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Where you choose to train and work as an accountant will directly affect your day to day activities, salary and career prospects. Make sure you know the differences and relative advantages and disadvantages of different areas of industry and sizes of firm before making an informed decision about where to start your career.

Deciding what type of employer you would like to work for is one of those important choices that you have to make when you start looking for work. Different sectors all have their own advantages and disadvantages: it’s down to you to decide what suits your personality and career aspirations best.

An ICAEW Chartered Accountants can choose a career in any sector and in all sizes of organisation: there is no typical employer. Although the majority of ICAEW training agreements tend to be offered in public practice, there are a growing number of training agreements in banks and businesses.

With over 3,300 registered training offices, recruiters will look for evidence that you have researched the options that are available and specialist areas you are interested in. Showing that you can differentiate employers by size, by their services, their clients and what sector they operate in will reflect well on you in interviews. The ACA qualification remains the same regardless of where you are working, so it is important to find an authorised training employer who suits you.

Where can I train?

The three main areas of work for accountants are:

Public practice
Public Sector
Industry and commerce

Authorised Training Principal (ATP) scheme

The ATP scheme is a new way to train as a chartered accountant and is ideal if you’re looking to work for an organisation that is not an ICAEW authorised training employer.

Your ATP will be responsible for monitoring your progress through your ACA training, reviewing your development, guiding and advising you. If your manager or any other senior manager in your company is a qualified accountant, they may be eligible to act as an ATP. As long as they can prove they meet our eligibility criteria, it is a free and straightforward process. Once they are authorised, you can register as a student and start your ACA training straight away.

Does the size of the accountancy employer matter?

Large accountancy firms have offices in major towns and cities around the country and abroad, providing the option of travel, and often have hundreds of trainees at any one time, which can provide a supportive community and almost university-style atmosphere.

Large firms can also allow you to specialise in specific areas early on, gaining expertise and giving you the option to pursue a specific career interest. Often, you might be put on a rotation, spending some time within different accountancy disciplines before making your choice.

Smaller accountancy firms may be concentrated in one location or specialise in a particular type of client. At a smaller firm, you will have the opportunity to gain a broader experience, providing an all-round service to clients on a more personal basis and achieve responsibility early on in your training. You might have fewer contemporaries starting at the same time, but this can make it easier to distinguish yourself and earn the notice of senior partners more quickly.

Beyond training

Three years may seem like a long time when you are at university, but in the world of work that time will pass quickly. Whatever size or type of organisation you choose to train with, your career opportunities are endless; the ACA qualification opens doors to all business sectors. Once qualified you will not be limited in your opportunities to gain exposure to larger companies or experience within a specific sector.

In the meantime it’s really up to you to see what you enjoy most and decide what type of environment suits you best!

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