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Just qualified in Practice? “What are my options?”

A guide to your options.
June 24, 2020

Congratulations! You’ve passed your final exam and all the time and effort has paid off. You now find yourself with the time for a social life and have never been more marketable. Now what?

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Candidates in smaller firm often consider moving up to a larger firm. From the outside looking in, moving from a top 10 firm to a top 4 firm does your CV no harm, but we find it doesn’t accelerate your career any quicker than moving into industry. However, if you are in a smaller firm (sub top 15), moving into a larger firm for two years can be a great move. A blend of smaller and larger audit firm experience is very well thought of in industry and it is challenging to find candidates that offer both.

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Salary circa £40 - £48k (dependent on travel requirements)

Internal Audit is one of the most natural fits and often comes with the least competition. Many candidates complete 3 years of audit and are keen to branch out, whilst others don’t wish to take on the travel that is often required. Salaries here are often at £45,000 and above, with higher salaries offered for those with more travel and sometimes a car. Great if audit or travel is your passion!

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Salary circa £40,000 - £45,000

Management accounting provides you much more scope to engage with the monthly results and the wider finance function. These roles get you involved with the management accounts, budgeting, forecasting and often have more and more of a commercial edge to them as the salaries get higher. Competition for these can be intense due to the CIMA and ACCA qualified industry based candidates with relevant experience.

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Salary circa £40,000 - £45,000

Often considered one of the most business facing roles in finance, this sees you engaging with a range of internal and external stakeholders to improve the performance or profitability of a business function. An exciting and varied role, they can be at times difficult to get into, with stiff competition from industry based candidates. There is however, always a good demand for qualified business partners with an audit background.

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Salary circa £40,000 - £47,000

A hand-in-glove fit for any audit based candidate particularly those that hold experience in dealing with large companies with numerous statutory entities or complex consolidation requirements. This role requires a strong technical grounding and Practice-based candidates often flourish here. These roles can often pay well and have quick routes of progression, with good group accountants always in demand, especially in the Birmingham, Solihull and Warwickshire areas.

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Salary circa £40,000 - £45,000

FP&A and other analytical roles can often offer a great blend between hands-on business partnering and more desk-based accounting. These roles fit well for audit based candidates and those with more analytical backgrounds, often found within larger companies.

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Salary circa £40,000 - £45,000

A Financial Controller in a smaller business can be a superb move, especially if you have experience in dealing with similar sized companies in audit or have extensive accounts preparation experience. What these companies lack in layers of management for you to grow through, they make up for in breadth of the role. You will often be 2nd to only the FD and be an essential part in running the business. For those candidates seeking to get into PE/VC backed companies, this can be the best route.

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Salary circa £40,000 - £50,000

Specialist functions such as Tax and Treasury can offer a brilliant route for candidates that want something a little different. Competition in these areas is often less and as with Internal Audit you can carve out a niche in large well respected businesses.

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Salary circa £40,000 - £45,000

Corporate Finance is an interesting and unique option. Whilst CF can often pay less initially, it arguably has the most upside long term and throws you into a highly demanding but equally as rewarding environment. A career in Corporate Finance is often highly sought-after and attracts the best and brightest minds from finance. Invariably you will also need to show a real passion for the sector to get a foot in the door.

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One of the most obvious, but overlooked options is to stay where you are! Whilst staying put doesn’t always improve your value to the outside market, the larger audit firms have some excellent progression routes if you enjoy what you are doing. Very few companies can give you the structure and guaranteed career ladder to climb, but that’s where the bigger audit firms excel. You are walking a well trodden and respected path. If you enjoy what you do, why not aim high and go for Partner?

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