How to Become a Public Finance Accountant How I Made It
Think of accountants and you tend to think of those that work for the big firms on the financial affairs of privately owned or publically floated companies. Whilst this stereotype is not far from the truth, it is not, however, the whole truth.
Accountants work across all sectors of the economy, including the public services. This means local government, the NHS, central government, the armed services, the European Union, the UN, UK overseas territories, and indeed anywhere where taxpayers’ money is spent.
In the public services, this means specialising in the distinctive challenges of publicly funded, publicly accountable organisations. Therefore, unlike in private practice, accountants in the public services are not just loyal to their employers and the profit motive, but they also have a duty to serve the public interest and to understand and observe the high standards expected in relation to the management of public money.
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) is the representative body for accountants across the public services and it is the awarding body for the professional qualification taken by accountants training in the public sector. They are known as Chartered Public Finance Accountants and they have the letters ‘CPFA’ after their names.
What skills are needed to have a successful career as a Chartered Public Finance Accountant?
Preparing financial records and statements, reviewing budgets and investments, monitoring spending and cash flows and analysing the effectiveness of services to the public cannot be done on an approximate basis, but are exact sciences. Consequently, good basic maths and computer skills, as well as analytical and problem-solving abilities, are essential. Good accuracy and attention to detail are also key to success, as are organisational and time-management skills.
Most importantly, however, public service accountancy suits people with an inquiring mind, who are looking to play a part in society. Therefore, an interest in current affairs is a must, as well as an interest in having a career which makes a difference.
How do you become qualified?
Most public sector bodies offer training vacancies, which allow people to study for the CIPFA professional qualification whilst gaining relevant work experience on the job in their finance teams. To qualify for this normally, you need at least three GCSEs (A-C) and two A levels (including Maths and English at either level) or an equivalent such as an NVQ level 3 or a BTEC National Certificate. Alternatively, you need to be aged 21 or over and have at least three years' relevant work experience.
The CIPFA Professional Qualification is designed to equip students with essential accountancy and business skills, which will enable you to operate effectively within an organisation whilst fulfilling your career aims.
Delivered in three stages, the course takes approximately three years to complete. As part of supporting their employees’ career progression, employers normally offer them time-off to study, and tend to cover some, if not all, of the costs of the qualification. A variety of study methods are on offer, from face-to-face tuition to distance learning and online courses.
Once qualified, it’s essential that Chartered Public Finance Accountants keep their professional knowledge up-to-date throughout their career. CIPFA, like all the professional accounting bodies, runs a Continuing Professional Development scheme to help members achieve this.
Finally, what can a Chartered Public Finance Accountant typically expect to earn?
Many students progress through their careers very quickly. A CIPFA student can earn over £25,000 as a trainee accountant. As a qualified Chartered Public Finance Accountant, you can expect to earn £40,000 or more as a senior auditor. If you progress to chief executive level you can expect to earn £100,000 or more. To see a selection of employers currently taking on graduate trainees, please go to: www.cipfa.org.uk/trainee
Written by Julia Attridge
Assistant Director, Education and Membership @ CIPFA
Image courtesy of Flikr user Found Animals Foundation, 'Max the Brown Tabby and Burt the Grey Kitten: Cat Argument 2'
MoreHow I Made It
After 8 years working in HR and graduate recruitment, Hannah Salton’s knowledge of recruitment processes is extensive. In early 2017 Hannah used her experience from both the professional services and legal industry to set up her own coaching and consulting business. Here, Hannah combines her knowledge of what employers look for in their hires, along with her experience of coaching young professionals, to share her 5 top tips for today’s job seekers.
It is becoming increasingly more popular for employers to give future employees aptitude tests as part of the recruitment process. The aptitude test is used to gain insight into the future employee’s skill sets, character traits, working style, and ability to handle a workload. It’s also becoming common to offer these tests in a computerized form. With a computer based test, comes a whole new set of challenges that job seekers should be aware of. Jennifer Feldman gives her tips on how best to combat these tricky little numbers!
The events industry can offer a rewarding career with exciting challenges, exciting perks and the chance to help make people’s dreams come true. From parties to weddings, it’s a fun career but one that carries a lot of responsibility, organisation and creativity. Niamh Spence caught up with three young graduates who are lucky enough enough to be working at one of the UK’s most exciting wedding venues, Heaton House Farm, and they’ve shared their top tips on how to get ahead in this competitive industry.
Anthony Alleyne is a Filmmaker, Film Course Leader and Course Designer, based at Met Film School. He is the Leader of Met Film School’s course. We sat down with him to talk about the skills that you need to pursue a career in filmmaking.
The creative industries are often the hardest to break into for graduates, but we gained some knowledge from Gem Barton, author of Don’t Get a Job… Make a Job: How to make it as a creative graduate about alternative ways into the world of work.
So, you think you want to be a nurse? There’s more than just the job title to think about. There are endless opportunities to specialise in nursing, allowing you to gain the best experience possible and develop your skills and knowledge. We sat down with Phoebe from Your World Healthcare, to discuss the profession and how to go about choosing what it is you want to do.
FACTFILE Name: Joe Earle Role: Business Process Analyst Location: Chineham Length of employment: 2 years
FACTFILE Name: Joel Leadsham Role: Apprentice Team Manager Location: Spalding Length of employment: 1 Year and 2 Months
Making yourself leap off the page can be difficult, especially when applying for an NHS role. Our friends at GoToJobBoard explain how to make your application a success.
We caught up with Martin Roberts, Head Of Buying, and Ben Bisco, Head of Digital, at Jacamo Menswear, for their best advice on how to get into the Fashion industry through two different avenues – one in sales and the other in marketing.
Om Ruparel is the MD and Founder of Recruitmentology.co.uk, a company specialising in recruitment for the digital, marketing and media landscape, as well as being a special advisor to the British Interactive Media Association. He spoke to AllAboutCareers to help us bring you his best tips for breaking the digital tech industry!
Frank Frumento is a movie trailer editor and works on a range of projects, creating the trailers, teasers and TV spots you see in the cinema and on TV every day. Quite a cool job, right? Yes. Good. We quizzed Frank on how he made it as a movie trailer editor and what advice he has for those wanting to enter the film and media industry.
Securing a job after university is just one of the worries students have to think about in their final year. We spoke to Rose Taylor about how she got the job of her dreams after a successful and eye-opening placement with Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
AllAboutCareers.com spoke to Duncan William about how he became a magician and mind reader. He reveals how he embarked upon a graduate scheme and travelled before following his dream career path.
I work for a charitable organisation called Involve. We work in the field of public participation in governance and decision-making; researching and delivering best practice in order to enhance the development of a democratic process that incorporates greater systems for involving the public.
John-Patrick Richardson is a Technical Analyst at the National Nuclear Laboratory. Graduating with a BSc in Management Science and a MSc in Management, John-Patrick outlines his role in nuclear energy...
Tom Wilcox is the Director of Counterculture Partners Limited, a financial services company which specialises in helping cultural, creative and third sector organisations to plan, manage and thrive. Tom has done it all: he joined PwC as a graduate trainee, he worked as a finance officer for Arts Council England, and he was the Managing Director of the Whitechapel Gallery for almost seven years. Here Tom tells us about the twists and turns of his eventful career so far…
Specialising in international criminal law, Toby Cadman has represented clients all over the world, from Bosnia to Bangladesh. His first job in the legal profession was as an international human rights lawyer in Sarajevo. Since then he has established himself as an expert barrister in the areas of war crimes, extradition and human rights law. Here Toby tells us about his most challenging cases to date, the dangers of working in international criminal law, and what it takes to become a successful human rights lawyer…
Steph Naulls has landed her dream job as a communications assistant at Penguin. From landing work experience through Twitter to working at the BBC studios and Edinburgh International Book Festival (where she saw Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin!), Steph tells AllAboutCareers.com how she made it and also provides advice for budding publicists.
It’s possible to convert to a law career at any point; it’s not just the realm of graduates fresh out of university. Oliver Wiseman graduated with a degree in modern languages (French and Spanish) back in 2004 and followed a career in the bright lights of film production before switching to the legal sector. He told us about swapping life behind the silver screen for life in the silver circle as a trainee solicitor at City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP)…
At the tender age of 25, Sean Paul Verity is already an incredibly successful project manager. Having started his career with Regus in the serviced office industry, he has now established himself in the digital world, working for an innovative digital agency called Rockpool. Here Sean tells us about the importance of choosing the right placement, making the most of your opportunities to travel and why working at the forefront of the digital industry is the perfect match for his project management skills…
Rory Sutherland is one of the most influential advertising professionals in the world today. He is also one of the most fascinating, eccentric and witty people in the business. Having narrowly escaped a career in teaching, he joined Ogilvy as a graduate trainee in the golden summer of ’88. 23 and a half years later, he is still there. From his early forays into the world of account handling, Rory made the leap into the creative department and has never looked back. In ‘Part One’ of our extended interview with the cravat-wearing creative, we track his fascinating career from graduate trainee to Head of Copy at OgilvyOne in 1995…
In ‘Part Two’ of our extended interview with Rory Sutherland, we discuss Mad Men, the importance of behavioural economics, and the admirable qualities of Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. We also find out exactly what the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK does with his precious time. He may simply describe himself as the ‘Fat bloke at Ogilvy’ on his Twitter profile, but he’s certainly much more than that. We reckon it’s about time you found out why!
Ever since he set up his own video production company, Peter Corrigan has spent his time producing work for clients both big and small, applying his creative knowhow towards making content for anyone from huge computer corporations to your everyday local pub band. He’s also been nice enough to write us a little article on how he started up his own business in the creative industry…
Managing to balance a busy home life with a challenging financial career, Myra Geater has climbed the career ladder from an accounts assistant role with a local business to become a Strategic MI Manager for the global mobile phone company, Vodaphone. Here Myra tells us about the peaks and troughs of her career so far…
From the early days of building computers in his bedroom, Misha Gopaul has turned his passion for technology into a multi-million pound business. Bored of education, Misha decided to skip university and focus his efforts on expanding his I.T. company. Here Misha tells us about the rapid expansion of his business, the importance of having a mentor and why you should just get an idea and go for it…
Wondering where a science degree could take you outside of the lab? Liz Cohen, Partner at London law firm Bristows LLP, started out as a natural sciences student and has worked her way right up to the top. And she hasn’t left her sciences background behind either. Here, Liz tells us all about how she made it…
Lesley Fox has worked her way up the ranks at top professional services firm Mazars to become a Partner in their Audit and Assurance service line. So how did she make it? She tells us all about her training experiences, career progression and bringing new graduates up through the ranks to manage alongside her.
At the age of 20, without any experience, Kate Barton managed to break into the fashion industry as an Assistant Travel Editor for Vogue. She didn’t stop there. Throughout her successful career in fashion, she became a designer for Laura Ashley, started her own childrenswear company and played an instrumental role in launching Mini Boden. We were lucky enough to chat to Kate about the highs and lows of her fascinating career in fashion…
Julian Powell-Tuck started his own successful architecture and interior design practice when he was just 25, after being told by his tutor that he was practically “unemployable.” Here Julian tells us what it takes to set up your own business in a recession…
Jules Harbage has worked his way up the ranks at Leeds law firm, Walker Morris LLP, to become a partner in their Construction and Engineering department, with a niche specialist area in Energy work. He tells us all about his training experiences, why he chose construction law and his career progression to date.
Becoming Head of Sustainability at global coffee brand Nespresso doesn’t just happen overnight. We spoke to Jerome Perez and quizzed him on how he made it in the industry and what tips he has for current and soon-to-be graduates looking to make it in the business world.
Bob is now an associate lawyer in construction at law firm Mayer Brown, but he couldn’t have got this far without first completing the LPC – the mandatory vocational course for aspiring solicitors. But what did he take from his experience at Kaplan Law School into his now flourishing legal career?
Alison Clarke is a partner in RPC’s Insurance and Reinsurance practice, specialising in financial lines E&O, D&O and professional indemnity insurance. We caught up with Alison to chat about her career with RPC and find out what life is like as one of the few barrister partners in the UK…
From her first role as a trainee actuary with Liverpool Victoria, Gina Craske has risen through the ranks of the actuarial profession to become a director at KPMG. Here Gina discusses the trajectory of her career so far, the gender balance in the actuarial industry, and the challenges facing a senior actuarial consultant on a daily basis…
Giles Murphy started off at accountancy and investment management firm Smith & Williamson back in 1991 as a trainee. Since then he’s performed a number of different roles at the firm and has worked his way up to National Head of Assurance and Business Services. He told us about his route to success at the firm…
Elizabeth Edwards is Head of Education at Learn With Pip, an education company that creates the products to help children improve their reading skills by using apps. After deviating from a career in the legal sector and years of teaching, AllAboutCareers.com caught up with Elizabeth, quizzing her on her experiences and future prospects…
When I tell people I work in advertising, I'm persistently faced with the same question: “ooh, what adverts do you make?” My response is always simple, and a little tetchy: “I don’t.”