Becoming an accountant is unlike many other professional paths. For example, all solicitors go to Blackhall and sit the same exam, it is not that straightforward for accountants. There are several different professional bodies that you can sit exams with in order to become a qualified accountant. We chatted about the different qualification paths in a previous blog in this series if you are at a crossroads with this. In line with this there are several different places you can train.
Broadly speaking you are likely to end up going down one of two paths as a trainee accountant – the practice path or the industry path. Both paths lead to becoming a qualified accountant, but the journey to qualification will be very different.
The Practice Path – basically means joining an accounting firm. These are broadly broken down into Big 4, Top 10, Top 20 and Small/Medium sized accounting firms (or what they are commonly known as “accounting practices”). They typically offer a structured training contract, considerable time off for exams and cover exam fees. They differ primarily in terms of the size of their clients. They provide audit, advisory, management consulting, tax and other services.
The Industry Path – basically referring to joining any company that is not an accounting firm….and there are a lot of them! They come in all shapes and sizes, offer products or services and can be local or global and offer a real and viable alternative to the more traditional accounting practice. (We’ll have a blog on this path coming on this soon…)
The practice training path – uncovered
The practice path typically involves a training contract with an accountancy practice or firm. The contract is usually for a set period, during which you get practical experience while also studying hard to pass your professional accountancy exams. You earn and learn at the same time.
For many graduates pursuing an accountancy career, a structured training contract in practice has traditionally been the most popular route. There are a large number of graduate training contracts in practice each year – perhaps as high as 1,000 or more – the majority of which are hired through the old ‘milkround’ process (you can read more about milkrounds here).
It’s only in recent years that the industry path has become a little more prominent for graduates. Historically, it was more popular with people who came to accounting a few years after leaving college. (We will get into more detail later on this)
While the specifics of different training contracts in practice will vary, here are some of the typical elements in most practice training contracts:
- A three to three-and-a-half-year training contract. This will depend on the firm, your background, and the exemptions available to you;
- A structured training programme with a combination of on-the-job and classroom-based training along with mentoring from qualified accountants in your team;
- You will be expected to attend lectures and sit exams (in addition to the day job!) with the ultimate aim of getting your qualification before the end of your training contact;
- You will see your earnings increase as you hit milestones such as passing a set of exams;
- The practice will typically pay your tuition and exam fees; and
- You will be provided with a certain amount of paid study leave for your exams with some firms providing optional additional study leave to be paid for with time in lieu (i.e. overtime or toil).
The practice training route is likely to suit you if you are looking for a highly-structured start in the world of accountancy and business. The majority of graduates who take this path typically have accountancy, business and finance undergraduate degrees. However, accountancy firms are increasingly looking to attract graduates from different disciplines (e.g. STEM graduates) who have an interest in the world of business and the desire to work towards a professional accountancy qualification – diversity is a good thing these days!
That’s the basics covered, but we’ve prepared a lot more detail around the practice path for you to consider which we will share with you in the coming weeks.
Reach Out to Us
If you’d like more information or would like some help in navigating your career reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact one of team using the info below…
To read previous blogs in this series follow the links below…
We’ve put together a blog series to help those of you coming out of your training contracts. These blogs are written with you in mind and will provide you with the help, support and insights you need to make the best next step in your professional accounting career.