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Thinking of retraining in accountancy...any accountants about?

(64 Posts)
HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 23-Oct-12 12:21:02

I have a degree in an unrelated subject.

I have looked briefly at the ACCA and ACA websites, and think I understand the academic side of it although am unclear on the time commitment for studying. I am, however, a very academic person with exams being my strong point (over essays and coutsework) good with a calculator (though only just about average with mental arithmetic). I am good with IT, including exel although have no experience with accounts specific software such as SAGE. I am very analytical and logical.

my weaknesses...I'm not really a people person, and I'm not great with words. My current knowledge of economic awareness is weak, mainly through lack of active interest and could be rectified.

I am aware that there are different types of accountancy, but not clear of the functions on some of them. A summary would be good.

Am I right in thinking that this would be a office hours job (bar studying)?.

How would I go about getting a training place. I can see some advertised on ACA. Is it worth approaching the smaller firms area, or would that be restricting in terms of breadth of experience?

MrsMelons Tue 23-Oct-12 12:28:15

I started with AAT - it is not the professional qualification but a very good one to start with and it is liked by lots of accounts companies/departments.

This takes around 2 years (depending on entry level) then you can do the professional qualification which takes about 3 years sometimes a bit more depending on how many exams you take each sitting.

I am CIMA qualified which is Management Accounting and is the most globally recognised qualification. ACCA is more the Financial Accounts side so would be more relevant if you want to work in a accountancy practice. Although saying that we are all management accountants in my department and some are CIMA some are ACCA.

There is a lot of info on the ACCA and CIMA websites but feel free to inbox me with any specific questions.

WaftyCrank Tue 23-Oct-12 12:31:25

I don't know about training with a company but I'm doing my accountancy course with the AAT at a local college. It is expensive and obviously a few years until I'm qualified but it's 1 day a week which fits with DC and DH's job at the minute.
I'm hoping to finish level 4 and then take the job route to get more qualifications (ACCA etc)
Have a look on the job centre website as I saw a few book keeping jobs that offered training too.

CharleeWarlee Tue 23-Oct-12 12:34:30

Marking my place, as how you have described yourself in your post sounds exactly like me.

I am 22 and qualified to level 2 in AAT. I did do the full year of AAT level 3 but didnt do the exams as had a baby. This was 4 years ago so am looking at getting back into it.

MrsMelons Tue 23-Oct-12 12:36:38

AAT is really well thought of - I would highly recommend with starting with that. Most places will assist you with that or if not will assist with the professional qualification once you have it.

I think there is a huge jump from AAT to the professional qualifications so if you have not had any experience or previous related qualifications it would be advisable to do AAT first.

MrJasc Tue 23-Oct-12 12:56:11

Hi Lunatic

In terms of the different types of accounting:

Financial accounting is recording the transactions of a company and drawing up accounts for presentation to shareholders and other external people.
Management accounting is using internal financial information to make business decisions within the company
Auditing is looking at the financial accounts of other companies and signing them off as true and fair

All 3 main qualifications will do all of the above, but they have a different focus.

ACA – The most prestigious. Financial Accounting and Auditing focus. The only qualification that allows you to become an auditor.
ACCA – Financial Accounting focus
CIMA – Management Accounting focus

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend doing AAT as an entry route into the above. I think it takes a long time to cover not very much ground in far too much detail. But that’s a personal preference. If you want to speed things up (and maybe save some money), just go straight into something like the CIMA cert. in business accounting. You don’t need any previous knowledge. (I did the whole thing in 3 months as I was rushing, but 6 months is reasonable).

Exams and training are expensive, so it’s definitely best to get an employer to sponsor you if you can. For an idea of prices look at people like BPP and 7City.

If you know you want to work with numbers/finance in general, rather than having a specific interest in accountancy, then also perhaps look into becoming an actuary, or doing something like CFA which could lead you into banking.


DolomitesDonkey Tue 23-Oct-12 13:03:18

Is it absolutely mandatory to have the "work experience" and/or be sponsored? Or can you pay up and study on your own to qualify?

MrJasc Tue 23-Oct-12 13:10:24

You don't have to be working as an accountant while studying, but you do need to have completed a certain amount of work experience as an accountant to fully qualify, be awarded Chartered status and get the letters after your name. You can certainly fund the basic levels yourself and use the fact that you are already part-qualified as a way to get your first job in the field.

ceeveebee Tue 23-Oct-12 13:32:07

MrJasc - that's not quite correct about ACCA - you can be an auditor with an ACCA qualification - I was for 10 years. I know of plenty of audit practices with an ACCA/FCCA partners. But its true to say that ACA is a more highly regarded qualification.

I did AAT and then ACCA within an accountancy practice. A few years after qualfiying I then moved to an industry job (ie within a company's finance department) and ended up as FD of a plc company.

Training in audit is a good way to get lots of experience of different sectors but the hours can be tough if you are in a large accountancy firm (big 4, top 10) - I often worked until late at night, and was travelling all over the country. If you work in a smaller firm you are more likely to be able to work normal 9-5 hours.

In industry, the focus is often around month-end reporting certainly at the more junior newly qualified levels, which means you often end up working long hours for 2-5 days a month but normal hours outside of that.

In terms of getting an ACA training contract, generally the larger firms recruit annually as they take graduates straight from university so normally the trainees start in September of each year. But they will take the odd person outside of those timings. I am not sure about smaller practices.

I think you actually have to work for an ACA approved training practice to qualifiy as an ACA. ACCA can be studied at college full or part time and then work experience can be obtained later.

HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 23-Oct-12 14:27:52

Thankyou. This is all very useful
I am only just starting my investigations down this route, so you have given me more to look at and consider.

I wasn't planning on doing the AAT. Having looked mainly at the ACCA website (as this seems to be the easiest for me to follow) I think I would qualify to start at graduate level. I didn't think I would need to do the foundations course. I haven't really looked at the AAT. Are you suggesting that I do that as a stepping stone which would make me more attractive as a trainee.

What you've said about the hours does concern me slightly. As a single parent I can only commit to 9-5 out of the home. I think I need to look at this aspect in.more detail.

StrangerintheNight Tue 23-Oct-12 14:41:29

Smaller accountancy firms probably give you better breadth of work experience I would think. At one of the big firms you're a small cog in a big wheel and end up covering the same areas over and over again. The downside, other than lower pay, is that small firms can't afford to be as generous with study leave and support, so you might have to do most of it in your own time.

As ceeveebee said, office hours depends on the type and level of job you opt for. Month end deadlines are often an issue in industry (ie for a finance dept in a commercial business) with more frequent deadlines if you work for an accountancy firm itself.

MrsMelons Tue 23-Oct-12 14:59:52

If you qualifiy for ACCA exemptions and you feel you can put the hours of study in (they are hard exams!) then go straight for that level then. With no previous experience or exams in accountancy I would be surprised if you did not have to do the foundation level - the exemptions are usually only because you would have covered that area of the course in previous qualifications.

It will be hard for you to be taken on in a job with no experience or qualifications unless you are going in as a trainee. In this situation your study may be paid for and you would get time off for study/exams.

I am at a middle/senior management level but only work 30 hours a week. I get lots of leave as public sector however I do respond from e-mails at home in the evenings/weekends to get things done. You can work around the hours you need but liek others have said it would depend on the level/job.

HauntedLittleLunatic Tue 23-Oct-12 15:07:44

I would not get any excemptions.

It's the 'foundations in accountancy' I wouldn't have to do which as far as I can make out is a precursor to the acca. There are 'foundation' exams within ACCA which I would have to do.

HauntedLittleLunatic Wed 24-Oct-12 15:17:20


It would be useful to have more perspectives on the working hours as this may be the biggest hurdle for me.

I really couldn't commit to more than 9-5 outside the home. I am, however, willing (and expecting particularly during study) to work 2-3hrs daily in my own home.

MrsMelons Thu 25-Oct-12 20:32:59

I do not work outside 9-5 really, well I do but only because my office moved to an hour away so now I have to travel but I only work school hours 2 days a week and have one day off. I am able to work from home as well which really helps.

At a trainee level 9-5 is quite sufficient but later on it will depend on the level you are at.

It really depends on the company as well. I'm sure others can give you some different perspectives.

lels99 Thu 25-Oct-12 20:44:12

Dont do AAT if you have a degree, it's not worth it and will take you a lot longer to get any decently paid and interesting jobs.

I started training under an ACCA contract but then changed jobs and had to change to ACA. Is it a long time since you graduated or could you join a graduate scheme.

The differences I found between the two - were ACA definitely seen as more prestigous. If you say you are ACA qualified to a recruitment consultant they will generally bite your arm off, I personally think ACAs generally get paid more (but others may disagree), I found studying towards ACA to be more supported (generally get more time off towards study - its written into the contract) and it is all class room based. Often when studying for ACCA you are expected to do most studying in your own time.

If you've got any more questions please feel free to message me

PervyMuskrat Thu 25-Oct-12 20:45:43

I trained with a big 4 firm and the hours tended to be much longer than 9-5 when working with clients, but we did get the time back in lieu. They did pay for all courses and exams though although you were expected to pay for any resits (and sacked if you failed again!)

I worked FT in industry after that and nearly always worked (unpaid) overtime, although the salary was pretty good.

Progressed to FD level quickly but have since scaled back to a less pressured role after DC was born, and now rarely work overtime.

I genuinely enjoy being an accountant - there is a huge variety in the role, despite the usual stereotypes

HauntedLittleLunatic Thu 25-Oct-12 20:48:33

Ok, I might give some of the small accountancy firms round here a call and ask if I can chat about the role. Do you think they would offer me a 10-15min phone call to get opinions?

Concentrateonthegood Thu 25-Oct-12 20:57:29

Don't do it, don't do it... Only joking. I got into accountancy by accident. I'm glad I did. It's given me a varied and interesting working life and I've worked with some fantastic people and travelled the world - and I was also a single parent. I'm based locally now and not in the big smoke but I manage two large teams and have concentrated more on leadership and team development and having a brilliant time, in a fulfilling environment and earn more than decent money. It's worth the slog in my opinion.

Welovecouscous Thu 25-Oct-12 21:02:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PervyMuskrat Thu 25-Oct-12 21:58:34

Welovecouscous, good point re teams. If you go down the ACA or ACCA route, you have to work with your team and clients, so you are expected to have decent teamwork skills.

I was looking for work earlier in the year and it took me a while, but I was being very specific re location and hours, but managed to find somewhere in a few months. Funnily enough the Jobcentre didn't have much for me smile

wizzler Thu 25-Oct-12 22:04:59

I am an accountant, and went down the CIMA route.
CIMA is great if you want to work in industry ( Management Accounting) but would limit your options.
As others have said, ACA is the most prestigious.

I would recommend AAT.. its a good starting block and if you do AAT you will definitely understand the basics which is essential. I have come across many CIMA students who struggle because they do not have a working knowledge of double entry ... exemptions allowed them to skip the foundation stages.

Welovecouscous Thu 25-Oct-12 22:07:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PervyMuskrat Thu 25-Oct-12 22:12:33

ACA does give training in the basics but you are expected to get up to speed very fast...

wizzler Thu 25-Oct-12 22:18:43

Thanks welove... I was half expecting a flaming from lots of angry Cima types!

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