Public Finance Accountant

Job Description:

Public finance accountants make sure money is spent properly in public sector organisations.

Job Category:
Financial Services

What you will do:

In your day-to-day duties you could:

  • prepare financial records and statements
  • estimate the cost of new projects
  • review budgets and investments
  • monitor spending and cashflows
  • allocate money to projects and departments
  • analyse the effectiveness of services
  • manage organisations’ finance systems
  • conduct internal audits
  • present to boards and budget holders


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of economics and accounting
  • maths knowledge
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications

As well as:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (organisational skills)
  • administration skills
  • analytical thinking skills
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork skills)
  • ambition and a desire to succeed
  • the ability to use your initiative
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Public Finance Accountant, you typically need a strong educational background in accounting and finance. While there are no specific subject requirements, having a solid foundation in relevant subjects can be beneficial. Consider taking the following subjects:

  1. Mathematics: Accounting and finance involve complex calculations and mathematical concepts. A strong foundation in mathematics is crucial.
  2. English Language: Good communication skills are essential in accounting, especially if you need to interact with colleagues, clients, or government agencies.
  3. Business Studies or Economics: These subjects can provide you with a foundational understanding of economic and financial principles, which are fundamental to accounting.

Post School

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
  • maths
  • 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
  • public hospitals 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
  • internships
  • year placement opportunities


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

Other Routes

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

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.

You may be able to join some larger employers directly through a finance management training scheme.

Working Hours and Environment:

A typical week consists of 37-39 hours of work. You could be required to work evenings occasionally.

You could work in an office.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience you could move into management and progress to director of finance.

You could also move into private practice or management accountancy.

You could also teach in a further education college.