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What is the difference between a Management Accountant (or Industry Accountant) and a Practice Accountant?

This question often arises because the accountancy profession falls into two distinct strands. The first of these strands is accountants who work in in-house for individual clients or companies. That is to say that they work on behalf of one client who is also probably their employer. They may well be overseeing a small team of bookkeepers, purchase ledger clerks and accounts administrators, and their role might be more to do with planning the finances of the company for the future rather than preparing accounts on a regular basis.

Type of Employer or Client

A practice accountant on the other hand tends to work for a firm of accountants or as an individual sole trader, and will work on behalf of a variety of clients as their external accountant.

Probably the best distinction between the two is that practice accountants at their bare minimum service levels will be preparing annual accounts on behalf of companies to submit to Companies House and HMRC for corporation tax purposes.

Management accountants are overseeing the operation of an individual company’s account on a daily basis.

Is there much crossover between the two types of Accountant?

When it comes to recruitment there is very little opportunity for management accountants who have worked in-house for businesses to cross over and become practice accountants. Firms of accountants are very reluctant to recruit accountants who have been in-house (also known as being ‘in industry’) because they don’t feel they have the same general range of skills that a practice accountant has.

Similarly in-house accountancy roles are very rarely open to practice accountants, because in-house accountancy roles are usually for accountants who have worked specifically in one particular industry possibly, or have had some limited experience of working in a similar industry role.

ACCA/ACA Accountants vs CIMA Accountants

Not only are there practical differences in terms of experience, but quite often the qualification a management accountant holds compared with a practice accountant is quite different. A practice accountant will quite often be an ACCA or ACA qualified accountant and an in-house accountant or management accountant will be a CIMA. One of these is a set of qualifications regulated by The Association of Chartered and Certified Accountants, and the other is a qualification offered by The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. The approach for each is quite different, although as a recruiter we are never sure whether there is an inbuilt bias against each strand of the accounting profession for no apparent reason other than tradition. When management accountants have crossed into practice they don’t seem to have any particular problem with their work, and similarly when practice accountants move into industry there is rarely much of an issue with the quality of their work.

Recruitment of Management Accountants or Practice Accountants

To enquire about the recruitment of either management accountants or practice accountants, please visit or give us a ring on 0207 127 4343.