17 Sep 2020

How to become an accountant? A complete guide to being fully qualified

A professional accountant is a very secure profession, as companies of all shapes and sizes will always require the invaluable skills and knowledge that an accountant can provide.

What does an accountant do?

The primary task of an accountant is to prepare taxes and examine financial records for companies and individuals. Accountants track profits and losses for companies to help keep their accounts in good standing while ensuring their clients follow regulations and tax laws. 

Duties as an accountant may include:

• Completing bank and control account reconciliations 

• Preparing cash flow reports and forecasts

• Maintaining proper and complete accounting records, ensuring that best practice controls and procedures are implemented and complied with at all times

• Assisting in the preparation of financial plans, annual budgets, forecasts and KPIs 

• Credit control and cash flow management

• Processing paperwork for new vendors

• Managing, reconciling and completing VAT, PAYE, and any relevant statutory returns to Revenue

• Providing financial input into strategic decisions for companies

• General administrative tasks and payroll support

Key skills required for the job include:

• A good standard of Maths and English

• Knowledge of accounting and economics

• Analytical skills

• Administration skills

• Strong attention to detail

• Organisational skills

• Excellent communication skills

• Computer literacy

The average salary for an accountant in Ireland:

€39,333 - €56,477 per year.

Sources: Charteredaccountants.ie, Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com.

How long does it take to become an accountant?

Graduates will need 3 to 4 years’ work experience before becoming a qualified accountant.

How to become an accountant

To become an accountant you will need to complete a training programme with a professional accountancy body in Ireland.

This involves successfully completing the exams within the programme, while simultaneously gaining relevant accountancy work experience. 

The amount of work experience required to become fully qualified is dependent on your educational background:

• Accredited Masters in Accounting: 3 years

• Undergraduate degree (accountancy or non-accountancy): 3.5 years

• Accounting Technician qualification: 4 years

How to get started:

A popular route in Ireland to become an accountant is to train with the country's largest accountancy body - Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI). 

No previous work experience is required to join their training programme. However, you will need to have either an undergraduate degree, postgraduate degree, Accounting Technician qualification or be a member of another accountancy body. It’s important to note that both accountancy and non-accountancy degrees are acceptable to enrol on the programme.

No degree or certificate? No problem

If you don’t have a degree or certificate you can take the apprenticeship route, which is a great way to begin learning the accountancy trade with on-the-job training and learning.

Accounting Technicians Ireland currently offers an Accounting Technician apprenticeship. As an apprentice, you will be mentored through a 2-year programme which involves working 4 days a week with an employer and 1 day per week studying at a local college. You will earn at least €19,700 per year as an apprentice. Upon completion, you will be awarded a Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Accounting. 

There will be an option to join the Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) training programme after completing just 1 year of the Accounting Technician apprenticeship. However, by completing the second year and then joining the CAI training programme, you will receive first-year exam exemptions in financial accounting, taxation and law along with being awarded the Level 6 Certificate. 

With the Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Accounting, you can then apply for a place on the CAI training programme.

Entry routes

There are two options to enter the CAI training programme:

Option 1: Training contract

You will be required to complete a training contract with a recognised training organisation. The training contract is 3.5 years with a company or firm who provides you with the required amount of relevant work experience to qualify as an accountant, while also covering your exam fees. 

Chartered Accountants Ireland does not place you on a training contract. Traditionally, companies conduct a process called a "milkround" when they’re recruiting for training/graduate positions. The milkround involves firms visiting universities and colleges in Ireland, where they screen interested applicants and invite them to interviews.

Alternatively, you can visit the Chartered Accountants Ireland website to view current training vacancies. 

Upon successful completion of your exams while gaining 3.5 years of relevant work experience, you will be a fully qualified chartered accountant.

Option 2: Flexible route

Going the flexible route involves taking the same exams and completing the same amount of relevant work experience. However, it allows you to:

• Choose exactly where you want to gain work experience (Once you’re operating in an accounts facing role)

• Switch between employers if circumstances change

• Take extended breaks from both work and your studies

• Option to complete your exams before gaining any work experience

In order to become a fully qualified accountant, there is a timeframe limit of 8 years to successfully complete your exams and gain the relevant amount of work experience

Pathway to becoming a fully qualified chartered accountant.

Source: https://www.charteredaccountants.ie

Career progression

As you gain more experience you could decide to become a self-employed accountant or specialise in a particular accountancy field. 

Mid-level roles:

With 2 - 8 years’ experience, you can start exploring more advanced roles which include:

• Accounting manager | Average salary: €53,446 - €69,456 per year

• Cost accountant | Average salary: €44,642 - €51,064 per year

• Accounting analyst | Average salary: €44,847 - €46,457 per year

• Audit manager | Average salary: €62,184 - €64,916 per year

Senior-level roles:

With 9+ years of experience, you can expect to land some of the most coveted jobs in the industry which include:

• Financial controller | Average salary: €80,000 - €120,000 per year

• Finance manager €65,000 - €85,000 per year

• Internal Audit Manager | Average Salary: €70,000 - €85,000 per year

• Group Financial Accountant | Average salary: €55,000 - €70,000 per year

For more information on becoming an accountant we recommend visiting the Chartered Accountants Ireland website.

Best of luck on your career journey!

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