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Improve your employability | Start your ACA training | ICAEW Careers

Improve your employability

To complete the ACA and qualify as a chartered accountant you must secure a training agreement with an ICAEW authorised training employer. Whether you’re applying straight from school or after a degree, you will need to show how you are the best candidate for the role drawing on your experience and enthusiasm. Here are our top tips on what you can do to make your application stand out from the crowd.

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Find work experience

Work experience is a fantastic opportunity to develop new skills, gain contacts and ensure that your chosen career is right for you. It is also an important way to make your CV stand out by demonstrating to employers that you are serious about a career in accountancy.

You can search ICAEW’s Training Vacancies website for a work experience placement at one of our authorised training employers (ATEs), many of which offer summer placements for students.

PwC, for example, holds a Business Insight week for sixth form students who are thinking of a career in finance or business.

Top tip: Don’t just apply to larger firms for work experience because the experience gained at smaller employers can be just as valuable. Contact businesses in your local area, if you have a part-time job, check if your employer has a finance department where you can gain some experience.

Maximise your work experience

Once you have secured a work experience placement, it is important that you get the most out of it – enjoying your experience and bringing new ideas to your employer.

ICAEW has designed a toolkit that provides you with tasks that will help to structure your work experience placement, expand your knowledge of business and analytical skills, as well as providing useful outputs for the organisation you’re working with.

The toolkit includes a series of videos, which will help you understand the importance of interpersonal skills when training to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

The videos link to ICAEW’s professional development topics, so it’s a great way to start thinking about them in a work context.

Your employer will normally request your toolkit for you before you start, but you can access the toolkit even if you haven’t secured work experience. By completing the toolkit ICAEW will issue you with a certificate that you can add to your portfolio.

Register for access to the toolkit.

How to succeed in your job search

In a competitive industry, like business and finance, knowing how to write a CV and basic interview techniques are not enough to succeed in securing your first job. ICAEW has teamed up with recruitment expert Simon Gray, founder of Career Codex, to create a series of podcasts offering advice on how to land the job you want. Learn how to access jobs that are never advertised and showcase your skills and achievements effectively.

Listen now

Make the most of your interests

Employers are looking for applicants to show that they already started to develop the skills needed to work as an ACA student, such as: communication; team working; decision making; time management and problem solving. 

You don’t need to have relevant work experience to be able to show a prospective employer that you have these skills. If you have been a member of a team or choir, for example, you can show that you are committed to working with others to achieve a common goal.

If you have been involved in extracurricular activities at school, such as organising a summer ball or taking part in a debate, you can demonstrate how you have developed your communication and planning skills.

If you have had a part-time or summer job think of examples of where you had to make an important decision or where you went the extra mile to help a customer. 

Top tip: Consider the skills that your employer is looking for and in your application give specific examples of where you demonstrated those skills. 

Get a professional qualification

You do not have to wait to start your ACA training agreement to gain a professional accountancy qualification, you can start your journey to becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant by training with the Association of Accounting Technicians or studying ICAEW’s Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB).

Neither ICAEW CFAB or AAT requires you to have any formal qualifications and both can be studied part-time while you work or complete other studies. 

Learn about the AAT

Starting a professional qualification independently shows potential employers that you are serious about your career, you have the ability to pass professional exams and that you have an understanding on what is needed for a successful business.

Top tip: ICAEW CFAB is made up of the first six modules of the ACA and so completing this before you apply for an ACA training agreement can give you an advantage over other applicants. Some employers, particularly those outside the UK, look for applicants that have completed ICAEW CFAB.

Learn about ICAEW CFAB

Take part in ICAEW's BASE competition

If you are aged 16 to 19 and studying in the UK then you can give your CV a boost by taking part in ICAEW’s BASE competition. 

The competition is held every year across the UK and pits teams of students against each other to come up with the best solution to a business problem.

You spend the day working with an ICAEW Chartered Accountant or final year ACA student to understand and solve the challenge before presenting your answers to a panel of judges.

BASE is a fun way of developing your business acumen, team work and communication skills, while also giving you the chance to meet potential employers and find out about the training programmes they offer.

Participating in BASE will show potential ACA training providers that you have a genuine interest in business and a career in accountancy.

Find out more

Join the ICAEW Student Scheme (USS)

If you are studying at university you are eligible to join the ICAEW Student Scheme. USS gives you access to: a range of webinars, videos and help sheets designed to help you develop your commercial awareness; business English; presentation skills; and interview techniques.

It also provides access to Microsoft Excel training and the ability to study ICAEW CFAB alongside your degree. 

Find out more 

Become an ICAEW Campus Ambassador

Alongside joining USS, if you are currently studying a degree in the UK you can become an ICAEW Ambassador and be paid to spread the word about the benefits of a career in chartered accountancy. 

Our Ambassadors work part-time to promote ICAEW, the ACA and chartered accountancy careers to students at their university. 

The role involves talking to lots of people, assisting at events and coordinating tasks.

It's a great way to demonstrate to employers your passion about a career in accountancy, as well as your interpersonal and organisational skills.

Find out how you can become an ambassador

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