Getting a job in an Accountancy Practice vs Industry

If we answered that question, someone would sue us!

Much of what is set out below, we have cribbed from another article in this Knowledge Centre – because it is equally relevant to this question.

This is a difficult question for us to answer, because it depends…


I (I being Simon) am a Chartered Accountant. I trained in a firm of Chartered Accountants. One of the “Big 8” as they were then.

Most of my training was as an auditor. Auditing financial statements of publically recognised companies. Most of my subsequent professional life was, and is, dealing with firms of Chartered Accountants and providing some consultancy on Practice Management and on Audits and Financial Reporting.

I am a Financial Accountant. I don’t really enjoy the Management Accounting subjects – costing, overhead capacity variances. Yuk!

I have colleagues who really like that sort of stuff but who would rather avoid a set of consolidated financial statements and a business tax computation.

You probably can’t tell until you try!

The four main areas of accountancy can be summarised as:

  • Industry and Commerce
  • Private Practice (e.g. firms of accountants)
  • Public Sector (e.g. local authorities, hospitals)
  • The Third Sector (e.g. Charities and NGOs)

Although they all deal with numbers, the roles can be very different so it is worth having a think about what you would like to do.

Industry or Commerce

In industry and commerce you could…

  • Form a key part of the sales or purchase ledger department – raising sales invoices; approving purchase invoices; credit control and financial management.
  • Operate in the payroll department; controlling wages; completing regular statutory returns.
  • Work in the costing department assisting in product costing and decision making.
  • Play a role in the accounts department preparing management accounts; budgets and cashflows; providing information for management decisions

Private Practice

In private practice you could…

  • Produce financial statements for various types of businesses.
  • Assist in the audit of limited companies and charities.
  • Prepare tax returns and budgets for individuals and businesses.
  • Assist clients with bookkeeping or installing computerised accountancy systems.
  • Work on the preparation of business plans and provide financial information management decisions.

Public Sector

In the public sector you could…

  • Join a particular department like Housing or Social Services.
  • Get involved with the preparation of budgets and forecasts.
  • Be collecting revenue and authorising payments.
  • Play a part in evaluating the financial impact of proposed activities.
  • Perform internal audits.

Third Sector

In the third sector you could…

  • Be monitoring the fundraising activities for an international disaster relief campaign
  • Help draft funding applications for high charitable projects
  • Travel overseas to supervise the implementation of an international educational aid project

Where do you see yourself fitting?
Which of the jobs listed above appeals most to you.

Look at the job ads on Indeed or in the paper or on the website of a larger business. What sort of work are they offering?

Go for an interview.

Go for as many as you can.

An interview is not a one way process. They may be interviewing you, but you should be interviewing them as well. Do you want to work for them? Can  you see yourself doing the job they are recruiting for?