armz1990
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I am aiming to change career from teaching to accounting. I'm currently 29 and have been teaching physics at secondary schools for the last 5 years. I would like to ask for advice on my best route for doing so.

I currently live and teach in China and due to commitments with my wife, I will be here for another two years. At this point I plan to finish teaching and pursue accountancy. I have a 2:1 Masters in Physics from Manchester.

I understand that getting a training contract would be the standard route to becoming a CA. I would be interested to know how difficult this might be compared to a younger applicant (I would be 31 at this point).

More to the point, I am most interested in what I can do during the next two years alongside my current job to give myself the best chance of gaining a training contract or following a different route into accountancy when my time in China is up.

I know that relevant work experience would obviously be best but this isn't really an option as an expat here.

Would it be worthwhile for me to start (or even get quite far through) the ACCA exams in the next 2 years for example? I have a decent amount of spare time at the moment for studying.

Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions.
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ajj2000
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I understand that getting a training contract would be the standard route to becoming a CA. I would be interested to know how difficult this might be compared to a younger applicant (I would be 31 at this point).


Just to check - are you specifically looking for Chartered Accountancy training contracts or considering/ open to ACCA/ CIMA? In any case I dont think having worked as a teacher is a problem - I see quite a lot of accountants who moved (relatively young like yourself) from high school teaching or TEFL.

I'll try to respond to your other queries depending on the above.
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armz1990
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Hi ajj2000, thanks for taking the time to answer.

Good to hear that it's not unheard of.

In answer to your question, I am also looking into /open to ACCA or CIMA.

I mentioned ACCA, as I know I would be able to start sitting the exams while still in China, not sure how useful this would be though.
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ajj2000
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(Original post by armz1990)
Hi ajj2000, thanks for taking the time to answer.

Good to hear that it's not unheard of.

In answer to your question, I am also looking into /open to ACCA or CIMA.

I mentioned ACCA, as I know I would be able to start sitting the exams while still in China, not sure how useful this would be though.
That makes it more interesting! As I guess you know there are a load of different routes into accountancy. They all have different benefits and downsides as do the routes in. Not that it really answers your question but given that you have a couple of years to go the first thing I would do would be:

- read through a post by @rabbit2 where he discussed how he chose a career. He sat with a few people in different careers and asked them a bunch of questions. I guess if you check linkedin (and facebook if you are outside of China) you could reach out to plenty of old friends in accountancy for a decent conversation and to check their experiences and advice. The training routes in the profession (ACA) are a pretty different lifestyle to those in industry so worth being very aware of this and making choices accordingly.

- try to get any insight into the work. Am I right that you get lengthy holidays? Perhaps you could spend a day in an international company in China seeing what their finance department does? Plus contact lots of accounting firms in the UK to see if they have any one day/ week type introduction sessions you could attend. Plus also mail Manchester University careers office to see if they have any details from firms.

In terms of how you might improve your chances over the next two years I think the first thing is to develop an interest in business issues. Reading the Economist is great for this. Secondly I would set up a dummy email and personal profile, and go to the websites of several large accounting firms and start their application process. You want to see the application process and competency type questions they ask so you can consider how well you can answer these. I'd imagine a teacher is very well places for leadership and teamwork type questions.

Also try to make sure you understand what an audit firm is, what the different departments do, what their trainees do and what the exit opportunities are. Check the ICAEW and ICAS websites which have detail. There are probably some useful youtube videos also.

I'll write about the pros and cons of starting professional study a little later.
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ajj2000
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Oh, and on return to the UK would you have any geographical preferences/ limitations?
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armz1990
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I will read the post you mentioned, it sounds very interesting. I have a couple of accounting contacts I will be talking to (even thestudentroom is blocked by the great firewall by the way). Lots of good sources for information, thanks, making fake applications is also a great idea.

I will spend some of next year's summer in the UK and will try to get some time in an accounting firm.

I already do quite a lot of reading about business and economics out of personal interest, to be honest that's what has led me to pursue accountancy, I will continue this, obviously.

I know that my wife would rather work in a city other than London, but that could be flexible.
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ajj2000
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(Original post by armz1990)
I will read the post you mentioned, it sounds very interesting. I have a couple of accounting contacts I will be talking to (even thestudentroom is blocked by the great firewall by the way). Lots of good sources for information, thanks, making fake applications is also a great idea.

I will spend some of next year's summer in the UK and will try to get some time in an accounting firm.

I already do quite a lot of reading about business and economics out of personal interest, to be honest that's what has led me to pursue accountancy, I will continue this, obviously.

I know that my wife would rather work in a city other than London, but that could be flexible.
What is your wifes work? There are a lot of good businesses in places like the M4 corridor and Surrey which tend to be less attractive to new graduates.
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armz1990
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She's a primary teacher, so very flexible. That's an interesting point, at our age we might not need as much excitement as brand new graduates I suppose!
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ajj2000
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So, you had queried whether it is worth sitting ACCA exams before looking for work I looked into this for people who raised the same question on here a few years ago - and asked contacts for their feelings on the subject. The answer - its complicated!

Lets say you study some ACCA exams. If you are to do so you have to pay institute fees, buy text books, pay exams fees and possibly you would want to pay for courses (I don't believe that is necessary - certainly not for the early papers). Not a fortune but money that could be spent elsewhere. It also takes time. How many would you sit? My usual advice is the blast through the first three (which does get you some sort of qualification) then consider doing the next two - law and performance management.

The benefits of this are:

- you have a reasonably academic knowledge to start accounting work.
- this might help you get a job, and may speed your path to doing more interesting, career developing work after starting work
- it may be a good use of time now - perhaps you have time on your hands (I spoke with someone who did this while doing TEFL at a Korean university - he only really worked 20 hours a week so had loads of free time and a decent enough income that he wasn't in a rush to come home. I doubt the same applies for a high school teacher!)
- it may help you pass the exams a little younger which allows you to get on with life.

I also think that the subject matter is of some benefit in any managerial level job even if you never worked in accountancy.

How much help is it for finding work and what are the potential pitfalls?

Big public practice firms (mainly ACA)

Unlikely to be of any benefit in their recruitment process. They may well ask you to sit all the ACA exams anyway (differs between firms and intakes). They provide very good training for their trainees so probably not worth it for this route.

There is a pitfall to check out (I would look through the top 20 firms websites to see what they say). In the past I have seen a firm that don't accept anyone who has started exams with another institute. Not seen it recently but worth being sure. The BDO website states that they accept applications form part qualifieds with other institute but you will be rejected if you have failed ANY professional exams. Thats something to watch out for....

Smaller ACA firms

May be attractive to them - they get someone with some prior knowledge.

Major grad schemes in industry

May well not form part of their recruitment/ assessment criteria. They would pay for all training required plus institute and exam fees.

Other industry type employers

Here is where it can really help - you've shown some dedication and most of all you have some knowledge to help you become productive quickly. Unlike the other major routes into employment noted above it can be harder to find a company which will pay for your training costs. Some will suggest that they will consider it after 6 months employment - that can be a risk and an annoying delay.

So the real benefits of studying in advance are for completing exams at a younger age, and to help get more general market jobs in commerce and industry.
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