In this article, Abbie shares some information and top tips on what it is like to be an accounting apprentice for those thinking about taking the same pathway.
Why did you decide to do an apprenticeship?
I was interested in doing an apprenticeship because I learn best in a professional environment where I can learn first-hand. An apprenticeship has allowed me to have a clear progression route through my career. This is thanks to my training agreement and qualifications that link directly to the tasks I face at work.
Learning on the job means I have a brilliant mentor who is always happy to discuss anything work or study-related. My colleagues will regularly use lunchtimes to go through anything that might help me for an upcoming exam. Everyone supports everyone in the workplace, they want to help and share their knowledge so I can learn and progress.
There were several factors I took into consideration when deciding between going to university and starting an apprenticeship. Financially, I incur almost zero study costs compared with university that costs thousands of pounds a year. My employer covers my college training for me to gain my qualifications, and I even get paid a salary and paid days off for study leave. Furthermore, I can become a qualified chartered accountant in less time than a graduate with experience working in the industry.
What was the application process like?
I knew I wanted to pursue a career in accounting whilst studying for my A-Levels. I contacted Whiting & Partners to ask if they offered any work experience to students. Later, I was invited in for an interview where they offered me a work experience placement.
After being invited back to complete another placement, I asked if there were any job opportunities available at Whiting & Partners after I had completed my A-Levels. Fortunately, they offered me a conditional offer based on my exam results. This really motivated me through my studies to ensure I worked to my full potential and get good grades.
I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to do work experience at Whiting & Partners, which in turn led to being offered a full-time position. Whilst applying to other accountancy firms, I learned that different companies use different methods to recruit. A large firm’s process for example included an online English test, mathematics test, skills tests, a writing task on a business’ financial performance, on top of a CV, personal statement, and interview.
What does your role involve?
Part of my role as Trainee Accountant is being responsible for accounts preparation services for a range of business clients, including sole traders, partnerships, and limited companies. My average day varies across the week, sometimes I am in the office, visiting a client, or on an audit. Our clients range in sectors and my company offers several different services, meaning I can gain varied experience.
I am currently specialising in company secretarial and book-keeping. Company secretarial involves the change of ownership of business’, share distributions, and the appointment of directors. I produce and file forms with Companies House to ensure business records are up to date, so clients continue to receive important information. Book-keeping involves keeping business’ records up to date, analysing expenses, and income from invoices. I then identify amounts clients are owed and owe so they can continue to operate their business successfully.
With an apprenticeship, 20% of my work is ‘off the job’ where I attend First Intuition Cambridge once a week. I revise most days during the course and on the weekends after it has finished. Work have been brilliant at supporting my college courses to make sure I am prepared for exams. For example, before I started my Advanced Bookkeeping course I undertook an internal bookkeeping course at work. This meant when I started the college module I understood the key concepts to build upon. I really experience the value of being able to link what I learn in college to real-life situations at work.
What are the progression opportunities?
As my career develops I will be able to progress through the following job titles: Accounts Technician, Assistant Manager, Manager, Associate, or even Partner!
In terms of my studies, I have just completed the AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting and the Assistant Accountant Apprenticeship. I am currently studying for the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting as well as the Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship. I hope to finish this in March 2022 to then move onto ACCA or ACA alongside the Professional Accountant Apprenticeship.
Having already completed some accountancy exams, I am qualified as an Associate Bookkeeping Member (AATQB). In the next couple of years, I hope to qualify as an AAT Full Member (MAAT) and a Chartered Accountant by the age of 23.
Top tips for becoming an accounting apprentice
It is important to be proactive and involve yourself in whatever opportunities arise. Work experience proved invaluable to ensuring I secured an accounting apprentice role. It meant the company already knew me and my work ethic, taking less of a risk by hiring me. Hard work is also important and going the extra mile wherever you can. Whether this is studying at college or at work, the more you put in the more you will learn. This all comes with self-motivation, set your goals for what you want to achieve early, and work towards them.
University is not the only option available to you after college. By taking the apprenticeship route, I can qualify as a chartered accountant before a graduate out of university. University graduates are still required to sit accountancy exams as well as have 36 months of work experience before qualifying. I will have an extra three years worth of experience working in practice over a university graduate. It is just a different route to get to the same end goal.
Make sure you do a lot of research to make sure you are taking the right route for you. Luckily I knew that accounting was something I wanted to pursue. However, it was still important to research the differences between the qualifications, to ensure I can specialise in specific sectors in the future. Preparation is key, whether that be for exams, interviews, or research into your chosen career. Preparing for video interviews for my apprenticeship helped me identify key achievements that make me stand out in a competitive job market. I was then able to bring these discussion topics into the interview.
Find more information on apprenticeships and becoming an accounting apprentice here. Or read another accounting apprentices testimonials here.