Accountant in Practice Versus Accountant in Industry

/ Accounting, AIMS, Join AIMS Accountants

If you’ve recently qualified, you might be thinking: “should I be an accountant in practice or an accountant in industry?”

Article Title Banner - Accountant in Practice or Accountant in Industry

The historical trend in the profession has been that accountants usually start in practice and move into industry. This is because, as Robert Walters states, working with lots of businesses from different industries gives you the opportunity to “hone your skills” before settling with 1 company.

And this has been true in recent years. A study of over 1,700 chartered accountants by Careers in Audit found that 48.2% of candidates preferred industry work. Only 33.3% preferred practice work.

This article will identify the differences between working in practice and working in industry. Why? Well, for 2 reasons. Firstly, even though over 90% of AIMS Accountants join from industry backgrounds, they are accountants in practice. Secondly, we want to highlight why practice work can be so rewarding.

Understanding the differences is key if you want to become an AIMS Accountant, so let’s dive in.

Accountant in Practice

Accountants in practice will provide professional accounting services to external public and private sector companies and individuals. Here’s one example:

Let’s say that you have a friend called Andy who has set up an accountancy business called Andy’s Tax Services Limited (ATS Limited). After 5 years, Andy has 250 customers that are all small businesses and who use ATS Limited to liaise with HMRC and sort out self-assessments and income tax returns.

Andy is a one-man band, but accountants in practice can also work for global accounting firms like KPMG and Deloitte. A distinguishing feature is that accountants in practice will provide their accountancy services to multiple businesses simultaneously.

The typical services that accountants in practice offer are:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Income tax advice
  • Self-assessments
  • Inheritance Tax advice
  • Capital Gains Tax advice
  • Corporation Tax Advice
  • National Insurance Contributions
  • R&D Tax Credits
  • Value Added Tax
  • Payroll
  • Liaising with HMRC
  • Managing your compliance requirements

      Some of the standard job titles for accountants in practice are:

      • Accounts Manager
      • Accounts Senior
      • Accounts Semi-Senior
      • Assistant Accounts Manager
      • Accounts Junior
      • Payroll Clerk
      • Bookkeeper
      • Trainee Bookkeeper

        Key Benefits

        One of the great things about working in practice, or becoming an AIMS Accountant, is that you will have constant variety in your work. 1 of your clients might have 10 employees and work in oil and gas while another might be a sole trader who tiles bathrooms. The old adage ‘one size fits all’ is certainly not applicable here; the example businesses will need very different services and advice, hence the variety.

        For those who enjoy getting out of the office, practice work is a brilliant choice. The majority of the external companies who you work for will want you to visit them at some stage. This could mean trips all over the country to network with your clients and build your relationships.

        Practice work can set you up fantastically for self-employment. If you start to get the itch to set your own business up providing accountancy services to external companies, you’ll already have lots of experience doing this. You’ll also already have lots of business connections that can help you get new clients quickly. This is not to say that if you work in industry, you won’t be able to set a business up providing accountancy services to external companies. On the contrary, over 90% of AIMS Accountants come from industry. However, there is some learning that has to take place first to make sure that your knowledge is up-to-date, if you’re coming to AIMS from an industry background.

        Accountant in Industry

        The main difference, if you decide to work in industry, is that you’ll work directly for one company to help manage their finances, and theirs alone.

        Let’s look at another example. Imagine that your friend Andy, instead of setting up ATS Limited, was offered a job by Apple in their accounts department. Andy, instead of helping other businesses with their tax needs, would be tasked with helping Apple control their finances. Some of the key responsibilities that Andy, as an accountant in industry, would have, are:

        1. Cost control
        2. Accounting processes and systems design
        3. Budgeting
        4. Management accountancy – ensuring the profitability of a service or product

        Some of the commonplace job titles that we see are:

        • Chief Financial Officer
        • Finance Director
        • Head of Finance
        • Financial Controller
        • Auditor
        • Trainee Accountant
        • Accountant

          Key Benefits

          Indeed, the lure of industry takes form in large firms. Some accountants are keen to experience working for successful private companies like Apple, Amazon or Microsoft. For others in industry, the excitement of being part of a start up from very early on might be a reason to choose industry over practice.

          One thing to bear in mind with industry work is that your work will often lack variety. What’s more, if you started in practice and moved into industry, you might now be the only accountant in the business. Before, the likelihood is that you were one of many.

          If you’re keen to look at some other pros and cons of each, this article from Lucy Skoulding at AccountancyAge is worth a read.

          Becoming an AIMS Franchise

          It is certainly true that most accountants start in practice and move into industry. Most people who move into industry, stay in industry until they retire. However, this is not your only option. Hundreds of accountants in industry have decided in the last 30 years to hang up their industry boots and become AIMS Accountants in practice. We help you wipe the dust from those old practice textbooks and get up-to-date, expert practice knowledge. It doesn’t matter that you haven’t done anything other than industry for most of your career; you’re a qualified accountant and capable of doing whatever you put your mind to!

          For anyone who is thinking of starting their own business as an accountant in practice, please call James on 020 7616 6622 today, to chat about your next career move. You can also check out our website here. Whether you are an accountant in practice or an accountant in industry, our door is wide open!