The best UK cities for finance careers

London has long dominated the UK’s financial landscape, and new research is bolstering its reputation as the best city to build a career in financial advice. However, Cardiff and Glasgow show that England is not the only region where professionals could thrive as accountants.

Historically, accounting has been one of the core functions of the professional services industry – and although many industry-leading companies are placing increasing emphasis on their lucrative consulting offerings, audit work remains the bread and butter of the biggest. market operators. To illustrate this, recent research from IBIS World suggested that in 2022 the UK accounting and auditing market was worth a total of $5.7 billion.

Due to its thriving income and significant reputation, the UK auditing market attracts a large number of graduates each year. But where should people looking to build a career in this booming industry start working? According to a study by Virtual Cabinet, the answer is London. While this may not surprise many people, however, what they might be interested to learn is that the city is closely rivaled by several other centers at opposite ends of the country.


To calculate the best city in the UK for accountants to work and live in, Virtual Cabinet researched the essential information people consider when deciding whether to take a job. This included factors such as: the accountant’s salary; unemployment rate; Cost of life; number of degrees in finance; number of enterprises; and the ratio of financial companies. By adding them up and weighting each factor of importance, the researchers scored each city in a ranking table.

Virtual Cabinet quoted Damian Connolly of Sakura Business Solutions as saying of the city: “As an accountant who has lived in London for several years, there is nowhere else I would rather live in the UK. United. Being from Ireland with a bit of a ‘global traveler’ mindset, once I graduated as an accountant, London was the first place that came to mind to start my career. of a professional accountant.

London is recognized globally as a global financial center, rivaling New York, Shanghai and Tokyo as a thriving center of trade and capital. It also has the highest financial business rate of any city in the UK. As such, the city’s accounting function is essential to its continued prosperity, and this is reflected in the rate of pay at all levels of accounting and finance work. Virtual Cabinet found that average salaries for clerks, accountants and managers were highest in London. However, London is also the most expensive city to live in, with a higher cost of living for families and individuals than anywhere else, while rent prices have steadily risen and average house prices are over £700. £000.


The exorbitant cost of living in London means that many graduates may want to look elsewhere at the start of their career. In recent years, Manchester – and neighboring Salford – have invested heavily in building a thriving tech hub, while seeking to encourage financial innovation in its neighborhoods. Now the second largest city in the UK (ahead of Birmingham of 100,000), it presents a thriving alternative to London’s financial sector.

The town pays above the UK average for accountancy jobs and has a relatively cheap cost of living for families and individuals. Meanwhile, its cultural center also offers plenty to do. What should be noted, however, is that for students looking to enter its finance sector, it only offers around 15 accounting degrees (compared to London’s over 150 finance training courses ), and with so few study spaces, that means individuals might need to study elsewhere before settling in the area.

Once this move materializes, however, Manchester may have a little less competition for space in the audit sector. After all, as Connolly pointed out in contrast to the capital, “To get one of the professional opportunities London has to offer, you’re not only up against the best candidates the UK has to offer, but also to the best that Europe and the rest of the world also has to offer.


However, those looking to get into accounting and auditing should not only consider English towns. In what Virtual Cabinet researchers called a “surprise entry”, the Welsh capital Cardiff came third on its list. Similar to Manchester, Cardiff has ranked so highly thanks in part to its accounting income, accounting courses and cost of living. While his salary as an accountant and manager was lower on the list, his income as a clerk was the third highest, suggesting the city is a great place to start a career, before using that experience to land jobs. leadership positions elsewhere.

Again, Cardiff offers fewer accounting training opportunities in the city, and there are only 12 accounting courses available in Cardiff. But there are around 605 financial firms in the city, which means there are plenty of opportunities for fresh graduates. which is an average score across the 25 cities we ranked for.


While the towns on the south coast are often seen as mere hubs for professionals traveling to London, Southampton has a thriving financial district. Regularly attracting new professional services firms, as they seek to launch centers in the south of England, Southampton offers a wealth of opportunities for those wishing to embark on a career in accountancy.

That being said, the city does not rank at all in terms of compensation. Although ranked fourth overall due to other factors, its clerk pays on average 11th in the UK, while its accountant and manager salaries sit in seventh.


Like Cardiff, Glasgow shows that there are opportunities in finance and audit beyond the English capitals. Scotland’s largest city by population, the hub also enjoys a lower than average cost of living. If Virtual Cabinet’s research only considered salary, Glasgow would undoubtedly rank higher.

City workers can expect to earn the fifth highest average salary in the UK. But the average salaries of accountants and managers would put Glasgow in the top three.

The rest

Beyond these cities, Virtual Cabinet’s analysis considered 20 additional cities across the UK. While Portsmouth, Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Reading complete the top 10, the researchers also singled out three underperforming cities for special analysis.

Sunderland has been criticized for its “depressing number of accounting courses”, despite also having one of the smallest populations and highest unemployment rates. For similar reasons, the industrial city of Middlesbrough was ranked second worst for accounting jobs – but both were still overtaken by Brighton. Indeed, while the cost of living in Brighton was higher than in many other towns, his salary for an entry-level accounting position was the lowest of any town. At just £20,751 it was a whopping £15,000 below the UK average.

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