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Accounting is a tool that helps gain an understanding the financial position of a business in terms of sales, costs, cash flow and liquidity (its ability to repay debts). Accountants are employed by companies and individuals to assist with various business issues. They can be involved in detecting fraud, providing advice on tax issues, analysing profit and loss and generally ensuring that all the numbers add up. Moreover, they serve to pinpoint precisely where companies are making and losing money.

The primary reason for accountancy is to ensure that a business pays the correct amount of tax, sometimes helping business owners by highlighting potential overpayments of tax and when costs can be discounted against tax payments.

Tax benefits are just one aspect though – the role of accounting in a business context is vital for business planning too. A thorough understanding of what businesses are spending, for example, can highlight where potential savings could be made. Also, a regular review of a business’s income can help to identify top-selling products and services, allowing the company to better manage its marketing strategy.

What else can accountants do?

Accountants can also offer other services, like helping to raise finance, business planning and investment consultancy. There is also a range of roles those in accountancy could hold. If you take on an in-house accountancy role, you’ll be involved in preparing profit and loss statements and accounting reports, as well as providing key information for the company’s annual report. You’ll even be asked to look through contracts, budgets, pension schemes and grants to ensure everything is as it should be.

Some accountants are externally employed: they are paid for the hours they work rather than being not direct employees of the company. These accountants can sometimes spot issues that may have been missed internally; external audits are also useful to ensure nothing fraudulent is taking place.

Some accountants might even specialise in tax accountancy: these are the people who focus their efforts on helping their company or clients to pay tax in the most cost-effective and resourceful, while adhering to tax regulations as defined by the HMRC.

Accounting apprenticeships

School leavers wanting to work in this sector could do an Intermediate Apprenticeship (Level 2) after taking their GCSEs, and train in roles like accounts assistant or purchase ledger clerk.

They could then do an Advanced Apprenticeship (Level 3) in roles like trainee accounting technician or assistant accountant. School leavers with A-levels could also access these schemes.

There are also marketing Higher Apprenticeships (Level 4), for those with a good set of A-levels/UCAS points or who have completed an Advanced Apprenticeship, in roles such as accounts manager or accounting technician.

Those wanting to work in accountancy could also consider a school leaver programme: schemes on which trainees work for a company (and are paid a salary) while also studying towards professional qualifications. Some employers also run sponsored degrees in this sector.

School leavers could also look at the courses on offer at further education college or university. 

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