Chartered Accountant


Salary and conditions


  • Starting salaries vary considerably, depending on the location and size of the firm and the sector. Salaries for trainees range from £12,000 to £18,000 for school leavers and £18,000 to £28,000 for university graduates, although they could be higher in London or lower in small regional firms.
  • The typical salary for a newly qualified accountant is £26,000 to £50,000+ while the average for a chartered accountant in a senior role is up to £100,000.
  • Salaries tend to be higher in London and the South East.
  • Salary packages may also include benefits such as bonuses, profit-sharing schemes, medical insurance, pensions and car allowances.
  • Chartered accountants have to undertake a training contract (usually three to five years) in order to qualify so it is important to consider the package of training, leave and pay offered by employers, as studying whilst working can be demanding. One of the main challenges for trainees is managing professional study commitments with the day-to-day job.
  • Working hours vary depending on the role and the organisation, but are not typically 9am to 5pm. Working extra hours in the evening and at weekends is not uncommon in order to meet deadlines, particularly in larger firms. Trainees can usually have time off in lieu of any overtime worked.
  • Flexible working arrangements are possible (usually after qualification). There is also the opportunity to work independently by setting up as a sole practitioner.
  • Due to the high profile, accurate and responsible nature of the work, the dress code is usually formal.
  • Travel within a working day is frequent in audit, which is carried out mainly at client premises. Absence from home overnight and occasional overseas travel are possible.
  • Working in other areas, such as tax, or in small firms, tends to be more office-based with less travel.

Job description

Chartered accountants provide trustworthy information about financial records. This might involve them in financial reporting, taxation, auditing, forensic accounting, corporate finance, business recovery and insolvency, or accounting systems and processes. Generally, they play a strategic role by providing professional advice, aiming to maximise profitability on behalf of their client or employer. They work in many different settings including public practice firms, industry and commerce, as well as in the not-for-profit and public sectors.

In public practice firms, chartered accountants provide professional services to fee-paying clients who might be private individuals or large commercial or public sector organisations. In commerce, industry and the not-for-profit and public sectors, they may work in treasury management, procurement, financial management or in reporting roles.

Typical work activities

The role of a chartered accountant can cover many aspects of finance work, including:

  • continuous management of financial systems and budgets;
  • undertaking financial audits (an independent check of an organisation’s financial position);
  • providing financial advice.

In public practice, typical work activities include:

  • liaising with clients (individuals or businesses) and providing financial information and advice;
  • reviewing the company’s systems and analysing risk;
  • performing tests to check financial information and systems;
  • advising clients on tax planning (within current legislation to enable them to minimise their tax liability) and tax issues associated with activities such as business acquisitions and mergers;
  • maintaining accounting records and preparing accounts and management information for small businesses (accountancy);
  • advising clients on business transactions, such as mergers and acquisitions (corporate finance);
  • advising clients on areas of business improvement, or dealing with insolvency;
  • detecting and preventing fraud (forensic accounting);
  • managing junior colleagues.

In commerce and industry, and the public and not-for-profit sectors, typical work activities involve:

  • liaising with internal and external auditors and dealing with any financial irregularities as they arise;
  • producing reports and recommendations following internal audits or public-sector audits;
  • preparing financial statements, including monthly and annual accounts;
  • preparing financial management reports, including financial planning and forecasting;
  • advising on tax and treasury issues;
  • negotiating terms with suppliers.

Entry requirements

Entry is open to graduates of all disciplines and, while a large number have business-related degrees, other subjects are strongly represented, including science, maths, languages, arts and social sciences. A Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) may also be a useful step between a degree and a training contract.

Although entry to the profession without a degree or HND may be possible, accountancy is a highly competitive industry and graduates/diplomates have greater opportunity to enter. Graduates are generally preferred to diplomates by the large employers. However, some employers do train students to do the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)  Accounting Qualification as an entry requirement for ICAS.

There are three separate professional institutes of chartered accountants in the UK (as well as a number of other bodies awarding other accountancy qualifications). The three are:

Entry regulations vary slightly between institutes. ICAS requires only a degree or the AAT Accounting Qualification while the ICAEW will accept three GCSEs and two A-levels or a 2:1 or first class honours degree (some employers will accept a 2:2). However, one of the most difficult parts of becoming a chartered accountant is securing a training contract with an employer approved by one of the institutes. Many firms will ask for a minimum of 260 UCAS points, although 300+ are frequently required, as well as a good degree and evidence of mathematical knowledge and ability. Numeracy skills are often tested as part of the selection process.

It is very helpful to have relevant pre-entry work experience, e.g. through vacation work, work placements or shadowing.

In addition to academic requirements, candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

  • general business interest and awareness;
  • self-motivation and commitment, in order to combine working with studying;
  • communication and interpersonal skills;
  • organisational and time management skills;
  • a methodical approach;
  • IT proficiency;
  • strong analytical and problem-solving skills;
  • numeracy;
  • leadership qualities and effective teamworking skills;
  • motivation and initiative;
  • integrity and trustworthiness.

Competition to enter the profession is tough and the selection process rigorous. It is best to start applying in the autumn term of your final year to ensure access to the widest range of opportunities as some employers have application deadlines at the end of October (although there will be vacancies available later in the year). Many firms attend recruitment fairs and hold presentations on campus. Take the opportunity to find out as much as possible about the job and training before applying, e.g. attend firms’ short courses or open days.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.



Salary and conditions

  • Typical starting salaries for graduates fall generally within the range of £25,000 – £35,000. Starting salaries vary according to location. For example, salaries are likely to be higher in the London area.
  • Typical salaries for newly qualified actuaries in insurance companies may vary between £40,000 and £55,000. Salary progression is dependent upon the individual, performance, and the development of a career path. Increments are usually paid for examination success.
  • Typical salary at senior level/with experience, e.g. after 10-15 years in the role: over £60,000. There is a wide range of salaries for experienced actuaries, but high financial rewards and excellent benefits packages are common.
  • Salaries in excess of £100,000 are typical for senior actuaries.
  • Working hours typically include regular extra hours, but not necessarily weekends or shifts. In traditional areas of employment, long hours are less likely for more junior staff, e.g. graduate trainees, as they will be devoting time to study for professional examinations.
  • Self-employment and freelance work are possible but very unusual, as most actuaries are employed by large financial institutions.
  • Flexible working conditions can be negotiated with some employers, e.g. part-time work and career breaks, but this is usually dependent on the employer and individual’s circumstances.
  • Jobs are quite widely available in most large towns and cities of the UK, although London has the largest proportion of jobs.
  • Actuaries are usually expected to maintain a smart business dress code but this varies between employers.
  • Examinations are an important part of an actuarial student’s training, and study during this period may impact on your social and personal life.
  • Opportunities to travel vary between employers. For example, an insurance company with offices around the UK and/or outside the UK may require actuaries to travel from time to time. Visits to corporate clients may also be necessary, e.g. for those working in reinsurance. The amount of travel varies according to the type of actuarial work and the regional area.

Job description

Actuaries evaluate, manage and advise on financial risks. They apply their knowledge of business and economics, together with their understanding of probability theory, statistics and investment theory, to provide strategic, commercial and financial advice. The core of actuarial work lies within pensions and insurance, where professionals are most likely to start off. Some actuaries may move on to investment banks at a later stage.

Actuarial work can be diverse and ranges from highly technical roles developing complex financial products in investment banks or pensions and insurance companies to consultancy roles for those seeking a client-facing career.

Actuaries need to apply their mathematical, economic and statistical awareness to real situations in the financial world and be able to communicate the difficult topics to non-specialists. Strong communication skills are becoming an increasingly important part of the actuarial profession, and it is essential that actuaries are able to discuss complex topics in a simple way to assist their clients effectively.

Actuarial trainees may begin work as trainee pensions consultants or risk analysts while at the same time studying for professional exams. Senior actuaries can be found in consulting firms as partners, in large banks as chief risk officers or in board-level positions in insurance companies and other financial services organisations.

Typical work activities

Actuaries apply financial and statistical theories to assess the likelihood of a particular event occurring and the possible financial costs.

Specific tasks vary but work may include:

  • analysing statistical data in order to calculate, for example, accident rates for particular groups of people;
  • using mathematical modelling techniques and statistical concepts to determine probability and assess risks, such as analysing pension scheme liabilities, to price commercial insurance;
  • monitoring risk within trading positions in investment banking to ensure excessive risks are not taken during the fast pace of trading;
  • presenting reports, explaining their implications to managers and directors, and advising on risk limitation;
  • advising on issues such as the selection of investment managers or the administration of pensions and benefits;
  • working with IT professionals to develop systems to ensure compliance with the requirements of regulatory bodies;
  • communicating with clients and carrying out relationship management, including with investment managers, financial directors and external stakeholders;
  • supervising staff;
  • working with mergers and acquisitions on some occasions.

Specifically, actuaries in their day-to-day work may be responsible for the following:

  • developing new financial products;
  • conducting valuations of assets and liabilities;
  • advising on investment strategies and assessing the profitability of an investments portfolio;
  • calculating funding rates and considering assumptions for pension scheme liabilities;
  • analysing risks related to locations for catastrophe claims;
  • measuring, monitoring and mitigating portfolio and enterprise risks;
  • overseeing asset and liability modelling, product development and profit testing;
  • preparing presentations, reports, valuations and quarterly updates.

Actuaries may also be involved with the acceptance of proposals for new policies, with legal and taxation matters affecting life assurance, or with the investment of funds.

Entry requirements

Although this area of work is open to all graduates with strong numerical skills, the following degree subjects may increase your chances:

  • actuarial science or actuarial mathematics;
  • mathematics or statistics;
  • economics;
  • engineering;
  • business or finance;
  • science, e.g. physics and chemistry.

The majority of UK entrants to the profession are graduates with a first or second class honours degree. Some employers require specific degree subjects or an MSc in Actuarial Science. Graduates must have a minimum of grade B in A-level mathematics and a grade C in another A-level subject.

Employers of actuaries typically look for a 2:1 or above, ideally in a numerate subject such as mathematics, statistics or economics. Eligibility of other qualifications, including those from outside the UK and Ireland, can be checked with the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, also known as The Actuarial Profession. Entry with an HND only is highly unlikely.

Details of postgraduate diploma and MSc courses in actuarial science accredited by The Actuarial Profession are available on their website. The Directory of Actuarial Employers in the UK and Ireland has a list of companies that may offer sponsorship for postgraduate study.

A degree, postgraduate diploma or MSc in actuarial science may give exemption from core technical subjects and allow qualification in a shorter time. It is also possible to get exemptions having studied a numerical degree such as mathematics or economics, provided modules include some focus on statistics and probability. Details are available from The Actuarial Profession .

Although pre-entry experience is not a requirement, talking to people in the job and, if possible, acquiring some work experience will prove invaluable. Some companies offer work placements or internships for students interested in becoming actuaries. Internships and placements can potentially be helpful in securing a graduate job, however this is dependent on the organisation. It is also useful to speak with people in the profession by approaching them at careers events or work shadowing where possible.

Candidates will need to show evidence of the following:

  • a high level of numeracy;
  • good communication skills, including the ability to convey complex information to clients;
  • analytical and creative problem-solving skills;
  • IT skills;
  • the ability to write clear reports;
  • the ability to take responsibility;
  • self-discipline and determination and an appreciation of the demands of studying while working;
  • sound judgement and a genuine interest in business;
  • genuine commitment to an actuarial career.

The Financial Mathematics Exam , offered by The Actuarial Profession to university students and people working in financial services, provides a useful starting point for those considering a career as an actuary. A Certificate in Financial Mathematics, often referred to as CT1, is awarded on successful completion. The certificate also goes towards completing the professional qualification.

For more information, see work experience and internships and search courses and research.


Academic qualifications of India’s top business leaders


If you thought all of India’s business leaders were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, you are wrong. Even those who were heirs to established business empire, made it a point to equip themselves academically to tackle the challenges posed by the winds of change and uncertain future.

1.Ratan Tata

Ratan Tata completed his B.S. in architecture with structural engineering from Cornell University in 1962, and the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School in 1975. (Photo by Brian Harkin/Getty Images)

2.Mukesh Ambani

Mukesh Ambani completed his graduation with a bachelor`s degree in chemical engineering from the UDCT, now Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai. He later enrolled for an MBA from Stanford University but completed only one year of the two year programme, to help out his legendary father in business. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for TIME)

3.Deepak Parekh

Deepak Parekh

Deepak Parekh is the Chairman of Housing Development Finance Corporation. A Chartered Accountant, Parekh began his career with Ernst & Young Management Consultancy Services in New York. After returning to India, he worked with Grindlays Bank and also Chase Manhattan Bank as its assistant representative for South Asia. Parekh joined HDFC in 1978. (AFP PHOTO / Noah SEELAM)

4.Kumar Mangalam

Kumar Mangalam Birla is the Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group. A chartered accountant by qualification, he also has an MBA from the London Business School. (Image: AFP)

5.Anand Mahindra

Anand Mahindra

Anand Mahindra is the Chairman and Managing Director of one of India’s largest enterprise, Mahindra & Mahindra. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1977 (he studied filmmaking at Harvard), and completed his MBA from Harvard Business School, Boston, Massachusetts in 1981. (Photo by Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images)

6.Sunil Bharti Mittal

Telecom tycoon Sunil Bharti Mittal is the founder, chairman and Group CEO of Bharti Enterprises. He started his career at 18 after graduating from Punjab University in 1976 and founded Bharti. He is also an alumnus of Harvard Business School, USA. (AFP PHOTO/ SAJJAD HUSSAIN)

7.Anil Dhirubani

Anil Dhirubani Ambani group head Anil Ambani completed his Bachelors degree from University of Bombay (as it was known then), followed by Master of Business Administration degree from University of Pennsylvania Wharton School. (AFP PHOTO/Punit PARANJPE)

8. N. R. Narayana Murthy

N. R. Narayana Murthy, Chairman Emeritus of Infosys earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Mysore in 1967 and a master’s degree in technology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 1969.

9.Azim H Premji

Azim H Premji, Chairman, Wipro holds an electrical engineering degree from Stanford University, USA. (AFP PHOTO/ STR)

10.Venu Srinivasan

Venu Srinivasan is the Chairman and Managing Director of Sundaram Clayton Ltd and TVS Motor Company. After graduating as an engineer from the University of Madras, he completed a Master’s Degree in Management from Purdue University in the USA.

11.Shiv Nadar

Shiv Nadar is the founder and chairman of HCL and the Shiv Nadar Foundation. He received a pre-University degree in The American College, Madurai and degree in Electrical And Electronics Engineering from PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. (Images: AFP)

12.Rajiv Bajaj

Bajaj Auto MD Rajiv Bajaj graduated first in class, with distinction, in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Pune in 1988, and then completed his masters in Manufacturing Systems Engineering, with distinction, from the University of Warwick in 1990. (AFP PHOTO) (AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE)

13.Manoj Gaur

Manoj Gaur, CEO & MD of Jaiprakash Associates Limited holds a Civil Engineering degree. Sameer Gaur, MD and CEO at Jaypee Sports International Limited completed his Masters in Business Management from the UK. (AFP photo)

14.Kaladnidhi Maran

Media Baron Kaladnidhi Maran has an MBA from the University of Scranton, US. (AFP PHOTO/MOHD RASFAN)

15.Sajjan Jindal

Sajjan Jindal, Chairman, Managing Director of JSW Steel, holds B.E in Mechanical Engineering from M S Ramaiah Institute of Technology which was then under Bangalore University.

16.Raghav Bahl

Raghav Bahl is the Controlling Shareholder and Managing Director of Network 18. An Economics graduate from St. Stephens College, he has done his MBA from the University of Delhi. (Photo by Solaris Images/Getty Images)

17.Vijay Mallya

UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya studied at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, and graduated with a Bachelors of Commerce degree. While in college, he was interning in his family businesses. After he graduated, he also interned at the American part of Hoechst in the United States. (Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images for F1 Rocks in India with Vladivar)

18.Kushal Pal Singh Teotia

Kushal Pal Singh Teotia is the chairman and CEO of DLF Limited. After graduating in science from Meerut College, Uttar Pradesh, he pursued Aeronautical Engineering in UK.

19.Narayanaswami Srinivasan

Narayanaswami Srinivasan is the Managing-Director of the India Cements Limited. He holds a B.Sc. (Tech) from Madras University, a M.Sc. from the University of Chicago and completed his post-graduation in Chemical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology. (Photo by Ritam Banerjee/Getty Images)

20.Malvinder Mohan Singh

Malvinder Mohan Singh is the former Chairman and CEO of Ranbaxy Laboratories. He received his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.Brother Shivinder Mohan Singh holds an Honours Graduate in Mathematics. He also received his MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. (AFP Photo)

21.Pawan Munjal

Pawan Munjal, the Managing Director and CEO of Hero MotoCorp Ltd is a graduate in Mechanical Engineering. (Photo: AFP)

22.Rahul Bhatia

Rahul Bhatia, Group Managing Director and Director, InterGlobe Enterprises Limited (IndiGo airlines) holds a degree in electrical engineering from University of Waterloo, Canada.

23.Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao

Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao is the Founder Chairman of GMR Group, a global infrastructure developer and operator based in India. He is a mechanical engineer by qualification. (AFP PHOTO/Prakash SINGH)

24.Uday Kotak

Uday Kotak, is the Executive Vice-Chairman and Managing Director of Kotak Mahindra Group. He is an alumnus of Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies. (AFP Images)

25.Chanda Kochhar

Chanda Kochhar is currently the Managing Director (MD) of ICICI Bank and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). After graduating, she pursued Cost Accountancy ICWAI and also acquired the Masters Degree in Management Studies from Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai.

26.Vinita Bali

Vinita Bali is presently the Managing Director of Britannia Industries Limited. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from LSR at the University of Delhi and her MBA at the Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies at Bombay University. She pursued postgraduate studies in Business and Economics at Michigan State University.

27.Kalpana Morparia

Kalpana Morparia is Chief Executive Officer of J.P. Morgan, India. She is graduate in law from Bombay University and completed her Bachelor of Science from Sophia College, Mumbai.

28.Kiran Majumdar Shaw

Kiran Majumdar Shaw is the Chairman & Managing Director of Biocon Limited a biotechnology company based in Bangalore. She completed her BSc Zoology Honours course from Mount Carmel College, Bangalore University and later did her post-graduation in Malting and Brewing from Ballarat College, Melbourne University.

29.Mallika Srinivasan

Mallika Srinivasan, the Chairman and CEO of TAFE did her in MA (econometrics) from Madras University. She completed her MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

30.Naina Lal Kidwai

Naina Lal Kidwai is the Group General Manager and Country Head of HSBC India.She is a chartered accountant by profession, later earned a Bachelors degree in Economics from University of Delhi and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She was the first Indian woman to graduate from Harvard Business School.

31.Neelam Dhawan

Neelam Dhawan is the Managing Director of Hewlett-Packard India. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from St.Stephen’s College, New Delhi, and a Masters in Business Administration from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University.

32.Dr. Preetha Reddy

Dr. Preetha Reddy is the Managing Director, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited. Dr. Preetha Reddy holds a B.Sc from Stella Maris College Chennai, and a Masters in Public Administration from Madras University.

33.Roopa Kudva

Roopa Kudva is Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of CRISIL and she is also Region Head, South Asia, Standard & Poor’s. She is a graduate in Statistics and a post-graduate in management from IIM, Ahmedabad.

34.Sulajja Firodia Motwani

Sulajja Firodia Motwani, an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University, USA, Sulajja started her career at BARRA international, a leading investment analytic firm in California. She worked there for four years before joining Kinetic. She is now the Joint Managing Director of Kinetic Engineering Ltd and Director, Kinetic Motors.

35.Swati Piramal

Swati Piramal who followed up her MBBS with a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University, is now Director, Strategic Alliances and Communications, Piramal Healthcare.