It depends on what field of accountancy you wish to enter, and also what level you are capable of achieving. Some people have the idea that they want to be an accountant because they are drawn by the prospect of high salaries and prestige. Only those that reach the higher levels of the profession attain the top financial rewards. For many, even those that are qualified the salaries are of course above the national average, but not necessarily that brilliant when you consider the amount of training that is required.
That said, there are many opportunities for accountants, including working in private practice, in industry as a company accountant, or in the public sector.
You should consider your future aspirations when looking at the qualification that you choose.
There are six CCAB bodies which are the professional accountancy bodies. These are the ACCA, ICAEW, CIMA, CIPFA, ICAS and ICAI.
In England and Wales, people pursuing private practice roles traditionally opt for ACCA or ICAEW. Industry, its CIMA and public practice its CIPFA. (The other two are Scotland and Ireland, so may be those if thats where you live)
If you do not have A levels or a degree in accountancy, you may choose to begin your training with one of the technician level qualifications such as AAT or CAT (see ACCA for CAT). However, if you are starting without at least A-levels, you need to honestly consider if you have the academic ability to pursue the CCAB qualifications. You cannot register without a minimum academic qualificaiton (see each body's own site for entry requirements), however the AAT provides a "springboard" onto the professional qualifications - this qualification is acceptable as an entry requirement for all CCAB bodies I believe - you would have to check though!
It should also be said that you need to consider your current financial and family committments - as with all training positions, the salary at entry level is not brilliant - think carefully about it.
It also depends on whether you are intending on funding your courses yourself, or if you expect a prospective employer to fund it,
You cannot learn to be accountant by just going to college and completing a course, even if you achieve the professional qualification. There is an enormous amount of on the job training that goes with it. As with all professions, you cannot learn to be an accountant by just study alone.
When I was studying for my ACCA qualification there were several people on the course that had funded it themselves and succeeded at the exams, however they were not in any position to be employed as they had no practical experience.
Depending on your personal circumstances, one of the best ways to train to be an accountant is to obtain a training position, in your chosen field. Both large and small practices offer training contracts. I believe public practice does too.
If you want to become a company accountant in industry, there is less emphasis (in smaller companies in any case) on the qualification, and more emphasis on whether you can do the job. You need to gain the practical skills at a lower level, and work your way up.You are much less likely to find a company that will provide study support.
If this is where you see yourself, you need to think seriously about starting as a purchase or sales ledger clerk, or general accounts assistant, and gaining some experience, before moving onto nominal ledger work, and then perhaps budgets and cashflows.
In practice, you would start as a junior, where your pay would be probably much lower than in industry, but you would be getting some kind of study support. You would perform the more mundane aspects of accounts preparation, assist on audits, and gradually, as you pass your exams you would take more responsibility and do more of the work. You would work up to semi senior (part qualified) and then senior (qualified).
If after all this, you still think you want to be an accountant, then go for it, and good luck - it can be a great career, and can be financially rewarding, however do not go into it for money - you may not earn as much as you think! It really depends on what level you achieve.
To get a taster, what about attending a book-keeping course - most local colleges run short courses, which would be beneficial to you in any case before you start any formal training. You can then ask advice from your tutor, they are often accountants with many years experience in the profession.
Sorry for the long post, but there is such a lot to consider, hope you found it helpful, and good luck
Answered By: Susan S - 11/2/2008