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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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ICAEW Careers+

ICAEW Careers+ is a free hub that will help you understand the key skills that employers are looking for and which 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 to 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!.

Register now

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.

Access 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 qualification and professional status

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 studying the ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB) and even by gaining a professional designation.

You don’t need to have any formal qualifications to start studying for ICAEW CFAB, and the fact that you can do it part-time while you work or complete other studies makes it very flexible.

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 of what is needed for a successful business.

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 who have completed ICAEW CFAB.

If you are at university, anywhere in the world, you can gain access to ICAEW CFAB for £20. You can do so by choosing ICAEW Student Scheme (USS) at the point of your student registration at icaew.com/studentregistration

Learn about ICAEW CFAB

ICAEW CFAB is a qualification on its own, but it’s also a stepping stone to the ICAEW Business and Finance Professional (BFP) designation.

BFP provides you with professional status, recognises your achievements and supports you with your development as you progress in your career.

By gaining the designation, and adding the BFP letters to your name, you demonstrate your ability to stay up to date in your profession, and show a strong understanding of ethics and a commitment to professional development.

You can start your journey to BFP and complete the requirements while studying for ICAEW CFAB, or once you complete it. 

Find out more about BFP

Take part in ICAEW's BASE competition

If you are in year 12, aged 16 to 17 and you're 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, bringing together students across the UK to compete against each other in a series of business challenges.

BASE is a fun way of developing your business acumen, team work and communication skills, while also giving you the chance to hear from 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

Become an ICAEW Student Brand Ambassador

Join our team of ambassadors and you will be paid to talk to your fellow students about potential career opportunities in chartered accountancy. You will also gain valuable work experience for your CV and start growing your professional network.

This is a year-long commitment and as such, interested candidates need to ensure that they can set aside time in their schedules to actively dedicate themselves to this role.

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