What certifications do UK accountants have? What are their average wages? What are their specialties? These and other pertinent questions will be answered in the discussion below.
In the United Kingdom, there are several levels of accounting professionals that can be licensed to perform work in the various areas of bookkeeping, auditing of financial statements, and working on Insolvency and business work. Note than unlike the legal profession, accountants can rise to senior positions in accounting functions even without getting licenses from the various regulatory bodies described below. In other words, the designation, “accountant” does not have the same legal protection in the United Kingdom as that granted to other professions such as doctors and lawyers.
For those professionals that desire to become certified or need to be chartered because of their job requirements, the following are the different designations, qualifications, and average salaries of each type of “accountant” in the United Kingdom, together with the regulatory agency that oversees their professional work.
Bookkeepers and Accounting Technicians
These practitioners perform all levels of general bookkeeping and accounting work, and can even work for auditors, except that they cannot sign audit reports. Professionals in this area are licensed and regulated by the The Association of Accounting Technicians, or AAT, which currently has over 133,000 members worldwide. The average salary for a trainee accounting technician is £15,800 to £21,500, but once qualified after completing the requisite exams, training, experience, an accounting technician may earn up to £32,000 or more.
Accountants qualified to perform audits of companies
To be able to perform audits of public companies, an accountant must obtain an unofficial designation of “British qualified accountant”, becoming a full voting member of United Kingdom professional bodies that evaluate individual experience and test competencies for accountants.
There are Recognised Qualifying Bodies, or (RQBs), award the necessary qualifications necessary to perform the audit of companies, as an entry requirement. A similar but not identical list of Recognised Supervisory Bodies, or RSBs, may authorise their members to carry out company audits. At a minimum getting a certification from the RQB’s and RSB’s require a university degree, passing a licencing examination, and completing a certain number of experience hours in an occupation that is related to the certification being applied for.
The three major RQBs in relation to company auditing under the Companies Acts are the following:
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) – Qualifying for the position allows a Chartered Certified Accountant to audit companies. The ACCA also touts its license as opening up doors to international jobs. To qualify, a candidate must meet the following requirements:
Education: Three GCSEs and two A Levels in five separate subjects including maths and English or their equivalent are required for this accountancy qualification.
Work experience: Three years.
Number of exams: Up to 14, depending on exemptions.
It will take three to four years on the average to get a certification. A professional ethics module also needs to be completed.
A newly qualified CCA averages around £18,000, and the average salary is around £40,000. There is no marked difference in the salaries between male and female practitioners.
Association of International Accountants (AIA) – The organization describes itself as a global body for professional accountants. It is suited for school leavers (A Level) and graduates who are looking to become a professionally qualified accountant. It is also ideal for Accounting Technicians and Bookkeepers who are looking for the next step up. It is also for those who are already be working in the accountancy profession but do not have a professional qualification.
Exams are required and there are specific modules to be completed for those who want to be able to audit U.K companies.
The salaries of International Accountants approximate that of a CCA. The ACCA reports that they have around 180,000 licensed practitioners worldwide.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) is the licensing and accreditation body for chartered accountants. They conduct the qualifying examinations for the Chartered Accountant designation, issue certifications, monitor the practice the chartered accountants, and when necessary, issue sanctions.
The ICAEW reports that they have around 145,000 practicing professionals worldwide.
Recent research by the Executive Search firm, Stott and May shows that the average annual basic salary for an ICAEW Chartered Accountant in private business for 2014 is £90,800 compared to £92,600 for 2013. The average bonus is £20,500. A newly qualified ICAEW professional is reported to be about £48,000.
The banking industry in the U.K. offers the highest average salary, and there appears to be little difference between male and female salaries.
Regionally, there are two other licensing organizations that qualify accountants to perform audits in their own specific jurisdictions. These are the Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Those professionals qualified by the RQB’s described above usually pursue the qualification to be entitled to audit companies in UK. Experience in the auditing profession, especially in a company providing audit or assurance services, is a highly valued commodity in the accounting profession, and not only in the United Kingdom. Many professionals, after obtaining sufficient and exposure auditing companies for a public auditing company, usually transfer to private companies for much higher compensation; usually taking on senior accounting, and even, executive positions.
Within the auditing profession itself, there are excellent opportunities to advance to the highest positions in auditing companies. These are the partnership or director positions which average in the £150,000 annual range.