Both chartered and management accountancy require the following broad range of competencies and skills:
- A genuine interest in finance – and an interest and ability to work with figures
- Commercial awareness – an interest in business, and an understanding of how current political/legislative/financial issues may impact their field or industry sector
- Communication and interpersonal skills – the ability to communicate complex information clearly and to build relationships with clients at all levels
- The capacity to demonstrate team working
- Leadership and negotiation skills
- Problem-solving and analytic skills
- The stamina and commitment to combine working long hours and study, in the early years
- Presentation skills, report writing and attention to detail.
Whilst at university you may want to take on a role with a club or society that involves financial responsibilities, and which will allow you to develop and demonstrate relevant skills. For example, acting as Treasurer for a sports club, or looking after the finances for an event or fundraiser. See our advice on Employability Skills for ideas about how to enhance your skills.
To develop your commercial awareness, read the financial press and review helpful websites such as eFinancialCareers, and relevant online blogs. The Careers Service’s Insight into Strategy and Management programme offers a short and accessible introduction to the language and practice of business management: we run this programme most months, and you can register on CareerConnect.
It can be very beneficial to get relevant work experience. This gives you gain a better understanding of the work, builds skills and enhances your CV. Perhaps more importantly, it also lets you assess whether you are likely to enjoy the work and culture of the organisation(s).
It is possible for students to organise their own work experience, for example, in the finance department of a local business or by approaching accountancy firms near where you live to arrange some work-shadowing. Oxford students may also find finance related work experience through our Micro-Internship Programme, which runs every term.
However, companies make a priority to provide students with planned work experience opportunities at sixth form and throughout their degree programmes.
- First years (and second year students taking a four-year degree) can apply to Easter vacation ‘insight days’ and ‘Spring Weeks’ during Michaelmas term and January
- Summer internships are widely available, particularly for students in their penultimate year of study.
- Although not possible with any Oxford degrees, many degrees will allow students to take a paid 12-month placement 'year in industry'.
Many companies run insights days and spring weeks for students who are 2+ years from graduating (i.e. first year undergraduates, and second-year students taking a four-year degree). These are part of the firm’s ‘early talent identification’ programmes, and a successful spring-week will often provide a fast-track option to interviews for a summer internship in the student’s penultimate year, which in turn can lead to a full-time job offer. All students attending spring weeks can expect:
- to learn more about different business streams within the company
- to meet senior staff and recent hires to learn more about their perspective and experiences, and
- to receive some technical skills development and advice on applications and interview practice.
Even without taking advantage of the spring week route, there are always many positions available for the penultimate year internships. These may run for 6 to 12 weeks, providing a much fuller experience of a firm, its work and culture. A successful summer internship will often lead to a full-time job offer from the firm, with a start date for the autumn after graduation.
Expect to make applications from September to January/February for work experience the following summer. See advice on preparing for better applications in the Getting a Job section (below).
Start your research early to give yourself the best chance of finding the work experience you want, with your preferred organisation and location.
- Use the ACCA global, ICAEW, ICAS and CIMA websites to research and find target companies
- Use your target firms’ dedicated recruitment pages to drive your research, keep track of vacancies and applications dates and sign-up for email alerts
- Follow firms on social media to hear about events, understand the experiences of their recent graduate hires and understand their culture
- In addition to companies’ own career pages, use the vacancies board on CareerConnect and graduate career website to find additional vacancies and information.
Internet-based research provides access to the same information marketing information that all candidates can access. Plan to go beyond this be meeting the firms and talking with their graduate recruits. Use these conversations to learn about what the work is like and why graduates find it interesting and worthwhile. You should also try to understand what makes each firm distinctive, including their work culture so that your application can begin to project how your personality, working style and attitudes are likely to be a good ‘fit’ for that firm.
Expect to meet firms and their representative early in Oxford's Michaelmas term, when companies visit their target UK universities to promote themselves and their graduate opportunities (the annual 'Milkround'). In addition to participating in our career fairs the larger employers will run their own events. Students should plan to:
- Attend the annual Oxford Career Fair, Finance Fair (both in 0th Week Michaelmas term) and Jobs for Mathematicians (in 6th Week): all in person in 2022.
- Stay on top of firms’ national marketing and their on-campus activity at Oxford through their webpages and Oxford’s event calendar on CareerConnect.
If you have missed the autumn recruitment season, all is not lost. There will be work experience opportunities available well into the new year and spring months, although you can expect to have less choice about the locations and roles being offering.
Will I get paid?
Internships and summer jobs are governed in the UK by National Minimum Wage law, which means that if you are carrying out activities that class you as a “worker” by the employer, then you should be paid. Full details of Employment Rights and Pay for Interns are published by the government.
If you are undertaking a learning and development opportunity such as a micro-internship, or volunteering for a charity or statutory body, or shadowing or observing, then you may not be eligible for the National Minimum Wage. The organisation may reimburse you for your travel and/or lunch expenses, but they aren’t obliged to do so.
Making an early start
The ICAEW provides current students with an online toolkit to help them develop commercial awareness and which provides advice and opportunities to start preparations. This includes the opportunity to study at your own pace for the ICAEW’s Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB). This certificate programme covers the first six modules of the ACA professional qualification: Accounting; Business and Finance; Management Information; Law; Assurance; and Principles of Taxation.
See the ICAEW’s Improve your Employability advice pages.