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10 Factors That Are Making It Increasingly Challenging To Reach A Senior Level Role In Accounting

We all know that the decision to study for a professional accounting qualification is a significant investment of time and money.

Those who set out on this path are generally ambitious and want to progress in their career and make a good living.

I recently conducted some research into what it took to reach a senior level leadership role in accounting.

The people who I sought input from were all accountants who had already achieved significant success in their career.

One area I explored with them was the factors that were making it a challenge.

This identified both internal and external factors.

Internal factors

There were 6 main internal factors to which those contributing to the research highlighted:

  1. More competition as the number of qualified accountants increases.
  2. Change in what employers expect from those in senior level roles in accountancy.
  3. Fast pace at which things move in organisations.
  4. Greater complexity in organisations and industry sectors.
  5. Move over the years to lower levels of investment in training and development.
  6. General changes in the nature of the role and increasingly being asked to lead functions where they are not the expert.

External factors

There were also 4 external factors that those contributing to the research highlighted.

  1. Consolidation of industries leading to more accountants chasing fewer roles and potentially finding it difficult to get that initial step into a senior level role.
  2. High levels of change.
  3. Economic turbulence creating uncertainty.
  4. Changing expectations of what a FD should do and contribute.

What the implications are if you are serious about success in your accounting career

The first thing that I would suggest is that you have take personal responsibility for your career and the results that you achieve.

It’s really easy to find yourself in a position where a boss who has played a significant part in you progressing all of a sudden leaves as a result of a re-structure or re-organisation.

Secondly you can no longer afford to rely on your professional qualification alone.

To keep moving forward you’re going to have to invest in your own personal and professional development.

If your employer helps in this area that’s a bonus but I would suggest that if you are really serious you will make the decision to invest part of what you earn in your professional development.

Thirdly you need to go for breadth in your professional development both in terms of what you do and the areas you work on.

Training courses are good, especially for building skills.

Learning on the job also has to be a huge part of what you do.


Because doing something for real where there are consequences both positive and potentially negative raises the stakes.

When the stakes are raised you not only learn about skills but about yourself as a person.

The Bottom Line:  Achieving a senior level role in accounting is a challenge and by being proactive you can increase your chances of making it as far as you want to go in your career.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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