What is accounting?
Accounting is one of the backbones of the modern world, and the backbone of business. Behind every successful company is a skilled accountant – who understands how to use their knowledge of finance, mathematics, statistics, and economics to grow a business.
Accounting is a highly specialised subject, but is about much more than just numbers. It looks specifically at the daily flow of money in and out of a business, keeping an eye on the balance and avoiding any future challenges.
As one of the oldest and safest professions, often referred to as a ‘job for life’, a degree in accountancy will certain give you a wide variety of career options once you graduate.
Accounting course entry requirements
As you would expect, maths is the most useful subject to have when you’re applying for an accounting degree. But the good news is that most universities are flexible. Economics, statistics, finance, and business are all useful subjects too, as is displaying the right type of interests and talents in your other subjects.
For example, you might want to focus on the analytical elements of geography, or the entrepreneurial modules in your marketing qualification. You can also approach your application by showing your soft skills – like attention to detail, technical proficiency, and critical thinking. Try to demonstrate these in your personal and professional experience.
Take a look at our advice for accounting personal statements.
A levels – Entry requirements range from CCC to AAB, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for BBB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from BBBC to AAABB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AAABB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AAB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Submit a personal statement
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
Why study accounting at university?
As one of the renowned FAME subjects (Finance, Accounting, Management, Economics), a degree in accounting will set you up with a flexible and potentially lucrative career. You’ll learn how to manage a company’s money and ensure that it stays afloat throughout the year.
This kind of skill will require you to master research and analysis, elements of finance and economics, reporting and statistics, business fundamentals, and much more. 95% of accounting graduates will find themselves employed or in further study soon after uni, earning an average of £21k in their first role.
Whether you decide to work directly in a business, or join an accountancy practice to work with multiple clients, the need for money management isn’t going anywhere. And as countries continue to develop around the world, there’ll be a need for skilled accountants all over the globe, giving you an in-demand and international set of skills.
Some modules you may study are:
- Business law
- Financial markets
- Management accounting
- Banking & investment
- Corporate finance
What can you do with an accounting degree?
The most obvious and common career choices for accounting graduates are:
But, you’ll learn so many transferable skills that you can also look at careers as a:
What’s it like to study accounting?
You’ll learn a lot of business skills on an accounting degree, but it’ll always relate back to money. You’ll spent the first year focusing on core topics that underpin the subject, after which you’ll specialise in areas that interest you – like auditing, tax, or management.
You’ll master accountancy skills through a combination of classroom learning, projects, case studies, workshops, reporting, and industry placements. Most accountancy lecturers and tutors come from a professional background, meaning you’ll pick up the secrets and insider tips of what it’s like to be an accountant in the real world.
You’ll spend around 12 hours each week in the classroom as an accounting student, but you’ll have a lot of self-study and solo projects to be tackling in your spare time.
Accounting is normally a three-year degree, offered as either a BA or BSc. It may take longer if your chosen university offers a placement year in industry, which you should consider because accounting is a popular course and, therefore, a competitive job market.
Studying an accounting degree is likely to involve:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- hearing from business speakers
- placements and industry experience
- project, presentation, and group work
You’ll need to undertake professional training after your degree, if you want to become a chartered accountant. This isn’t necessary for all financial jobs, but the accredited recognition of accountancy comes from ACCA, ACA, or CIMA.
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.
There are nearly 40 apprenticeships in the legal, finance and accounting sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
- Actuarial technician
- Financial adviser
- Internal audit practitioner
- Professional accounting/Taxation technician
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
- Accountancy/Taxation professional
- Financial services professional
- Internal audit professional
- Professional economist (degree)
- Senior professional economist
Discover more about apprenticeships in accounting and finance
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.