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The accountant's dilemma: Practice or industry?

Despite changing economic conditions, demand for qualified accountants continues to grow in both practice and industry. Which career path is right for you?

With both sectors offering great potential for career development, the major decision for accounting professionals who have trained in practice is whether to pursue a career in external consulting in practice or to move in-house in commerce or industry.

“As the Big 4 accountancy firms and even the Top 10 become increasingly more commercial, particularly with the recent announcement of mandatory audit rotations, roles in practice are becoming equally as attractive to those in industry,” said Dom Horne, Manager at Robert Walters.

Typically, accountants often start their careers working in practice before moving into a role in industry. However, there are a number of things you should consider before making a move from practice into industry.

What are the benefits of working in practice for accountants? 

Working in practice offers newly-qualified and qualified accountants the opportunity to work with clients from a range of industries, allowing you to hone your technical skills while being exposed to a variety of industry sectors from tech to financial services whether that be in the audit, taxation or advisory service lines.

“Practice roles are appealing as they are more varied than roles in industry,” continued Dom.  “Growth areas like audit, tax and advisory offer accountants the opportunity to engage with various clients each with unique requirements, business practices and methods of engagement offering real variety in your day-to-day role.” In recent years, the role of an accountant in practice has shifted with an increasing appetite for practice employers to take on individuals with broader skill sets.

You can expect to deal with a variety of clients across industry sectors, dependent on the size of the business you work in.

What are the benefits of working in industry for accountants?

Accountants working in industry often focus on the economics within a business including cash flow, cost control and budgeting. Specialised areas you may work in include financial accounting, management and cost accounting and treasury management.

“As the Big 4 and even the Top 10 become increasingly more commercial, roles in practice are becoming equally as attractive as those in industry”

Moving from practice to industry gives you the opportunity to utilise your skill set in a very different environment, where you are able to focus on the specific needs and requirements of the business you work in, rather than across the many businesses that are your clients.

"Industry accountancy roles allow you to focus on a core area of the finance function where you can add real value to a company’s processes while providing key commercial insight into the strategic direction of the business," said Dom.

"Because the focus is more specialised in industry roles, accountants moving in-house will require a strong technical skill set coupled with an interest in the industry they are working in."

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