How to progress in accounting

Wherever you are in your accounting career, perhaps you’d like to take it to the next level. It can be hard to know where to start, so let’s look at three areas you can address to get the ball rolling.

The right experience

Whether you’re looking for a brand new role, seeking promotion where you are, or even looking to start your own business, having the right experience is essential.

The experience you need to gain will depend on the area and level you wish to progress into. If you’re relatively new to accounting, you might have only gained experience with data processing so far. To ready yourself for a more senior role, try to get involved with reconciliations, and with identifying and reporting on discrepancies.

If you’re aiming to progress into management accounting, seek to take on tasks that involve product costing, and things with a more strategic or analytical focus.

Perhaps you could ask more senior colleagues to delegate these kinds of tasks to you, so that you can gradually build your confidence in the right areas. If it’s not possible within your current role, or if you’re seeking your first job in the industry, why not volunteer your services? Plenty of charitable organisations look for assistance with their accounts, and you can find these opportunities on sites like

Relevant qualifications

To advance in your accounting career, well-respected qualifications are a must, and there is a variety of industry-recognised qualifications that develop expertise in different areas.

If you haven’t worked in accounting before, or you’re in a junior role, the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification is a great place to start. This qualification will take you from the very basics, right up to an advanced understanding of financial performance. Depending on how much knowledge and experience you have already, you can start at different levels.

If you’re looking to progress into management accounting, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification is ideal. Again, if you have no previous qualifications, you can start with the fundamentals. If, on the other hand, you already have an accounting qualification, you may be able to move straight onto the higher level qualification, which will demonstrate to employers your ability to drive forward commercial success.

Key skills

When looking to advance in your career, it’s easy to see everything in terms of the specific experience and qualifications you need, and forget about the broader abilities that are required for success. There are some key skills that apply to almost any accounting role, and the more senior you get, the more you will need to advance in these areas.

One of the most important skills for accounting professionals, and one that is often overlooked is communication. Whether you work in an accounting firm, in-house for an organisation, or are self-employed, you will require the ability to communicate financial information in a way that is clear and simple for an audience with no financial background.

Whichever area of accounting you’re hoping to progress in, you need the ability to analyse financial information. Accounting involves scouring for discrepancies, reporting and, in many roles, making recommendations for increased efficiency.

You may already possess these skills, or you might need to dedicate some time to improving in these areas. You will also need to keep up with new information and best practice relevant to your role through ongoing professional development.

AAT qualified accounting tutor Patricia Barlow will talk through some of the most effective approaches in her next webinar. Find out more and sign up here.