How to Become an Accountant Without a Degree

16/09/22

An accounting career offers rewarding, profitable and varied opportunities. Plus, you have the chance to work in numerous different sectors. However, there is an assumption that in order to succeed in this career you need a university degree. Despite this common misconception, you can in fact become an accountant without a degree.

In the UK, it is possible, even commonplace, to gain the qualifications needed to become an accountant without a university degree. In fact, increasing numbers of individuals are making the career change to accountancy. Further education colleges and courses, like those at Pitman Training, help them start a new career.

In this article, we will first look at the role of an accountant. Second, a brief look at the skills you need to excel in this role. Next, the qualifications you need to land an accountancy position in the UK.

Finally, we will give you clear steps to follow to start your journey in accountancy. Following these steps will help you get a foot on the ladder of your new career.

 woman accountant in the UK

What does an accountant do?

Accountancy is an expanding and highly valued industry. In the UK alone, an additional 80,000 jobs will open over the next three decades. In addition, this career has above-average salaries. So it is no wonder that many are looking into training to launch careers in this field.

An accountant can work in a number of different environments. Whether as a company employee or as a self-employed individual.

Some accountants begin their careers in the accounts departments of companies or organisations. Others work with accounting firms on a team, consulting different companies or clients.

The third option for those with accounting qualifications is to become self-employed. A self-employed accountant works as a freelancer. They will consult individual clients on a one-to-one basis. Such as other freelancers or small businesses.

An accountant's duties can vary depending on the type of company they work for and the needs of their clients. In addition, some accountants also choose to specialise in a particular area. These individuals will focus on cases which require their specialised skills and knowledge. For example, in corporate finance or forensic accounting.

 

accountant without a bachelor's degree

Here is a list of general duties and tasks of a qualified UK-based accountant.

  • Preparing accounts and tax returns
  • Analysing profits and losses
  • Writing and presenting reports, budgets, business plans, commentaries and financial statements
  • Reviewing business plans
  • Processing employee expenses
  • Offering tax planning services in line with current legislation
  • Advising on how to increase profits and/or reduce costs
  • Providing financial forecasting
  • Offering risk analysis
  • Preparing, analysing and verifying financial records
  • Offering data management, analysis and consultation
  • Managing a company’s financial records
  • Ensuring financial documents are compliant with the law
  • Bookkeeping
  • Raising and sending out invoices
  • Entering sales and purchase transactions
  • Completing payroll functions
  • Keeping financial systems up to date
  • Providing insolvency advice and services
  • Negotiating the terms of business deals
  • Meeting clients

What skills do accountants have?

You might think that a head for numbers is all you need to be a great accountant. And "number crunching" is undoubtedly a key part of this career choice. However, you might be surprised to learn of the many other skills expected in this role. It requires soft skills such as empathy to hard skills like spreadsheet proficiency.

students learning to become accountants

Soft skills

 

Communication

Successful accountants all share a key attribute. They have the ability to explain complex topics in terms that anyone can understand. And this is true regardless of their client's financial knowledge or background.

That is why communication in this role is key. You will need to be able to talk to clients in a style that does not overwhelm or confuse them. And leave out as much jargon as possible.

Listening and empathy

Discussing financial matters can be a stress-inducing experience. More so if things are not going well for the client. For this reason, an accountant needs to be able to listen carefully to their clients. And they must have empathy for their situations, both good and bad. Only by listening and understanding will you be able to offer relevant solutions.

Quick to learn

Accounting software evolves, improves and changes, quickly. So it will be important to stay up to date with new technology in the industry. And you must demonstrate your ability to work with different platforms.

team collaboration in accounting career

Collaboration

Depending on where you work, you are likely to work as part of a team. Often, you will collaborate with teams from other departments. You need to work well with others and share ideas and your experience. You also need to creatively problem-solve with your team. These are highly valued skills in a modern working environment.

Creativity

The role of an accountant may not conjure the idea of a creative profession. But you will need to be able to creatively problem solve in this career. And this is because you need to find innovative solutions to complex issues on a regular basis. Thus, creativity will be part of a successful accounting career.

Love of learning

To launch your career you must learn the necessary skills to work as an accountant. But this will not be the complete end of your education in the field. As you grow in your career you will want to gain the attention of employers and boost your employability.

So you must show that you are up to date with changes in regulations, technology and the business world. You will find that active and ongoing learning help to enhance your career.

Hard skills

working with numbers in accounting career

Solid numerical understanding and knowledge

As you might expect, an accountant should be very comfortable working with numbers. However, this is not only related to the amount of hands-on maths they must do. But even more so in the analysis, examination and interpretation of figures. Accountants must excel in this work done for their company or clients.

Experience in using accounting software packages

Accounting software, such as Sage, is a key tool in this profession. This software allows businesses to supply employees with accurate financial information. So an accountant will need to know their way around it.

Accountants will use software for a wide variety of tasks. For example, they can use it for tracking expenses, tax filing, inventory, calculating pay, calculating VAT and producing payslips.

Know how to prepare and interpret financial statements

Another key hard skill is knowing how to prepare and interpret financial statements. Financial statements play a vital role in the running of most organisations. And they provide information about the results of operations, the company's financial status, and cash flow. This information is then used to estimate the liquidity, funding and debt position of an organisation or individual.

spreadsheet proficiency for accounting career

Excellent financial reporting methods

Presenting clear, easy-to-understand financial reports is another skill you will need. You will record, summarise and report a company or client’s business transactions. You will do this through their financial statements. Some examples of financial statements are the income statement or the cash flow statement. All levels of management should understand these reports, regardless of their accounting knowledge.

Adhering to regulations, procedures and practises

Accountants oversee all a company’s financial interactions. They keep the business owners, investors and regulators aligned. And this means adhering to regulations, procedures and practises.

When the business follows accounting practises, it is easy to evaluate its performance. Plus, its operations are more transparent. Thus, discouraging the business from interpreting grey areas or loopholes to its advantage.

What qualifications do you need to be an accountant in the UK?

Besides the skills above, there are accountancy qualifications you will need to become an accountant in the UK.

The most popular route to launching an accounting career is through an AAT qualification. Further, this is the minimum qualification needed to begin a career in accounting. And it will allow you to open the door to a successful accounting career.

Later, if you want to level up in your profession, you can specialise in a specific area of accounting. You can do this by studying for other qualifications such as the ACCA, ACA or CIMA.

working as an accountant with AAT qualifications

A degree is not essential in order to become an accountant in the UK. It is only one of several ways to start an accountancy career.

Here is a quick list of some of the accounting qualifications you can achieve without a degree:

  • AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) accounting courses
  • ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualifications
  • AIA (The Association of International Accountants) professional qualification
  • ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) chartered accountant status

How to Become an Account Without a Degree - Step By Step

So you have the soft skills needed to excel in an accounting career. Now you would like to learn the hard skills and qualifications required to find your first job in the field. You do not need a degree to become an accountant in the UK! Check out the following step-by-step plan for your career change.

man begins accounting career in the UK

1. Study for a qualification

Your first step in an accounting career will be studying for a qualification. As we have seen, there are a few different associations to choose from. The most popular route is through the AAT qualifications. Here is a brief overview to help you choose AAT qualifications for an accountant career.

AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting

This certificate is for those just beginning to dip their toe in the water of accounting. If you seek to gain your first initial qualification, look no further.

To start, you can train for this exam with Pitman's Foundation Diploma in Accounting with AAT. This training is around 340 hours of study and gives you a blueprint for accounting. It will fully prepare you for the corresponding AAT certificate exam. With the level 2 qualification, you can work in entry-level/junior accountant positions.

working in an accounting career in the UK

AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting

After level 2, this is the next step in AAT qualifications. This diploma certifies a more advanced level of accounting knowledge. And showing a deep understanding will further enhance your career prospects.

With Pitman, you can train for this exam with the Advanced Diploma in Accounting. Around 520 hours of training that shows you how to manage accounts and financial records. Plus, it will fully prepare you for the level 3 diploma exam. After which, you are able to gain employment as an accountant.

Or, if you are just starting but wish to advance quickly, see Foundation and Advanced Diploma in Accounting with AAT. This complete study of 860 hours prepares you for the combination of both the level 2 and level 3 exams.

beginning an accounting career without a degree

AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting

Level 4 is the highest of AAT accounting qualifications. It shows that you can handle complex accounting tasks. Gaining this qualification allows you to pursue senior-level roles in accounting.

If you already hold the AAT level 3 diploma, you can move to this next step in career advancement. Pitman Training's 540-hour training will teach you the skills you need. The Professional Diploma in Accounting with AAT will fully prepare you for the level 4 AAT exam. (Level 4 is the equivalent of level 8 in Scotland.)

This qualification, plus proven work experience, will allow you to apply for full AAT membership and gain professional MAAT status.

growing in an accounting career

2. Decide on a Specialisation

Choosing a career path in a specific accounting sector will improve your success. As you grow in your job, you will become an expert in your area. This leads to a better salary and more job opportunities.

There are many specialisations to choose from. So it is important that you take the time to consider what type of career in accountancy you want. You should also take into account the potential salary, what you enjoy doing, and your own talents. Then you can decide which career you wish to pursue.

Take forensic accounting, for example. It could suit those of a curious nature who can explain complex financial conclusions to those of a non-finance background.

Or there is also corporate finance. It is a good fit for those with confidence, excellent numeracy skills and the ability to work well under pressure.

Here is a range of accountancy specialisations that you might like to consider:

  • Assurance
  • Commercial Finance
  • Corporate finance
  • Corporate recovery
  • Corporate treasury
  • Financial Accounting
  • Forensic Accounting
  • Internal audit
  • Management Accounting
  • Risk assessment
  • Tax

3. Gain Work Experience

Now, with your qualifications, it will be of value to your future career to gain work experience. You can even gain experience while you are still studying.

Begin to grow your career in an accounting firm. Or, you can start within an accounting department of a larger company. If you are not yet qualified, consider applying for administrative or assistant positions.

Then, try to learn as much as possible from your environment and colleagues. In addition, you can gain experience from the projects and clients the team works with.

starting a new accounting career

While you study for your accounting qualifications, consider applying for positions such as:

  • Accounts Assistant
  • Purchase Ledger Clerk
  • Junior Bookkeeper

These positions will not just provide you with a job. They will also be excellent training. And, they will give you experience in the hands-on work of an accounting department. Also, you will be able to ask for advice from the qualified accountants you will be working with on:

  • How to get a permanent accounting position
  • How they chose their specialisation
  • Accounting best practices
  • the benefits of working in-house or freelance

It will be a huge benefit if you are able to get this type of work experience while studying. Work hard to show your skills and make a good impression on your employer and colleagues. The same company may offer you a permanent accounting role once you qualify.

If you wish to start an accounting career, but spending years at university is not for you, look no further. Pitman Training offers a wide range of accountancy, bookkeeping, and payroll courses. Our world-class courses have prepared thousands of students to sit for their certifications. Contact us today for more information about how we can help you reach your goals!

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