Starting a career in finance

If you have a head for figures and like the idea of helping to keep a business’s affairs in order, then you should consider starting a career in finance. Whilst you’re probably imagining you’ll need to head back to university, and get yourself in debt to the tune of a few thousand pounds, the good news is that this certainly isn’t true - you can pursue a career in finance without a degree. We’re here to offer you the very best advice on where to turn if you’re thinking of starting a new career in this exciting and dynamic sector.

Accountancy

What does an accountant do?

Accountants are responsible for interpreting and presenting financial information, balancing the books, making sure a business is in profit, and looking for ways to reduce costs. They might prepare tax returns, figure out how much tax is owed, maintain and organise records, and much more. Without accountants, businesses would be unable to function, so they are very important figures within any organisation. There are many different types of accountants with various specialisations. For instance, some accountants might work in taxation, some in corporate finance, and some in forensic accounting.

How can I become an accountant?

Although some aspiring accountants choose to study at degree level, it’s not considered essential. Generally speaking, to start any career in finance, it can be an advantage to have studied economics or maths at A-level, so that you have an idea that you’re comfortable working with numbers and will find the work interesting and fulfilling. After this step, there are a range of qualifications you can take to become a qualified accountant, with the AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting considered to be the foundation which will allow you to apply for junior and entry level accounting roles. To enter into a specialism such as chartered accountancy, you’ll need to complete further qualifications, such as the ACA. Completing these qualifications generally involves numerous exams and significant amounts of work experience, however, once completed, the average salary for accountants who specialise in a particular area is high, sometimes exceeding £100,000 per year.

Bookkeeping

What does a bookkeeper do?

Whilst they might appear similar, accountancy and bookkeeping are two distinct disciplines. Bookkeeping is the process of noting down and organising an organisation’s financial data, such as incomings and outgoings, whereas accountancy focuses on how to interpret and present such data. Bookkeepers might also produce reports and financial statements for management to interpret and scrutinise. It’s vital that the records they keep are up to date and accurate, as important decisions will be made based on the data they provide.

How can I become a bookkeeper?

If you’re looking to start a career in finance that’s a little less intense than accountancy and that you can fit around family life and other commitments, then bookkeeping is ideal; once you’re qualified, you could choose either to work from home, or work for an organisation of any size. To explore this career option, you could begin with a free Introduction to Bookkeeping short course to learn the basics, before moving on to an accredited qualification such as our ICB Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping, which will allow you to gain ICB certification. Once you’ve achieved this, you can increase your skills and experience, along with your earning potential, by studying ICB Level 3 Bookkeeping and Accounts. Once you’re an established bookkeeper, you can expect to earn around £25,000 per year.

Payroll administration

What does a payroll administrator do?

A payroll administrator is responsible for checking the hours that employees have worked, calculating national insurance and tax payments, processing holiday pay and other expenses, issuing P45s and other forms, calculating overtime and pay increases, along with many other tasks. No matter what the business, every company needs a competent professional at its heart who is able to deliver salaries on time, work to high-pressure deadlines, and keep abreast of ever-changing rules and regulations.

How can I become a payroll administrator?

Similarly to bookkeeping, it’s not essential that you have any prior education or training, merely that you have a high level of numerical competency. If you’re confident in your abilities, you can become qualified to run payroll in under a year with courses such as our ICB Level 3 Diploma in Payroll Management. Once you’ve gained experience as a payroll administrator, you could progress to a management position. You might start on a salary of around £15,000, which could increase to £28,000.

Mortgage advisor

What does a mortgage advisor do?

Finding a mortgage and purchasing a property is an overwhelming experience, especially for first-time buyers. For this reason, many people will seek out a professional who will help them understand what they need to do, and give them the very best advice. A mortgage advisor has specialist and in-depth knowledge of the housing market, and they will help clients find a mortgage that suits them, as well as guide them through the application process. They work alongside mortgage lenders, estate agents, and valuers, to make sure the advice they give to clients is relevant and accurate. Despite the recession, mortgage applications in the UK recently hit a 12-year high as house prices continue to rise. This means one thing - mortgage advisors are in extremely high demand, so if you're keen on starting a career in finance, it's a great avenue to consider.

How can I become a mortgage advisor?

Although you don’t strictly need any prior qualifications to embark on this career, it’s definitely helpful to have GCSEs in English and maths at grades nine to four (A* to C), and you might also benefit from having studied business at A-level or GCSE. Ultimately, you’ll need to complete a course such as the CeMAP Mortgage Adviser, which meets the standards set by the UK Financial Conduct Authority and is the industry standard qualification held by mortgage advisers. After you’re qualified, you could choose to work within a company, with a group of other advisors, or on your own as an independent freelancer. If you’re skilled, have a good rapport with customers, and build a solid reputation within the industry, you could easily expect to find yourself earning around £70,000 per year.

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list of the options you might consider if you're thinking of starting a career in finance, the professions listed are easiest to enter with no prior experience. If you’re still unsure, then studying a qualification such as Business Finance Level 2 will give you an excellent overview of the economics of running a business, as well as teach you the foundations of bookkeeping, credit control, costing, and management accounting, so you can get a taste for what you’re best at, and what interests you.


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