The search is on for the UK’s new generation of financial whizzkids and accountants. 

According to a survey by the Association of Accounting Technicians, of 1,001 respondents aged 16 to 24, 50% want to create their own business and 40% value financial literacy. 

This follows a study by Reed Finance showing six in 10 finance teams admit they need to adapt to attract Generation Z talent. 

The drive to recruit more youngsters reflects the fact accountancy firms are also becoming increasingly accessible to applicants from all backgrounds by offering social mobility programmes and alternative hiring methods. 

This is one reason why the traditional route into accounting through a university education no longer applies. In fact, the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms all offer apprenticeship programmes and other options for school leavers. Mid-tier companies are also introducing more non-graduate training programmes. 

Deloitte’s Brightstart programme, for example, offers students the chance to gain professional qualifications while being fully immersed in a job in financial services. 

An apprenticeship through ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), meanwhile, means apprentices also have access to further education either through an undergraduate degree or a master’s degree. 

The positions on offer in the UK cover a broad range of roles and specialisms: standard and project accountants, legal and cost accountants…there are also opportunities in payroll, bookkeeping and credit control.  

For anyone who is just starting out, the junior roles of assistant and trainee accountant or accounts clerk will see you using software to balance the books, handle accounts payable (paying bills) and accounts receivable (managing incoming payments). 

However, with the industry constantly upping its game, clients and employers want more from professionals in this sector, with the emphasis now very much on improved client engagement and seamless customer service.  

Far from being boring ‘bean counters’, today’s accountants are recognised as the go-to pros whose natural numeracy and best business acumen bring a dynamism to the financial health of companies and individual clients.  

One of the most exciting roles is that of the forensic accountant. Known as the Sherlock Holmes of accounting, thanks to the need for super-sharp sleuthing skills, this job is all about analysing big data – both paper and electronic – then meticulously checking everything adds up. Often this takes place in the course of an investigation into suspected financial wrongdoing. 

You also have to be an expert at spotting what’s not there until you have built the big picture with every piece of the jigsaw. 

Perfect people skills, meanwhile, will allow you to work with legal advisers, the police, representatives of HMRC and a range of associated organisations – in larger inquiries, some of these could be international, so always have your passport and travel bag packed and ready to go! 

As a respected expert, you should also be prepared to be called to give evidence in court or provide your opinion to professionals in other fields. 

A career in forensic accountancy offers a serious intellectual challenge, almost every day, and that’s why it’s ultimately so satisfying – there’s very little chance you’ll ever become bored. 

Auditors, too, are numbers specialists who are indispensable to the smooth running of UK and global business.  

As an auditor, you’re there to give a realistic breakdown of the accounts set against the backdrop of a company’s objectives. But you must also identify any risks and make sure you leave no stone unturned in creating an environment of responsibility and correctness.  

The primary purpose is to independently and objectively report on the company’s financial health with the focus on ensuring what you’re presenting is relevant and carefully vetted.  

External audits are carried out for those outside an organisation’s governance structure and offer credibility to a company’s reports.  

Internal audits, on the other hand, are for the company’s management and provide an evaluation of a firm’s governance and business processes.  

Following this, suggestions for short and long-term solutions must be made fast and prove effective.  

It’s not only auditors who are the number-crunching heroes of British businesses. One of the most prestigious roles is that of the finance director. This is the person with oversight of the whole kit and caboodle – the entire financial infrastructure of an organisation. 

By harnessing data, forecasting outcomes, navigating business strategies and ensuring the financial health of the organisation, your focus will be on the forward direction of the company.  

If, however, your ambitions are to make it to the acme of accounting and finance, the role of chief financial officer is right at the top of the career ladder. 

Working alongside the organisation’s chief executive, often as part of the board, it will be your responsibility to monitor the company’s overall financial risk, as well as be engaged in reporting, planning and strategy. 

If you’d like to enjoy a new career where you’re much more than a number, take a look at the opportunities in accounting and financial services currently on offer with x1jobs