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October 19, 2021, by Leah Sharpe

Accounting Careers: The Difference Between Working in Industry and in Practice

By Tom Bilby, Marketing Executive at online-based accountancy practice, The Accountancy Partnership

If you’re reading this blog post then the chances are you’re a fledging finance bod, plotting your route into a career in accounting. It’s an exciting time and one we hope you’ll look back on fondly as you reflect from a position of success in the not-too-distant future.

However, before you start ascending the accounting career ladder, there are several things you need to know and decisions you’ll need to make. One being what it means to work as an accountant in practice, versus what it means to work in industry.  

Let’s explore the main differences between working in industry and in practice, so that you can better navigate your accounting career path.

The difference between accounting in practice and industry

In a nutshell, the difference between the two boils down to where and how you work (and, often, how much you typically get paid).  

Working in practice means working for an accountancy firm on several clients at once. Working as an accountant in industry means being part of the in-house finance team within a business or organisation.  

Trends suggest that salaries are higher for those working in industry, but that work-life balance is more agreeable for those in practice.  

Now we’ve summarised the basics, let’s delve a little deeper.

What does it mean to work in practice?

Working in practice means working for an accountancy firm – whether that’s a large organisation or a small business. Accountants working in practice will generally work with a number of different clients across a wide variety of industries and sectors.  

The benefits of working in practice include:

– Experience and exposure across a wide variety of business types and sizes

– You’ll likely get to hone your technical skills and practice more

– You’ll be surrounded by more likeminded professionals and potential mentors to learn from

Possible drawbacks might be:

– Jumping from one client account to another can be stressful

What does it mean to work in industry as an accountant?

Accountants who work in industry are usually part (or all!) of an organisation’s finance team. It basically means that they’re an in-house accountant, employed by the business or establishment. 

The advantages of working in industry include:

– You only focus on one company’s finances

– Dedicate your work to a particular industry if there’s one which you’re especially passionate about

– Gain more general commercial insight about how a business works, and how a finance or accounts team fits into the equation

Possible drawbacks might be:

– Your experience of accounting across industries and sectors is limited

– The role will come with much less day-to-day variety

The important thing to remember is that whichever you choose to gravitate towards to begin with, doesn’t have to be your final decision.  

Plenty of super successful accountants switch between practice and industry work throughout the course of their careers. Experience of both will only make you a more informed and well-rounded professional, so go ahead and find what brings out the best in you.  

To find out more about this career area, take a look at the Careers webpage on accountancy and finance.

Posted in Choosing Your CareerEmployer Insights