Thinking of studying accounting in Ireland or Northern Ireland?
Explore your options when considering studying accountancy in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Studying accountancy provides opportunities for interesting and challenging careers; the skills gained prepare students for a wide variety of career choices within accounting, business or other employment sectors.
University students studying in Northern Ireland (UK) usually complete a three/four-year undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Science or Arts in Accounting. There are postgraduate qualifications in accounting, however most students tend to seek employment after graduation.
Within the Republic of Ireland, the majority of students undertaking accountancy usually complete a three/four-year undergraduate degree such as a Bachelor of Commerce at one of the universities, or Bachelor of Arts in Accounting at an institute of technology or independent college. The successful completion of any of these will enable a student to obtain an Honours (Level 8) degree. For more details on award levels, visit National Framework of Qualifications.
Upon completion of an undergraduate degree, students can:
- Continue to postgraduate study, such as Masters in Accounting (Level 9)
- Continue to study for examinations of a professional accountancy body
- Start full-time employment and study part-time for the second option above
Employment opportunities for graduates still exist, with the ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms plus small/medium-sized firms recruiting. The ‘Big 4’ accountancy firms are global in their own right and have offices in key Irish cities (Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Limerick). Recruitment opportunities also exist in other sectors such as banking, financial services, manufacturing and food sector corporations. The global economic recession continues to impact the number of student recruitments, but long-term prospects are excellent for accountancy graduates. All universities provide careers fairs and advice centres to enable students to pursue opportunities after graduation.
“Ireland has top-class facilities to cater for international students, plus a relatively low living cost compared with some countries”
Undergraduate degrees offer varying levels of exemptions from a number of examinations of the professional accountancy bodies. It’s important to bear these exemptions in mind if your ultimate goal is completion of the professional accountancy examinations. Most professional accountancy bodies have an office in Ireland, and many also have online contacts:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
- Chartered Accountants Ireland
- Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
- Certified Public Accountants in Ireland
It is important to note that upon completion of your accountancy studies at a university, you need to enter into a training contract to complete the study of the professional accounting examinations. The professional accounting body will usually encourage you to take an interest in your continuing professional development, and as such many professional accounting bodies provide a ‘network’ of branches or student societies, which will have some representation in your local area - attend these events as they will help your professional development and enable you to network with fellow professionals/students.
Why Ireland?Thousands of international students choose to study in Ireland (North and South). Most universities operate ‘Erasmus’ schemes that enable foreign students to attend local universities for up to one year of study. It’s important to check with your university that it can facilitate reciprocal arrangements with a university in Ireland.
Before choosing your institution, it is important to research the various options in Ireland and the UK - you may not be able to enter the UK as a student if the institution you choose doesn’t appear on the UK Department of Education and Skills Register of Education and Training Providers. You should also check that no additional fees are payable to the Irish university before registering for a course under the Erasmus scheme.
You should consider factors such as location, transport, living costs, reputation, facilities and staff. Ireland has top-class facilities to cater for international students, plus a relatively low living cost compared with some countries.
Northern Ireland transport facilities include:
- Three airports for flights to/from the UK
- Two docks for ferries to/from the UK
- Bus and rail facilities from Belfast to key university locations (Dublin is approximately 100 miles/two-hours drive away)
Republic of Ireland transport facilities include:
- Three airports for flights to/from the UK and Europe
- Three docks for ferries to/from the UK
- Bus and rail facilities from Dublin to key university locations (Cork/Galway/Limerick - minimum two hours)
You should bear in mind that each country (Ireland/UK) has separate immigration requirements. These vary according to your nationality/citizenship and the length of study. In the UK for example, you won’t be able to stay for more than two years for courses that are below degree level and less than one year’s duration. Check the Register of Education and Training Providers for further information
Some observations from current Erasmus students studying in Ireland/Northern Ireland:
- There are opportunities to develop independence and improve English, through written and oral communications, academic studies and daily life
- There tend to be close academic relationships between students and tutors
- The workload tends to be continuous throughout the academic year, rather than focused on end of term
- Personal identification (passport, ID card) is required for some tasks, and students are encouraged to register with a local doctor/GP, for which a European health card is required
- Some things are expensive (such as food and travel costs)
- Check with your government to see if grants or finance is available for international study
Studying accounting and financeKey subjects within an accounting degree include: financial reporting/accounting, management accounting, financial management, taxation, economics, strategy, auditing, forensic accounting, company law and international accounting issues.
International Accounting Standards currently guide the work of most accountants in respect of financial reporting, thus many of the international issues within accounting are likely to be incorporated within a standard accounting course. National differences in taxation and company law are studied in each country - i.e. UK company law and tax legislation is studied in Northern Ireland (and UK), whilst Republic of Ireland regulations are studied within that jurisdiction.
SummaryStudy within Ireland provides fantastic opportunities for a career in accountancy, as well as for personal development, such as using English, experiencing other cultures and networking. Most students tend to seek a training contract with an accountancy firm upon graduation, however, a significant number continue to pursue opportunities for postgraduate study. All universities in Ireland have excellent student support facilities aimed at enhancing the student experience.
Written by Dr David McAree (2011)
Irish Accounting & Finance Association