Careers in Management Accountancy

Management accountants work ‘in-house’ within commercial businesses, including all financial companies.

Their job is primarily to caretake the accounts, sometimes for specific divisions, and make sure the area under their control is operating profitably.

The management accountant’s job is primarily to caretake the accounts, sometimes for specific divisions, and make sure the area under their control is operating profitably.

You’d be constantly keeping your eyes open for ways to increase profitability, whether that’s through improving productivity and turnover or reducing costs. This is a management role and involves far more than just counting pennies. As a management accountant, you’d work very closely with business teams, departmental managers and project managers. You’d be their financial whiz, who they’ll seek budgeting guidance from. Costing out projects, monitoring expenses and conducting internal audits are all in a day’s work. The one accountancy task that won’t fall within your remit is external auditing.

Tasks

  • Preparing regular financial statements and accounts, such as profit and loss accounts
  • Constantly monitoring your company’s financial performance, including business spending, costs and budgets by extracting and analysing coded information
  • Providing colleagues with cost and revenue information
  • Preparing profit forecasts and drafting future budgets
  • Instigating projects that reduce costs and increase profits
  • Making and influencing strategic business decisions
  • Advising managers on all aspects of financial policy and control
  • Conducting internal audits on various departments – see Internal Audit article for details
  • Gathering and providing external auditors with the company reports and financial data they need
  • Managing a team of accounting technicians and finance clerks

Useful Knowledge

Employers will usually expect candidates to acquire knowledge in the following areas, through training and relevant professional qualifications:

  • How to maintain financial records and accounts within your business environment
  • The process for recording income and expenditure data
  • Specific accounting techniques adopted by your company, including their process for drafting budget proposals and drafting and interpreting financial statements
  • Planning and conducting good practice internal audits

Entry Qualifications

There are typically three routes in.

  • Joining a graduate training programme, usually with a 2:1 degree and then undertaking a professional accountancy qualification. Although subjects are not always specified, accounting, finance, business studies, management studies, maths and economics are particularly relevant.
  • Trainee accountants, usually with A Levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent qualifications such as Business, Administration and Finance (BAF) Diploma, BTEC National Diploma, Welsh Baccalaureate (BAC), SVQ Level 3 or Higher National Certificate (SCQF Level 7), working towards a professional accountancy qualification
  • Working up from an accounting technician / assistant post, possibly undertaking qualifications with the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Foundations in Accounting (FIA) or ICAEWs (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB)

Apprenticeships can be a useful way to gain entry and to progress on in the profession:

  • Level 2 Apprenticeship in Accounting (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  • Level 3 Apprenticeship in Accounting (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
  • Level 4 Apprenticeship in Accounting (England, Scotland and Wales)

Professional Qualifications

CIMA is usually the choice for people working in commercial and financial businesses as a management accountant. Becoming an Associate Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA) requires completing

  • CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting
  • CIMA Professional Qualification
  • Three years relevant practical experience

It is possible to work in management accountancy with a professional accountancy qualification from one of the other UK’s accountancy bodies:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA)
  • ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • Association of International Accountants (AIA)

For those not undertaking audit work an alternative to the Chartered bodies is the Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA), which has a particular specialism in supporting the small and medium sized enterprise sector. The Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) is a non-Chartered organisation, but offers training and qualifications specifically aimed at financial managers. This includes a Financial Accountant Diploma, aimed at people that support finance managers, and a Professional Financial Accountant qualification, for aspiring finance leaders and those working in managerial posts.

Exemptions may be available to people that are part qualified or qualified members of the other professional accountancy bodies that make up the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (CCAB). Fast track routes are also available to members of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and people with the ACCA FIA qualification or ICAEWs Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB).

Salary

Trainee, non graduate, positions start at approximately £16,000 per annum. Graduate trainee positions start at approximately £24,000 per annum. With the right experience, qualifications and skills you could progress to management roles and earn in excess of £100,000 per annum. This does not include potential bonuses and additional benefits. Salaries will vary considerably based on location and employer.

Trends

There’s always going to be demand for management accountants who really understand how businesses in each sector tick. The inside knowledge gained by working in-house can be extremely beneficial. With a professional accountancy qualification there’s always scope to switch working environments, possibly moving into public sector finance or management consultancy. Many a chief executive, finance and board director has come from an accountancy function, as the skills harnessed are very diverse and crucial to ongoing business development. You could also move into private practice accountancy, although some tasks, like external auditing, may require a separate qualification. Companies throughout the UK, mostly in cities and larger towns, employ management accountants.

Employers range from large multi-national organisations to small local businesses, including manufacturers, banks and retailers. Jobs and trainee positions are dispersed throughout the UK. Most UK professional accountancy qualifications are widely recognised throughout the world. This may provide an opportunity to work internationally if employed by a large global company

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