Following research into student trends, the figures that we have found show that there has been a small growth in applicants accepting positions on accountancy-related degrees and courses with a 16% increase being recorded since 2007.
Data supplied by higher education application service, UCAS, shows that they have seen 6,410 successful applications in 2014 compared to 5,530 seven years ago. This trend shares a similar growth pattern to a number of other courses and the number of successful applicants as a whole.
Why have accountancy degrees grown?
There is a preconception that the higher education route leads for better career prospects and future for candidates. In such a competitive and difficult job market, candidates are striving to set themselves apart from each other and having added qualifications can strengthen this position.
Accountancy is no different to other high-entry office-based roles. Law, chosen by a specific area (rather than a specific topic in law), has grown 24% for instance. And according to Prospects, the starting salary for accountancy degree graduates is around the £25,000 marker, though this is much more likely to be in London and the south east with regionality a significant factor in starting salaries.
Megan Anders, who is working as an apprentice accountant whilst studying with BPP University, explains why she was drawn to the industry: “What motivated me was the chance to get myself on to the finance ladder and progress on to be fully qualified in the financial field.”
Professor John McKernan of the University of Glasgow talks of his experience: “The University of Glasgow has been stable and postgraduate taught (PGT) has increased in recent years,” he said. “There has [also] been an increase in recent years in demand from Chinese students.”
Does more competition mean less availability of places?
The number of applicants over the course of the last seven years has increased by 4.7%. The success rate for prospective accountancy degree candidates has also increased from one in six candidates getting a position, to one in five. This means that despite the growth in competition from students, more people are getting into the degree they want to do.
There has also been a slight growth in the number of students getting into their first choice university from 60% to 61%.
On post-graduate study, Professor McKernan adds, “Post-graduate has increased in recent years but there is no intention to increase further.
“We intend that our provision will evolve to continually meet student needs. The university is committed to supporting that with necessary resources.”
Accountancy offers a good gender balance
Business and finance may be seen to be a male-dominated industry, particularly in higher positions. However, figures show that this may see more females aspiring to climb the accountancy ladder than men.
UCAS’s figures show there has been a 20.6% increase of female applicants compared to 12.6% from men. And proportionally, the number of females accepting accountancy degrees has increased slightly too from 41% in 2007 to 43% in 2014.
Professor McKernan adds: “At the University of Glasgow there is good gender balance and there has been for many years. At post-graduate taught [level], women tend to outnumber men.”
What can students do to get into accountancy?
Not all accountants get into the industry through a degree. In fact, there are a few alternative routes available that people can take. Here is a full breakdown
The most direct route into the industry. According to UCAS, there are 144 providers of accountancy related undergraduate degrees in 2016. This can range from Accounting with Finance to Business with Financial Management.
Study Exams Independently
There are a number of bodies available that provide accountancy accreditations. These include the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). You can study in your own time as and when it is suitable for you. This can be full-time courses, online courses, or evening/weekend classes. There is also ICAEW who offer a Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business and AAT, who offer different level diplomas.
School Leaver Programmes
Depending where you are looking, some companies offer programmes for school and college leavers that allow you to learn on the job and study for your exams at the same time. This is a great opportunity for someone who doesn’t want to go to university but wants to get straight into the world of work.
Apprenticeships are also available for anyone who may be interested in using this as a route. They can be found by searching at https://www.gov.uk/accounting-apprenticeships#apply-for-an-accounting-apprenticeship
Clare McCullagh, the owner of Heavenly Online Accountants explains what made her deviate her career from her degree choice of microbiology into accountancy:
“I originally studied microbiology but I had a change of heart and decided that Business and Accountancy was just really a better career path for myself.
She took a masters degree in Business Administration at the University of Sheffield before gaining accreditation through the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.
“It was a big decision but undoubtedly one that has benefited me. It was tough and challenging but the change of scenery did me the world of good.
“I am lucky to have had a fantastic career working for some big companies such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, as well as working in roles within smaller companies, which has built up my experience.”
And in terms of advice for students Clare adds: “My route shows you don’t have to start out as an accountancy undergraduate to get into this industry.
“But you do have to be tenacious, have a good attitude and push yourself to learn more. With laws and the business world frequently changing, you have to be flexible, adaptive and willing to learn different areas of accountancy.”
This is something that Megan is keen to emphasise too: “I would like to add for people to remember that a degree is not the be all and end all of becoming an accountant.
“After 18 months I am sitting my last exam by doing an apprenticeship and I will obtain a diploma in accountancy equivalent of sitting my level 4 AAT.
“It has allowed me to get on the job training that you don’t get with a degree and also given me 18 months of experience which looks great on a CV. It has also led me to get a permanent job with my company and a guarantee for funding for my final CIMA/ACCA exams.”
What inspired you to get into accountancy? Do you feel that equality is growing in the accountancy sector? Please get in touch and let us know your thoughts.