Accounting technicians are responsible for collecting, checking and analysing financial information. The precise nature of their work depends on the size and type of organisation that employs them, but may include some of the following:
Technicians who work for a small company generally carry out a range of tasks. They may be the only employee trained and qualified to look after financial records, invoices and wages. In a larger company, they are likely to be part of a team that includes chartered accountants, other accounting technicians and general administrators. In this case they are likely to specialise in a particular area, such as audit or tax.
Accounting technicians use computers for most of their work. They work with spreadsheets, databases and word processing software. Increasingly, accounting technicians are also responsible for identifying how a company can improve its profits and reduce costs.
Accounting technicians usually work from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. They may have to work beyond these hours during busy times or to meet deadlines. There are opportunities for part-time work and job sharing.
Many organisations offer flexible working hours.
Most technicians are office based, although they may spend some time visiting clients. Smart dress is usually expected.
Starting salaries may be between £11,500 and £18,000 a year.
Accounting technicians are employed throughout the UK in a wide variety of organisations, ranging from large multinational accountancy firms to small, local companies. Employers include:
Commercial and industrial companies.
The number of accounting technicians is increasing.
Vacancies are advertised in local and national newspapers, and in the journals of the main accounting professional bodies. They are also advertised on the websites of specialist recruitment agencies.
There are no set entry requirements for this work, although employers may ask for some GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths.
It is possible to study accounting, finance or business to prepare for work as an accounting technician.
Useful courses include A levels/H grades, BTEC first and national qualifications, SQA national qualifications and BTEC/SQA higher qualifications.
Some people enter accounting having first studied the AAT Accounting Qualification. There are three stages to this qualification - a Level 2 Certificate, a Level 3 Diploma and a Level 4 Diploma. Study can be full time or part-time at colleges or training centres, or even via distance learning.
Instead of exams, you will take a series of computer-based assessments that reflect practical workplace tasks.
Each level counts as a qualification in its own right, and completion of all three levels leads to the full AAT Accounting Qualification. Each of the three levels takes around a year to complete.
It is also possible to prepare for entry to this work by studying for the Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) qualification offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). The qualification has three levels - introductory, intermediate and advanced. Study can be full time, part time or by distance learning and no previous qualifications are required.
Some people enter this work through an Apprenticeship training scheme.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
On starting work, technicians are trained on the job by their employer. They may also study for an accounting technician qualification.
Many study for qualifications offered by the AAT. Study may be by distance learning or by part-time attendance at one of many centres throughout the UK. Each of the three stages takes around a year to complete.
There are other AAT qualifications that technicians may work for, depending on their job role. They include NVQ's in Payroll Administration at Levels 2 and 3, and the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping. Each consists of seven competence based units.
Alternatively, technicians may study for ACCA's CAT qualification. Students who have achieved the CAT qualification, either before or after entry to accounting work, must have one year's relevant practical experience in the workplace to achieve full CAT status.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An accounting technician should:
In smaller organisations, experienced accounting technicians may take on considerable responsibility. They may work with senior managers, reporting on how the business is performing and suggesting how to improve profits and performance.
Technicians may be able to progress to positions such as finance officer, tax analyst or payroll manager.
An increasing number of technicians become self-employed, providing accountancy services to small organisations.
Many accounting technicians become chartered accountants. They do this by studying for the professional qualifications of a chartered accountancy body. All the chartered bodies offer exemptions and fast-track routes to AAT and ACCA CAT qualified students. It is also possible to study accountancy at college or university before working towards professional qualifications. Holders of an NVQ/SVQ in Accounting at Level 3 are accepted by many universities and colleges onto their accountancy and finance degrees.
Holders of an NVQ/SVQ in Accounting at Level 4 may be admitted directly onto the second year of a degree course.
It may be possible for qualified technicians to work abroad, as their qualifications are recognised internationally.
Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT),
140 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4HY
Tel: 0845 863 0800
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, ACCA Connect,
2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW
Tel: 0141 582 2000
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA),
26 Chapter Street, London SW1P 4NP
Tel: 020 8849 2251
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA),
3 Robert Street, London WC2N 6RL
Tel: 020 7543 5600
The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Gloucester House, 399 Silbury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes MK9 2HL
Tel: 01908 248100
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.