Technically, anyone can practise as an accountant in the UK, without qualifications or professional membership. However, in a recent survey by accounting job site GAAPweb, 79% of respondents believed registration with professional accounting bodies supported their career.
So, how does registering with a professional body help you advance as an accountant?
GAAPweb surveyed over 450 accounting professionals with differing levels of experience, from part-qualified accountants to Chief Financial Officers, registered with leading bodies like AAT, CIMA and ACCA.
A quarter of respondents gave their main reason for joining a professional body as industry recognition. A further 20% cited the main benefit of registering as the ability to gain respected credentials.
As an accountant, it’s important to build a reputation as a highly skilled, knowledgeable and responsible professional, and being registered with a professional body is one of the best ways to do this. Without membership or relevant qualifications, you are unlikely to be taken seriously by either potential employers or prospective clients.
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18% of survey respondents said that career progression and better remuneration was their central reason for registering with a professional accounting body. When looking at vacancies in the accounting sector, it is clear that well-paid roles almost always require qualifications or membership with one of the major professional bodies.
A recent survey by Robert Half looked at the skills and qualifications most sought after by employers in the accounting and finance sector. It identified being ACCA or CIMA qualified, with the relevant management accounting skills and experience, as most in-demand.
In terms of pay, AAT’s latest salary survey demonstrated the significant difference between those with different levels of membership. Those at level 2 of the AAT qualification earn an average of £17,865, while the average salary of those with fellow membership is £38,225.
If you remain unqualified, you are likely to be overlooked by employers who opt to take on and promote those who can properly demonstrate that they have the appropriate skills and knowledge.
Without achieving qualifications through one or more of the major professional membership bodies, it’s incredibly difficult to develop and maintain your skills and knowledge in line with ever-changing best practice. When working in isolation from other professionals and experts, it’s easy to fall behind in crucial areas like legislation and technology.
18% of those GAAPweb surveyed gave continuous professional development (CPD) as their reason for registering with a professional membership body. On top of this, 10% said that the support and advice received was the biggest benefit of membership.
Registering with a professional body doesn’t mean just gaining your qualification and leaving; it’s often something that guides and supports CPD for many years, or throughout your whole career. Professional bodies like AAT have CPD programmes dedicated to keeping their members up-to-date with essential aspects of their roles.
As we’ve seen, membership with a professional body can act as the foundation for a successful career in accounting.