Accounting entry routes compared

We are very lucky to have many routes into the world of accountancy and what we have come to realise is there are no wrong answers! However, different routes can alter the path of your career so we discuss a few of the options to get in and then get on.


93% of business decision-makers stated that they believe work experience should be compulsory during study, AAT provides that.

A fantastic grounding and extremely well thought of. Lets get the negatives out the way first, it takes a few years and you're likely to be paid very little at the start! However, AAT is renowned for giving a superb base to any accountancy career with its strength being the fact you study whilst you work, learning all the nuts and bolts of basic accounts.  

What's more, AAT lets you learn at your own pace if you are not shooting for senior finance, whilst giving the highly ambitious the chance to fire through and kick on at a very young age. Those that make FD under 30 years old (highly impressively!) are often from an AAT background as you can start so young.

Accounting Degree

3 in 4 clients prefer a candidate with a placement year in accounting when compared to a 1st class degree alone.

Accounting degrees are another excellent route into the profession, especially if you get a 2:1 or above.  Degrees can help secure you a place on highly sought after finance graduate schemes or a spot in a leading accountancy firm. As you move on in your career being professionally qualified is much more important than holding a degree, but some employers will still want both, so it's good to have.

University also gives you a huge amount of softer skills that you will have developed over your 3-4 years of study, these can be priceless. One huge tip is to make sure you get a placement under your belt (or at the very least some summer experience).

Coming out as a fresh graduate with lots of debt and no experience is tough - there is nothing to differentiate yourself. Take on some summer work or, even better, a full placement year and watch the demand for your CV skyrocket compared to your peers. A placement year can also help pay off some debt. Aston university are well known for putting a strong emphasis on placements, which in my eyes are more important than a better university.

School leaver course

RSM increased its school leaver intake by 46% in 2018.

In the right hands, school leaver course with an accountancy firm can be the golden ticket to quick career progression. If you are willing to put your head down as a 16 year old with a large firm, you could be ACA qualified by 21, pretty impressive!

School leaver courses come with little to no debt and provide the foundation studying AAT does, but often puts you straight into ACA/ACCA. A school leaver course is not an easy option and wont suit everyone. During these courses, whilst you have excellent support structures around you and every chance to succeed, you do have to grow up fast! Candidates on these courses tend to gain experience and get qualified at younger ages.

One final point to note is that it can be more difficult to switch employers during your 3 – 5 year training course (without taking a big step back) than it would be whilst studying AAT, which is much more transferable. But done right, you can be qualified and an important part of a finance team very quickly!

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