From Microbiology To Working With Business

An Accountancy Expert’s View on Changing Careers And A Growing Industry

It may not be the career choice for most graduates with UCAS data showing it is dwarfed by subjects such as the sciences, nursing, law and even media studies. But accountancy is growing in popularity – by 16% in fact, over the course of the past eight years.

Accountancy is often viewed, wrongly it should be emphasised, as a boring, mundane profession only studied by numerically-gifted, calculator touting boffins. But here are some reasons that disprove that:

·  Mick Jagger started studying accountancy at London School of Economics before he found became a rock god.

·   You get to meet a wide-ranging variety of people, just as in any business field.

·    It is as rewarding and challenging as you want to make it.

Accountancy is actually a very savvy industry to go into. Like lawyers, doctors and nurses, and trade professions, someone, somewhere will always need an accountant. Businesses will need people to manage their finances, sign off on their accounts every year for Companies House, and people will always need to know how they can get more for their pounds and reduce their expenditure. And the best bit? You don’t need to even have studied accountancy to get into the industry.

Changing Careers and the Non-Traditional Routes

Clare McCullagh, Director of Heavenly Online Accountants, is one such example. Her path has seen her leave behind the lab coat, having studied Microbiology at the University of Sheffield - via the bright lights and metropolitan lifestyle of the capital - to setting up her own fledgling accountancy firm in the north-east. 

“I’ve always been interested in business – my grandfather had a business. I think I get the science side from my parents but I have always had an urge to pursue business so that’s where it led,” explains Clare.

“I went to the Business department one day at university and found I could do a Masters. I got offered a chance to the MA in Business Administration and that provided the stepping stone to where I am today.”

On her motivation for changing her career path she added: “I did an eight week project at university involving laboratory work. I just found that there weren’t enough people around me, and I’m very much a people person.

“It was a trade-off between doing something interesting and being around more people and more people won. I guess I just craved interaction.”

There are numerous routes into the industry such as apprenticeships, studying independently through bodies such as ACCA or CIMA. If graduates are even unsure of their path towards the end of their chosen course, they can even switch as Clare did and look to do a Masters in accountancy.

Why go into accountancy?

Aside from the competitive starting salary for graduates - £25,000 according to Prospects – Clare argues that it is much more than that.

Accountancy is a fantastic career choice. It is a great job, very rewarding and can be great in terms of flexibility.

“I guess people are just looking for stable career choices and accountancy is one of those things that will always be around. People will always need some to manage their finances; someone will always need advice on how they can balance spending.

She adds that accountancy will be an invaluable skill for anyone looking to progress in the business world and one that can be recognised by a lot of people in the business world: “I see accountancy as like learning a different language. Once you have those skills they stay with you for the rest of your life, look great on your CV and give you an advantage against other candidates.”

What does accountancy involve?

Accountancy is a subject area that requires a lot of hard work, dedication and commitment to get to that ultimate goal. Clare’s path saw her leave university and join the top London firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. During her time there, she was thrown straight into the deep end and out on the road doing field work with just a few weeks behind

“PricewaterhouseCoopers look for a certain level of academic achievement and someone who can interact with clients, and more to the point enjoys doing it. It is fairly fast-paced – just six weeks into the job I was out in the field meeting clients and doing audits for them.”

On her change to becoming the Director of her own business she admitted that there were numerous factors to take into consideration.

“I just fancied a change. It is quite a lonely lifestyle out on the road, as you don’t have a permanent base and it is a lot of travelling. I really wanted some stability and my own base. It is good to be in control.”

What advice does she give to graduates?

Different jobs require different skills and she recommends that people that aspire to get into the industry need to be tough and positive mental attitude.

“It is quite hard to pass your accountancy exams. It isn’t like university; it involves a lot of hard work, effort and commitment. You have still got to work and then pass your exams at the end of it so you need good attitude, mentality and stamina. You would be working 10 hour days then having to study for exams,” advises Clare.

And it may prove to be a difficult profession for anyone who has a family or is in a relationship where quality time is something they would not want to give up easily.

“Family is difficult – you have to fit it around work so for anyone with families, they have to have a very understanding partner, especially working for a company”, she said.

However, she cites this as one reason for her change to her own business “It is much more difficult than my own business, which offers much more flexibility when I need it as I am firmly in control of everything.”

Final words of advice

Clare’s final words of advice: “I would advise anyone to take a leap of faith and be ambitious, never have any regrets.”

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