Working as a trainee accountant

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Mark Fallon, Associate Director of the finance division for Robert Walters Dublin, looks at what it takes to become a professional accountant.

Accountancy training contracts are in short supply at the moment. They are highly sought-after and the application process is competitive. Your CV must demonstrate your desire for the role and must be tailored to highlight that you really want the trainee accountant position you’re applying for. At the interview stage, adequate preparation and enthusiasm for the profession is essential. If an organisation is going to invest the time to train you they want to be sure that you are dedicated to a career in accountancy.

Necessary experience and qualifications

A strong educational background in accounting and finance is what employers are ideally seeking at present. It is advantageous to have acquired exemptions from professional examinations and it is worth exploring module choices at university to see what exemptions they will provide you with. An internship or vacation programme that provides practical experience will definitely increase your chances of obtaining a training contract.
Your CV must demonstrate your desire for the role and must be tailored to highlight that you really want the trainee accountant position you’re applying for.

Deciding which professional qualification you will pursue is of paramount importance. Chartered Accountants of Ireland now offer students a flexible route to studying outside of a training contract, an option which wasn't available before 2009. It’s understandable that people perceive the Chartered exams as being synonymous with contract given the number of individuals going through training contracts each year, however, there are currently over 1,000 students in the flexible route of training in contracts within industry.

This qualification is highly sought-after in financial services and industry. In comparison, the ACCA qualification does not require a training contract. Professionals studying for their ACCA qualification predominantly work in the areas of financial accounting and analysis and fund accounting, in an ACCA accredited employer.

The ACA and ACCA professional qualifications are the most popular in Ireland; however the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and the Certified Public Accountants also offer professional qualifications for those who wish to practice as accountants. These qualifications are extremely popular in countries such as Australia, Canada and the US, and are therefore good options for anyone aiming to travel with their qualification.

Skills required 

To be a trainee accountant you will need to have excellent organisational skills and be good with numbers. The ability to work as part of a team can be crucial if you are interested in working in a ‘Big 4’, or within industry or financial services where it is common to work as part of a large team. If you prefer working more on an individual basis, accounting could still be a good career path for you. It is more common for accountants working within smaller practices to work individually. The ability to work to deadlines is also an essential skill in the role of an accountant.

The right attitude is vital, the professional accountancy examinations are tough and you have to show you are determined and dedicated; individuals who can demonstrate this effectively at interview are more likely to be successful. Research the company background and ensure you highlight why you would be a good fit for their organisation.

Career path

Career progression after completing your trainee accountant contract will depend on which industry you enter. If you join a small practice the ultimate aim would be to progress to partner level. If you begin your career with a large organisation you can progress to a managerial position, then to head of a specific department and ultimately to CFO. Furthermore, many CEOs’ have a finance background.

Considering a career as a trainee accountant?

To explore your opportunities in Dublin, please view our current finance roles here or contact Mark Fallon on +353 (0)1 633 4111 or email mark.fallon@robertwalters.com

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