Businesses and organisations need people with varied backgrounds, interests and knowledge to help them become as successful as possible. There are many ways to become a chartered accountant, so whether you’re a graduate, a school leaver or a professional looking to move industry, there is a route for you.
Do I need an A level in maths?
No. You need to be comfortable with numbers. Employers look for students with maths at GCSE level at grade B or above, but do not require it at A level.
What grades do I need?
ICAEW’s entry requirements relate to your school, college or other relevant qualifications and full details can be found at icaew.com/careers. While employers are looking for applicants with a good academic history, employability skills are just as important. Check your chosen employer’s website for their specific requirements before you apply.
Finding your place
You can start the ACA as an independent student, but we recommend you secure a training agreement with an authorised employer as soon as you can. These firms must meet strict standards to train ACA students, meaning you’ll benefit from a first-rate employer who is committed to giving you support and guidance throughout your training. Securing a training agreement early on also means that you’ll be paid a competitive salary while training.
Recruiters look for a broad range of personal skills, not just academic ability. Having demonstrated your sharp mind, you’ll also need to show that you have the right character and outlook. Part of this means being good with people (particularly clients), at ease with numbers and interested in the way an organisation’s financial matters impact on performance.
As well as being independent, confident and outgoing, employers are looking for candidates to possess the following skills:
Great chartered accountants are able to communicate complex financial information and advice to colleagues, managers and clients in an easy to understand way.
Improve your people skills by putting yourself into situations that require lots of interaction with people from a wide range of backgrounds, abilities and cultures. Volunteering and part-time jobs give you access to lots of people from different generations, levels and experiences, all of which helps to develop your communication skills.
Knowing when to operate as a team member or a team leader is vital, as is the ability to support and motivate others to achieve common goals.
Team working skills can be gained and demonstrated through any societies or teams you are part of. Think about what made your team successful and highlight your contribution to that. Keep track of any actions you took that resulted in the overall success of the team for future job applications and interviews.
Decision Making and Problem Solving
Being able to research, collate, analyse and interpret data from a range of sources helps chartered accountants to make sound, ethical business decisions.
Problem solving is all about using logic, as well as imagination, to make sense of your situation and come up with an intelligent solution. Examples of problem solving can be taken from and applied to all aspects of your life. Consider mistakes that you have rectified in the past and what you would do differently in the future. When it comes to communicating your problem-solving ability the most important thing is to present the problem and the actions you took.
Chartered accountants are highly respected for behaving professionally and conducting business ethically at all times.
Presenting a professional image doesn’t mean sacrificing your own personality. It means you should always be aware of how your behaviour may be viewed by others and ensure you always take the best course of action for both yourself and your employer. Professionalism also includes how you treat your colleagues – superiors, peers and all those around you in your place of work. It is very important to respect all individuals in the workplace at every stage in your career.
By being commercially aware, chartered accountants are able to think creatively about problems to identify solutions and give their organisation the competitive edge. Having an understanding of an employer’s business will show them that you have a grasp of their market. Demonstrating knowledge of an employer’s competitors helps you recognise the challenges they come up against. It will make you better equipped to make decisions for them. Go the extra mile and sign up for industry news in your chosen sector, follow employers on Twitter and LinkedIn and set up key word searches. All of this will be great preparation for an interview.
Chartered accountants have well-rounded technical skills, keep up to date with technology and are able to use it to solve problems and develop strategic advice.
Even at entry level, employers will expect applicants to be computer literate. This is one area where first impressions count.
The majority of employers now take online applications so the first example they will see of your IT skills will be your application or CV. Make sure there are no spelling mistakes, don’t just rely on spell check, get someone to proof read it for you too. This will show an employer you have a keen attention to detail.