Advice for Recently Qualified Accountants: What is next?

Today marks a day of nervous excitement amongst the 2016/2017 cohort of soon to be Newly Qualified Accountants as they receive their FAE results. With the final exam results in and training contracts ending soon, this can be both an exciting and daunting time as the obvious question begs itself; what is next?

Staying in Practice  

Staying in practice is an option for many. There is certainly strong demand among professional services firms and a clearly defined career path for those committed to practice. In addition to building on an existing knowledge base and gaining higher level exposure on client engagements, progression into management positions brings its own learning and exposure to more senior stakeholders.

For those considering progressing within practice, change could still be on the cards, whether it be within departments (transaction advisory progressing to corporate finance, etc.) or moving to a larger or more specialised firm. After 3-3.5 years with your training firm perhaps a change of company and culture can bring fresh learning, client sectors and offer exposure to different working methods.

Factors to consider when weighing up a potential move include; opportunities for learning and career progression, company reputation, culture, location, remuneration, cultural fit and work/life balance. If qualified in a firm outside the Top 20 then a transition to a Top 20 firm could be attractive, likewise if trained in a Top 10 (non-Big 4) firm, gaining experience in Deloitte/EY/PWC/KPMG would be an excellent addition to your professional career. Many firms will jump at the change of hiring a good Audit Senior/ Recently Qualified Accountant.

Making the transition to industry

Naturally the draw to industry is strong among newly qualified accountants who want to move from reviewing (audit) to doing (account preparation, etc.). Many will ask the question – what industry is right for me? It is worth spending a good amount of time thinking about this, looking at the macro trends among sectors and deciding culturally whether a multinational, indigenous SME or Shared Service Sector is the best fit. Keep in mind that it will be easier to secure a job in a sector that you might have previous experience auditing. However, a lot of companies will see a newly qualified accountant as very desirable and will be content with the fact that the skills you have learned in practice are indeed, transferable. The nature of the role (what you will be doing day-to-day) should also be key to your consideration, whether that be financial accounting, financial reporting, internal audit etc.

What kind of job should I look for?

Choose a job that will genuinely make you happy and position you on your desired career track, as opposed to having the mind-set that you will do anything to ‘’get out of external audit’’. Remember you are just beginning your career as a chartered accountant and your first job outside of practice will be important in steering the direction of that career. As such, it is a decision not to be taken lightly.

What salary should I be expecting?

Salary will inevitably be a big part of your choice when deciding on your next step. As a recently qualified accountant, depending on whether you stay in industry or practice, you can expect your salary to be anywhere from €45,000 to €55,000. While the base salary is often the headline figure, do give consideration to the overall remuneration package; benefits like pension, bonus, and health insurance all add up. Also keep in mind the length of time until a salary review and promotion opportunities. Finally give consideration to the amount of time you will work (including expected overtime) / commute to work – €50,000 for a 35 hour week with no overtime expectation is obviously more attractive that a €55,000 offer for a 40 hour week where extensive overtime is likely! It can therefore be important to be flexible and open minded when it comes to salary. This can be a benefit of working with an experienced recruitment consultant who will be able to give you an overview of the market and can inform you on salary brackets depending on the role. You can access salary brackets within our most recent salary survey here.

Contract verses Permanency

It is common for many professionals to have a preference for permanent positions over contract. However, a contract is definitely worth considering and has its perks, particularly for a newly qualified accountant leaving a training contract. Contracts will often offer better pay in lieu of a benefits package. They will also give you the choice and flexibility to sample a number of employers in your industry. Conversely, it gives you a trial run of an organisation before you commit to permanency.

Failing the FAEs

If you happen to fail your FAEs, it is not the end of the world! You will need to consider whether you want to repeat your ACA exams next year. If this is your decision then it might be a good option to stay in practice as working in industry will be less lenient to allow for study time off.

An alternative option for candidates is to consider changing to the ACCA qualification which offers a more flexible approach to study/exams when you are working full time. If you have had enough of practice, you will still have a number of opportunities open to you in industry. You will also have a years’ experience in industry which will be beneficial to you when sitting your exams. So point being – there are plenty of options for you if the results do not go your way.

If you are still unsure about what option may be best for you, then we are happy to guide you through this process with a confidential consultation with our Accounting and Finance team. For more info, get in touch today!  

Tel: 01 676 0505