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Is an accounting apprenticeship right for me?

By Debra Wong, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

If you’ve decided to pursue accounting, an apprenticeship can speed up your career growth.

Back in the day, an apprentice was someone who learned a skill from a master: imagine a young crafter of fine jewellery, or a junior carpenter. Today’s apprenticeships are far from that — they are on-the-job learning opportunities offered by employers in many industries. 

In England alone, 393,400 people started apprenticeships during the 2018-19 academic year, and accounting was one of the top ten apprenticeship standards that people followed. If you’re drawn to the accounting profession, here’s how an accounting apprenticeship can boost your career:

  • You get paid to learn something you’re passionate about. Unlike a traditional degree or diploma where you must pay your own way (or receive some form of financial aid), you don’t have to pay any tuition fees as an apprentice. 

    Besides being supported financially by your employer and the UK government bursary, you’ll also potentially get paid more after completing your apprenticeship. There has been research that shows those completing a higher apprenticeship see increased earnings of an estimated £150,000 over their lifetime compared to someone with no qualifications.

  • You’ll experience hands-on training in accounting and finance roles. An apprenticeship is structured to be 80% work and 20% training. Most accounting degree holders will have to learn their job duties only after they’ve completed their studies. As an apprentice, you’ll be able to do both at the same time and directly apply what you’ve learned from your courses in your work. 

    “An apprenticeship offers the best of both worlds — I spend my time getting real experience, where I have responsibility and the opportunity to get involved in projects that interest me, and at the same time the balance of studying for [the CIMA qualification],” said Diane Lorgeré, a finance apprentice at Network Rail.

  • You’ll develop in-demand career skills. Apprenticeship standards are structured by input from both tuition providers and employers in the industry. They outline the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for you to progress as an accounting professional, such as technical skills, ethics, adaptability and collaboration.

    Throughout the duration of your apprenticeship, qualified mentors and skills assessors will support you, which can be valuable in your career growth. “My line manager sets placement objectives for me, and checks and updates them regularly as I progress,” said Eunice Fuentes, a finance apprentice at Transport for London. By the end of your apprenticeship, you’ll have a track record of skills development that will make you an asset to your future employers.

Should I embark on an accounting apprenticeship?An accounting apprenticeship can fast-track your career growth, but you need to be aware of the challenges going into it. One of the main ones is time management: unlike full-time students or full-time employees, you’re both at the same time, and you need to juggle your schedule to fit study and work. 

Apprenticeships are also competitive: there is no upper age limit to apprenticeships, which means seasoned employees are also eligible for them alongside students and school leavers.

An apprenticeship does open career opportunities that are otherwise not easily attainable through traditional degree or diploma routes. You’ll get to achieve more at a younger age: Ashik Santimon became a commercial manager and a Chartered Global Management Accountant® (CGMA®) holder at 22 through an apprenticeship at BT. 

Ultimately, embracing the challenges of an apprenticeship might be just what you need to maximize your career potential.

This post was adapted from a webinar by Jason Nye from CIMA on apprenticeships.

Does this sound like the right path for you? Learn more about management accounting apprenticeship opportunities at cimaglobal.com/apprenticeships.