as I enjoy the diversity it brings to the job. Ideally, I'd be interested in progressing to a more senior position.

Marie's route to her career as an industry accountant

  • Degree in Economics.
  • Car Manufacturing UK's Graduate Trainee Programme.
  • Offered permanent position.

Marie's industry accountant tips

  • If you're fairly sure you'd like to be an accountant, take a specialist degree – it's an advantage when you begin studying for your professional qualifications, as you will be exempt from some sections.
  • Carefully consider which university to attend, as some courses may be more useful or specialised than others.
  • Get involved in outside events and sports to develop team-working skills and adaptability.

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Salary of an industry accountant

  • Graduates at the start of their training usually earn between £17,000 and £24,000.
  • When qualified, this can reach £35,000 during the first few years.
  • In the most senior positions, chartered accountants can earn around £100,000.

Career as an Industry accountant

  • Most entrants are graduates with a relevant degree, such as economics, accountancy, or business and finance. Graduate training programmes are an excellent way into the profession – but places are limited.
  • It is possible to train as an accountant without a degree. From a position as an accounting technician it is possible to gain the necessary NVQs/SVQs to allow entry to professional qualification courses.
  • Trainees are able to enrol on the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) Education and Training Scheme, studying by day release or distance learning.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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