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Why pursue a career in public sector finance?

Written by: ICAEW
Published on: 1 Feb 2024

Public sector worker

The public sector presents unique opportunities for chartered accountants seeking impactful careers. Here's why you should consider a role in public sector finance.

Unmatched influence 

In the public sector, finance professionals wield substantial influence, ensuring taxpayer funds are used efficiently to benefit society. Your work directly impacts citizens, demanding analytical and strategic skills on a par to the private sector.

Public sector financial reporting is a key mechanism through which various stakeholders can get a glimpse into the inner workings of an organisation - what its values are, what it ranks as key risks and how it has performed. These elements are important on multiple fronts but none more so than for accountability purposes.

Mindset shift

Chartered accountants working in the public sector help to shape public spending at the local, regional and national level, ensuring that tax payers are receiving value for money from service providers.

Differing from the private sector focus on shareholder returns, public sector finance involves managing an entire nation's budget. Effective communication and collaboration with diverse stakeholders become pivotal, emphasizing the broader societal impact of financial decisions.

Tackling complex challenges 

Public sector finance addresses multifaceted challenges such as AI integration, climate change mitigation, and demographic shifts. Innovations like outcome-based budgeting enable informed decision-making, necessitating adaptability and creativity from finance professionals.

Working to deliver public priorities and strong public finances and acting to support financial leadership and better financial management across the public sector – featuring transparency, accountability, governance and ethics – to ensure that public money is spent wisely and that public finances are sustainable.

Recruitment and retention 

While attracting talent through impact-driven work is crucial, retaining skilled finance professionals requires clear career paths and conducive work environments. Security of tenure and opportunities for skill development also play significant roles in talent retention.

Ultimately, the kind of people suited to joining and building their careers in the public sector will not be motivated by money alone but by the desire to make a difference in their communities. 

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