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School leaver programme

You do not have to go to university to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant in the UK. You can start your ACA training straight from school after you have completed your A-levels or an international equivalent.

How to start your training


  1. Get a head start in your career

    No need to go to university

  2. You can earn while you learn

    Starting salaries of £12,000–£18,000 per year

  3. Support from your employer

    Employers will pay for your qualification

At a glance

  • Prices vary


    Employers will often cover the cost of training

  • Calendar


    Four to five years

  • Notebook

    Study options

    Part-time during block release by employer

  • GCSEs

    A*- C (9-4)

    Three grades A*-C (9-4 ), including Maths and English.

  • UCAS points


    A levels or International Baccalaureate


    Level 3 or 4

    NVQ Level 3 or 4 qualifications.

Options for school leavers

If you want to start the ACA qualification straight from school, you should start to look for an employer offering training during your last year of A-levels.

There are a variety of options on offer for school leavers. Some of our authorised training employers (ATEs) will allow you to start working and studying the ACA straight after your A-levels, while others will ask you to start your professional training with another qualification, such as:

  • Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT)
  • Higher Apprenticeship in Assurance/Audit or Tax 
  • ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB)

Starting salaries vary depending on the size and location of the organisation, but after your A Levels you can usually expect salaries to range from £12,000 to £18,000 per year.

Short on UCAS points?

If your grades don’t meet the traditional thresholds, don’t worry. Some of the employers we work with have changed their recruitment policies and you may still be able to apply. For more information, check out the EY and PwC recruitment websites.

Requirements for school leaver programmes

  • GCSEs: At least three A*-C grades. Some employers look for five A*- C and most will expect an A or B in Maths and English.
  • A-levels: 260-320 UCAS points, at least two A-level passes
  • International Baccalaureate: 24 points.
  • NVQ/SVQ: NVQ Level 3 qualifications, including BTEC National Certificates and Diplomas. NVQ level 4 qualifications, including BTEC Higher National Certificates or Diplomas.
  • International qualifications: We recommend looking at UCAS’s guide to view individual country’s qualifications, to find out their equivalence.
Hayley Robinson, Audit and Accounts Senior, Rickard Keen LLP

Hayley RobinsonAudit and Accounts Senior, Rickard Keen LLP

Location: UK

How are school leaver programmes structured?

If you study for the ACA straight from school, your training will follow the standard structure requiring you to complete:

  1. 450 days of practical work experience;
  2. 15 exam modules;
  3. demonstrate professional development;
  4. and ethical competencies.

However, your training agreement is likely to be longer than the typical three-year agreement that graduates are offered.

Studying for the ACA is demanding and four or five-year agreements will give you extra time to study towards your modules and gain the work experience you need to have a successful career as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

ICAEW Careers Advice

ICAEW Careers Advice is a free hub which will help you understand the key skills employers are looking for. The selection of articles, quizzes, podcasts and other resources will take you one step closer to achieving your goals.

With content developed by ICAEW, together with our students, employers and our network, you will gain insight about those skills, how to develop them and how you can become a well-rounded professional.

You will also find out how you can get started in your journey towards chartered accountancy, why this profession could be the career you’re looking for and be inspired by those who were once where you are now! 

Visit our Careers Hub

Training internationally

If you want to train for the ACA in another country, you must ensure you are entitled to work in that country. It is your responsibility to understand what work visa you need and how to secure one. ICAEW cannot support you in this process, but your potential employer might be able to offer advice.

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