Accountants must ensure that the council's financial management is effective and efficient, making the best use of public money.  About 18,000 accountants are employed in local government throughout the UK.  They are employed in all types of local authority.  A significant number of the current chief executives are trained accountants.

Work Environment
Most of the work is undertaken in an office setting.  Some travel to attend meetings is required.

Daily Activities
Sound financial management is central to the efficient running of local authority services.  Consequently, accountants must be rigorous in monitoring the use of public funds.  This responsibility extends from departmental budgeting to preparing recommendations on large projects such as the building of roads.  They are also responsible for the effective management of resources and to ensure that financial risk is recognised and managed.

  • Assessment and advising on estimates forproject funding and continuing running costs.
  • Overall control of capital and revenue budgets forall departments.
  • Preparation of annual accounts for the auditor.
  • Internal audits working on wage reviews, for example, or checking that authority funding is properly apportioned.
  • Point of contact between the relevant services and the Finance Division.

Skills & Interests
Excellent numerical and communication skills are essential, as is the ability to organise and analyse information and data.  Accountants need good interpersonal skills to allow them to work with a wide range of people such as fellow professionals, elected members and support staff etc.  Accountants also need to be creative, diplomatic with an enquiring mind.  The ability to offer detached advice when dealing with confidential information is a further requirement.

Entry Requirements
There are three main routes into accountancy:

  • With two A-levels/Higher grades and GCSEs/Standard grades (grades A-C) in five subjects, including English and maths.
  • Entrants forCIPFA are required to do a foundation course before starting their professional examination studies.
  • With a relevant degreeormembership of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).  AAT membership permits exemption from CIPFA Foundation course.
  • With a degree in a non-relevant subject.  Such entrants are required to do parts of the foundation course before starting their professional examination studies.

For mature candidates (over 21) there are no minimum academic qualifications required.  The Association of Accounting Technicians' entry and training scheme is open-entry and usually takes two years full-time or three years part time.  There are S/NVQs at Levels 2, 3 and 4.  Most accountants study for the professional examinations of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) or the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants (ACCA).

Future Prospects & Opportunities
Councils are large employers of accountants (and accounting technicians).  Opportunities exist to become senior/principal accountants, then assistant director of finance and finally, director of finance.  A significant number progress to chief executive level.  To advance most accountants move from one council to another but as accountants are employed in all types of councils its possible to limit mobility to a particular area or region.

Further Information & Services
Association of Accounting Technicians 
Chartered Institute of Management 
Institute of Chartered Accountantsin Englandand 
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants 
The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

Careers Wales have produced a Spotlight article on careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths):  

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales ( in your local library, careers officeor school careers library.

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