How to become a public finance accountant
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- training with a professional body
Training in public finance accountancy is open to graduates of all subjects. After your degree you could join a structured graduate training scheme. Some employers may prefer graduates of subjects like:
- accounting and finance
- business and management
- politics and economics
- public administration
Most employers would support you to work towards the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) professional accountancy qualification.
Relevant degree subjects will give you exemptions from the certificate level of the CIPFA qualification.
You can find graduate training programmes with organisations like:
- local and central government
- housing associations and charities
- the NHS and other healthcare bodies
- police authorities and the military
- private sector accountancy firms that offer services to public sector organisations
Look for opportunities to gain work experience during your studies through:
- insight days
- virtual and in person work placements
- Easter and Summer vacation schemes
- year placement opportunities
You'll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths
- 2 to 3 A levels, or equivalent, for a degree
You could gain your professional qualifications through the apprenticeship route. You could take your first steps to a career as a professional accountant by starting off at technician level and working your way up. You could do:
- a professional accountancy technician higher apprenticeship
- an accountancy and taxation professional higher apprenticeship
You'll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
Many public finance accountants qualify with The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA). You'll need to complete the CIPFA Professional Qualification (PQ).
You can take the CIPFA PQ if you're:
- a graduate with an accountancy related degree
- an accountant qualified with another professional body
- a part-qualified accountant
- a chartered internal auditor
- a graduate with the Association of Accountancy Technicians
You could also do the CIPFA PQ if you're in a senior public finance role but don't yet hold a professional accountancy qualification.
You may be able to claim exemptions from some exams if you already have relevant qualifications.
CIPFA also work with the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) to produce a specialist apprenticeship scheme.
You may be able to join some larger employers directly through a finance management training scheme. You'll usually need at least A levels or equivalent, though some employers may ask for a degree.
You can find out more about careers in public finance accountancy from The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy.