Once you’ve secured your top accountancy qualifications, the world is your oyster, and for many in the space, this is an opportunity to branch out and try something new.
Some make the decision to try out a new company, or if feeling brave, maybe even a new country, but one decision most accountancy professionals will face at some point in their careers is whether they want to work in industry or in practice.
Given that we speak with hundreds of individuals every month who are working in both, we thought we’d list some of the most common pros and cons that we hear from network members, along with where the two paths typically lead.
Now it’s important to remember that given the vast array of opportunities available in the market, these should by no means be taken as gospel, but if you’re looking for a change, they’re definitely worth considering when speaking with potential new employers.
Pros & Cons
+ More defined career paths with set levels and recognised timeframes
+ A greater variety of work due to a wide range of different clients
+ Surrounded by other professions in your field who you can learn from
+ Most big practices nowadays offer a very attractive set of perks
+ More focus on continuous development and professional qualifications
– It can sometimes take longer to get promoted and competition is high
– Salaries in the short-medium term can be less attractive
– Clients can be very demanding, but you have to go along with ‘the customer is always right’
+ More of a meritocracy so you can get promoted quicker
+ Less likely to be pulled in different directions by clients
+ Ability to focus on an industry or sector that you really enjoy
+ More responsibility and ability for your voice to get heard
+ More exposure to other business functions outside of finance
– Typically more process-driven and repetitive work
– Higher job risk as you are more susceptible to an industry crash
– Common to have far less client interaction (may be a good thing depending on preferences)
Where Both Paths Lead
A finance role in practice tends to offer a clear career progression path. This is particularly true when you get towards higher levels and there are targets to hit to move up in the company. The path for progression is very clear and structured into people’s careers, all the way up to Partner with equity in the firm, and CPD training and development is often a primary focus.
There is also typically more room for movement between different aspects of the business within practice, offering variation of work. This is great if you are not 100% sure as to the type of area you are going to enjoy longer-term, or if you don’t want to find yourself pigeonholed.
The end goal for those in industry typically involves becoming a Financial Director (FD) for a company, or possibly a Group FD for a larger group of companies. The potential is there to be much more involved in the growth and development of a company as a whole, and to lead an organisation rather than just your team.
Industry also allows people to get a better idea of the workings of a business as a whole, rather than just the accountancy side. Interaction with other departments, Managers and Directors away from accountancy can give a greater insight into the day to day running of a business, and can allow you to gain the experience to become a genuine specialist in your sector.
Overall, this is ultimately a decision that will likely come down to personal aptitude, personal lifestyle and personal interest, and there is certainly no right or wrong path to go down with great opportunities available in both. If moving between one and the other however, we would highly recommend considering the differences between the two and contemplating whether it will suit your workplace preferences and future career aspirations.