Within the accountancy practice world, the number of jobs out there for part-qualified and newly-qualified accountants is only going up. The majority of our clients understand the value in hiring candidates starting out in their career, a few exams in, or making that step from trainee to chartered accountant. This can be quite a daunting move for trainees to make and, for some, it can mean paying clawbacks (although not if you’re doing the Level 7 apprenticeship!). For others it can symbolise the start of a long and hopefully rewarding career as a qualified accountant.
This interview series is designed to give you an insight into the reasons behind why people move during their studies or why they are keen to move once gaining their ACA / ACCA / CTA qualifications. (For advice on which qualifications might be best for you, check out Georgina’s blog "I want to be an Accountant but what qualifications should I choose?")
About the interviewee: This interviewee is MAAT and part qualified, studying the ACCA at a top 20 firm of accountants. With 18 months practice experience, she’s able to give an insight into what it’s like to work in practice and making that leap to a new firm, mid training contract.
What first interested you in a career in accountancy?
When I was younger I had no idea what I wanted to do, however, I was always good at Maths and after getting an A in my GCSE I decided it was probably wise to go into something finance based. With both my parents working in the business and finance sector, I decided to start studying towards a career in accountancy.
With so many options out there (AAT, ATT, ACA, ACCA, CTA), how did you decide which accountancy qualification you wanted to study?
When I left school, I decided to start working pretty much straight away as I was unsure what career path to follow. This meant that I didn’t have any A-levels so I decided that AAT was the best course for me to start with. I started studying for my AAT in the evenings alongside working full time.
Were you fussy with the type of accountancy firm you wanted to work for? E.g. Big 4, top 10, small independent boutique.
My first 2 roles were actually in industry which I feel was great experience and a good stepping stone towards moving into a practice role. I did a lot of research and sent my CV to probably over 30 different accountancy practices, some I even dropped in by hand to the owners / directors. These were practices ranging from family run to the top 5 and I managed to secure interviews in both. After a lot of consideration, I decided to take a role in a local practice and I do believe this was the right decision. I wanted to learn the basics of everything and felt that I would get this joining a smaller practice as all accounting services were dealt with in the same office, whereas some of the bigger firms had different departments or specialised in something specific.
How do you find juggling studying the ACCA with your day to day audit & accounts work?
I do find working and studying a struggle; I’ve never been the most self-disciplined so studying after work and in the evenings can be difficult, especially when your friends are in different situations and go out and enjoy themselves! Recently I’ve decided to start getting up earlier and studying in the mornings as I feel this works better for me but everyone finds their own ways.
If you could start all over again, is there anything you would change about your accountancy training?
If I could start all over again, I may have chosen a path that would enable me to have been qualified by a younger age! Ideally, I would’ve liked to have been qualified by now, but after changing jobs and a few failed exams, this makes the journey longer. I may have skipped working in industry had I known I would end up in practice but I do feel that this has given me lots of valuable experience.
Why did you decide to change accountancy firms during your ACCA studies?
I decided to change firms during my studies as I didn’t feel that there was any future progression for me at the firm I started working for. I didn’t feel motivated or inspired by any of the management/partners and didn’t want to further my career in that practice.
Were there any penalties for changing jobs part qualified and, if so, was the move worth it?
Yes, there were penalties with moving firms half way through training, I had to repay all training costs incurred, all travel costs, annual subscriptions etc. which was difficult for me being on a low salary but I was aware that this was in my contract so would always be a possibility. I knew that, had I stayed longer, this cost would only increase so I decided to leave before it got to a point where it would be physically impossible to leave due to the costs.
What benefits would you say you gained from changing firms half way through?
I think it is always good to see how similar businesses work and the difference in practices, so I believe this will only help to open my eyes to potential problems or issues that may arise in the future. I learnt the basics in my first practice role and am now able to implement what I learnt to my work here but at a higher standard.
What one piece of advice would you give to people looking to embark on a career in accountancy?
Keep studying and get qualified as soon as possible – the hard work will pay off in the end!
If you’re Part Qualified and looking for advice on what to do if you'd like to make a move, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Alice Hardy is a Principal Consultant in the Accountancy Division at Harvey John.
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