Accounting work experience that can advance your career

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're looking to develop a career in accounting, it's essential to have relevant work experience in the industry. Experience in accounting can help improve your understanding of the industry, develop relevant skills and build a strong professional network. Knowing how to gain relevant experience in accounting can help you more efficiently advance your career in this industry. In this article, we explain the importance of accounting work experience and how to find it, provide a list of jobs you can consider pursuing and provide tips on how to gain accounting experience without a relevant degree.

Why is it important to obtain accounting work experience?

The accounting industry puts a lot of emphasis on accounting work experience, particularly if you're intending to achieve chartered status. It takes three years of industry experience to become a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), so spending some time working in accounting is vital to advancing your career in certain directions. Organisations rely on good accounting professionals to handle their finances more accurately, which is why many employers highly value relevant experience. Some employers may even require candidates to be a member of the ACCA.

Another common route of gaining experience is during your education, as many courses provide work experience opportunities. There are also many companies that hire students as interns to gain practical experience and also to recruit highly qualified candidates early. These approaches are great ways to develop your skills, gain experience in the industry and develop your professional network early. Gaining some relevant experience while studying can also help you secure entry-level roles after graduating.

Related: Work experience: definition, importance and tips

Where to find accounting work experience

A great way to start accumulating accounting experience is by working in entry-level roles in accounting. Entry-level roles can provide you with the opportunity to develop the right skills for the industry and gain experience through in-house training and development. Many employers don't expect any previous experience or specific qualifications for entry-level roles, so it's a useful option if you're completely new to the industry. Some organisations prefer candidates with no experience because it allows them to train staff to work according to specific procedures and systems.

It's also important to consider what type of accounting you want to specialise in. For example, you can focus on specific financial areas, such as tax, audit or forensic accounting. You can also specialise in specific industries or business models, as accounting practices can differ greatly between them. For example, a professional services firm's financials are usually very different from a manufacturing company. Pursuing a specialisation can help you advance your career more effectively by directing your learning and ambitions.

Related: How much does a trainee accountant make? Plus duties

Gaining accounting experience without a degree

If you don't have a degree and want to work in accounting, there are a few different ways to obtain relevant work experience. Here are some alternative methods of gaining work experience in accounting without a degree you can consider trying:

Internships

Internships are an excellent opportunity to gain lots of relevant work experience in accounting. Although many people receive internships during their studies, it's an opportunity that's available even after you graduate. Internships can help you try specific areas of accounting to figure out which specialisations you may prefer. They also provide you with more practical experience, so you get to learn about work culture and develop a network of industry contacts.

You can search for internships on job boards, as many employers see internships as a type of entry-level position in their company. You can also reach out directly to accounting firms, financial institutions or any business that employs accounting professionals. There are also opportunities in the public sector, with government internships and non-profit organisations offering similar placements for you to develop the right skills and experience in accounting.

Related: What is forensic accounting? (With skills and career info)

Networking

Networking with industry professionals is a very useful resource when looking for work experience opportunities in accounting. Try to meet people with backgrounds in accounting that can provide you with advice on how to pursue the career and possibly provide work opportunities. A great way to develop your professional is by joining professional accounting organisations. Bodies such as the Institute of Financial Accountants regularly host workshops, seminars and other events where you can meet working professional accountants. If you're still a student, you can consider joining any accounting or finance-related clubs to build your professional network earlier.

Volunteering

Another way to find accounting experience is by volunteering at a company. There are lots of volunteer opportunities available in accounting, particularly in non-profit organisations and local charities. There's usually less competition for volunteering roles, as they're not compensated. It's a good option if you're looking for a quick way to gain practical experience. Volunteering is also a great opportunity for networking, as you may work directly with accounting professionals. You may also receive mentorship and professional guidance from them, which further prepares you for a career in accounting.

Related: 12 CV skills you can learn while volunteering (with details)

Reach out to a recruiter

Recruitment agencies are another resource to consider if you're looking for accounting-related job opportunities. Recruitment professionals have a lot of industry contacts and can help you find relevant opportunities based on your background. They often have access to job openings that employers don't publicly advertise. These professionals can also often provide advice to you on how you can best prepare for an application and meet an employer's requirements. They may also help you negotiate your salary package. Using a recruiter can often help make the application process more efficient.

Accounting roles to consider pursuing

There are many job opportunities available that help you gain accounting experience. Here are a few examples of different job opportunities you can pursue to develop your accounting experience:

1. Bookkeeper

National average salary: £24,553 per year

Primary duties: A bookkeeper is a professional accountant who provides up-to-date financial records and information for a business. Their records help business owners and management make more prudent business decisions. Bookkeepers may also help with strategy development for a company, as they're often very familiar with a company's finances. This role focuses on maintaining financial records and ensuring information is accurate and up-to-date, which are useful skills for pursuing an accounting career. It's possible to enter this profession with few qualifications, so it's a great option for those without a degree in accounting.

2. Accounting technician

National average salary: £24,056 per year

Primary duties: An accounting technician is a great option for developing work experience in accounting. This role involves managing various accounting tasks and processes for organisations, including invoices, taxes and budgets. They may work individually or as part of a team, and it's a versatile role found in the industrial, commercial and public sectors. This is a great option because accounting technicians get on-the-job training. This role can also help professionals to pursue either an AAT Accounting Qualification or an ACCA Certified Accounting Technician Qualification.

Related: How to become an accounting technician (duties and skills)

3. Finance assistant

National average salary: £22,461 per year

Primary duties: A finance assistant may assist with managing costs, processing payments and creating invoices. They maintain the financial health of a company by providing accurate financial records and identifying any inconsistencies or problems in finances. Employers usually look for candidates who hold a relevant undergraduate degree in finance or business, so it's mainly suitable for those that have some accounting experience or background. Finance assistants usually work within large accounting departments, so it's a great opportunity to learn about other roles in accounting.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌

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