The Student Room Group

School leaver to financial accountant options

Hi there!

I am looking at applying to school leaver accounting vacancies as I have A-Levels (A* French, A* Business, C Law, C Welsh Bacc) but left uni as I was hating my subject (Law) and don't want to go back to uni at all.

I am looking at the top 20 accounting firms (excl. the big 4, upper mid-tier is where it's at for me haha) and most of them have school leaver programmes or apprenticeships in Tax, Audit, Advisory etc whilst only a few of them (like Saffery Champness) also have just 'trainee accountant' (AAT then ACA) which sounds ideal to me as I aim to ultimately be an ACA qualified financial accountant rather than an Auditor or Tax Accountant.

However, I live in North Wales and would obviously have to move for any of these jobs and would like to move to Liverpool ideally, or Manchester if I had to as they're closest to my family and SC doesn't have an office in Liverpool :frown: Also I just want to be able to apply to as many as possible to increase my chances of getting in somewhere and most vacancies aren't 'trainee chartered accountant'.

Basically, if I apply to Audit at Grant Thornton for example, will I still be able to end up going into financial accounting?

Thank you so much to anyone who gives me any advice or helpful info! (Or even just reads all that!)
Reply 1
Original post by siana2000
Hi there!

I am looking at applying to school leaver accounting vacancies as I have A-Levels (A* French, A* Business, C Law, C Welsh Bacc) but left uni as I was hating my subject (Law) and don't want to go back to uni at all.

I am looking at the top 20 accounting firms (excl. the big 4, upper mid-tier is where it's at for me haha) and most of them have school leaver programmes or apprenticeships in Tax, Audit, Advisory etc whilst only a few of them (like Saffery Champness) also have just 'trainee accountant' (AAT then ACA) which sounds ideal to me as I aim to ultimately be an ACA qualified financial accountant rather than an Auditor or Tax Accountant.

However, I live in North Wales and would obviously have to move for any of these jobs and would like to move to Liverpool ideally, or Manchester if I had to as they're closest to my family and SC doesn't have an office in Liverpool :frown: Also I just want to be able to apply to as many as possible to increase my chances of getting in somewhere and most vacancies aren't 'trainee chartered accountant'.

Basically, if I apply to Audit at Grant Thornton for example, will I still be able to end up going into financial accounting?

Thank you so much to anyone who gives me any advice or helpful info! (Or even just reads all that!)

Any reason why not big 4? They might have a department which interests you, and do have a lot of jobs!

I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'financial accounting'. As a job title in industry any ACA training in a mid size firm would be a great preparation - with audit or mixed accounts prep/ audit the most natural routes. An audit position with GT would be an excellent place to train.
Reply 2
Original post by siana2000
Hi there!

I am looking at applying to school leaver accounting vacancies as I have A-Levels (A* French, A* Business, C Law, C Welsh Bacc) but left uni as I was hating my subject (Law) and don't want to go back to uni at all.

I am looking at the top 20 accounting firms (excl. the big 4, upper mid-tier is where it's at for me haha) and most of them have school leaver programmes or apprenticeships in Tax, Audit, Advisory etc whilst only a few of them (like Saffery Champness) also have just 'trainee accountant' (AAT then ACA) which sounds ideal to me as I aim to ultimately be an ACA qualified financial accountant rather than an Auditor or Tax Accountant.

However, I live in North Wales and would obviously have to move for any of these jobs and would like to move to Liverpool ideally, or Manchester if I had to as they're closest to my family and SC doesn't have an office in Liverpool :frown: Also I just want to be able to apply to as many as possible to increase my chances of getting in somewhere and most vacancies aren't 'trainee chartered accountant'.

Basically, if I apply to Audit at Grant Thornton for example, will I still be able to end up going into financial accounting?

Thank you so much to anyone who gives me any advice or helpful info! (Or even just reads all that!)

I’ve got a couple of things to add to the advice already given to you.

Once you have become a qualified accountant, it is easy to move around and so even if you qualified in an audit role, it would still be possible to get into a financial accounting role later.

The other thing is that you don’t just need to look at accountancy firms to get an accountancy qualification. Look into what industries are near you too as they may be taking on accountancy trainees. Local councils also take on trainees, although they mainly use the CIPFA qualification rather than ACA as it is more tailored to the public sector.

The main thing is just to find somewhere that will support you to get qualified. Once you are, it is easy to move around. E.g I am CIMA qualified (management accounting) and I’ve had various financial accounting jobs as part of my career. I didn’t have to get a specific financial accounting qualification as there is enough overlap in the professional accounting quals so that you can be considered for any role.
Reply 3
Thank you so much for replying!

I thought I’d avoid the big 4 mainly because I’ve read a lot of things about their cultures being too work oriented. A lot of people have said that they felt pressured to work longer and longer hours (without extra pay) and that you end up getting paid around the same as people training in mid-tier firms but working way harder, always being stressed and having no life. Why do you ask? Did you train in a big 4 and have a completely different experience? :smile: I would be open to applying to them too if this interpretation is wrong. But the application process seems to be longer and more difficult so unless there’s more benefit to working with PWC over somewhere like GT I wouldn’t see the point.

Oh no, if you work in accounting (assuming haha) and don’t know what it is then my dream job probably doesn’t exist 😭😂 Basically I’ve been looking into audit vs tax all day and can’t choose between them so I took a test by Kaplan and it said ‘financial accounting’ would suit me best and that it is all to do with financial transactions (I love working with numbers so I want to go for an area that does involve a lot of numerical work). I started law school in September and hated it so I left and apparently tax involves a lot of dealing with legislation which I don’t think I would like as I hated law! But the hours are regular and office based which I would prefer to the constant travelling with audit (despite really liking the idea of working really closely with lots of different businesses as I loved my business A Level) and the fact that hours can be much longer overall despite similar annual pay.

What would be the different between doing an audit apprenticeship with GT and a ‘trainee accountant’ one with SF? (Both 4-5 years starting with AAT?) Feel quite stuck now as all the different titles and areas are confusing!
Reply 4
Original post by Mosaic4
I’ve got a couple of things to add to the advice already given to you.

Once you have become a qualified accountant, it is easy to move around and so even if you qualified in an audit role, it would still be possible to get into a financial accounting role later.

The other thing is that you don’t just need to look at accountancy firms to get an accountancy qualification. Look into what industries are near you too as they may be taking on accountancy trainees. Local councils also take on trainees, although they mainly use the CIPFA qualification rather than ACA as it is more tailored to the public sector.

The main thing is just to find somewhere that will support you to get qualified. Once you are, it is easy to move around. E.g I am CIMA qualified (management accounting) and I’ve had various financial accounting jobs as part of my career. I didn’t have to get a specific financial accounting qualification as there is enough overlap in the professional accounting quals so that you can be considered for any role.


Sorry if my reply is way too long! Thank you so much for helping me!
Reply 5
Original post by siana2000
Thank you so much for replying!

I thought I’d avoid the big 4 mainly because I’ve read a lot of things about their cultures being too work oriented. A lot of people have said that they felt pressured to work longer and longer hours (without extra pay) and that you end up getting paid around the same as people training in mid-tier firms but working way harder, always being stressed and having no life. Why do you ask? Did you train in a big 4 and have a completely different experience? :smile: I would be open to applying to them too if this interpretation is wrong. But the application process seems to be longer and more difficult so unless there’s more benefit to working with PWC over somewhere like GT I wouldn’t see the point.

Oh no, if you work in accounting (assuming haha) and don’t know what it is then my dream job probably doesn’t exist 😭😂 Basically I’ve been looking into audit vs tax all day and can’t choose between them so I took a test by Kaplan and it said ‘financial accounting’ would suit me best and that it is all to do with financial transactions (I love working with numbers so I want to go for an area that does involve a lot of numerical work). I started law school in September and hated it so I left and apparently tax involves a lot of dealing with legislation which I don’t think I would like as I hated law! But the hours are regular and office based which I would prefer to the constant travelling with audit (despite really liking the idea of working really closely with lots of different businesses as I loved my business A Level) and the fact that hours can be much longer overall despite similar annual pay.

What would be the different between doing an audit apprenticeship with GT and a ‘trainee accountant’ one with SF? (Both 4-5 years starting with AAT?) Feel quite stuck now as all the different titles and areas are confusing!

Well - I did train in the big 4 and don't disagree with what you have been told. But they are big names and deal with the biggest company - there can be good reasons to work there.

I'd suggest that if in doubt then its better to start in audit or accounting than tax as its easier to move to other areas with that background. Yes - audit does require travelling to different sites but you do get to see a lot. I'm not sure what a 'trainee accountant' does in SF - I'd imagine that it varies a lot by office. You might expect to do some audits, and a lot of accounts preparation for businesses - they send you some records and you use these to compile a set of accounts.

Honestly - apply for some jobs and see how you get on! You are 'only' applying for a training position - not for the rest of your career and adult life! There have been some threads about accounting apprenticeships on the careers: finance and accounting and the apprenticeships board which might be useful. I would check out how long each apprenticeship is until you get to qualify as ACA. This has been changing a lot recently - you want a shorter period rather than longer. BDO seems to be worth a look as people currently applying say its a 4 year scheme.
Reply 6
Original post by siana2000
Thank you so much for replying!

I thought I’d avoid the big 4 mainly because I’ve read a lot of things about their cultures being too work oriented. A lot of people have said that they felt pressured to work longer and longer hours (without extra pay) and that you end up getting paid around the same as people training in mid-tier firms but working way harder, always being stressed and having no life. Why do you ask? Did you train in a big 4 and have a completely different experience? :smile: I would be open to applying to them too if this interpretation is wrong. But the application process seems to be longer and more difficult so unless there’s more benefit to working with PWC over somewhere like GT I wouldn’t see the point.

Oh no, if you work in accounting (assuming haha) and don’t know what it is then my dream job probably doesn’t exist 😭😂 Basically I’ve been looking into audit vs tax all day and can’t choose between them so I took a test by Kaplan and it said ‘financial accounting’ would suit me best and that it is all to do with financial transactions (I love working with numbers so I want to go for an area that does involve a lot of numerical work). I started law school in September and hated it so I left and apparently tax involves a lot of dealing with legislation which I don’t think I would like as I hated law! But the hours are regular and office based which I would prefer to the constant travelling with audit (despite really liking the idea of working really closely with lots of different businesses as I loved my business A Level) and the fact that hours can be much longer overall despite similar annual pay.

What would be the different between doing an audit apprenticeship with GT and a ‘trainee accountant’ one with SF? (Both 4-5 years starting with AAT?) Feel quite stuck now as all the different titles and areas are confusing!

What I was trying to say was think about companies such as Ineos, Unilever and Vauxhall. (There are many more companies than this, but I was trying to think of some with a base in the north west near North Wales).They all have accountants and may be looking for trainees. The finance trainees they take on usually fall into two camps “financial accountants” and “management accountants”, although a lot of companies let you move around different roles within finance while you are training.

The financial accountants do things like manage the companies cash flow, prepare the vat returns, manage the investments and pull together the annual accounts. These are then audited by the types of firm you mentioned before.

The management accountants do other things such as look at why variances have occurred in the manufacturing process, help decide on the best pricing strategy, and look at profitability of different products in different regions.

These types of jobs plus the ones in accountancy firms all require qualified accountants and need people with a high degree of numeracy.

If you really want to be an auditor or work in tax or consultancy, then the accounting firms would be best for you. However, don’t forget about the vast range of accountancy jobs that fall outside these areas.
Reply 7
Sorry for the late reply! Thank you so much to both of you, your advice has been really helpful! I've decided to apply for the audit apprenticeships with the firms where I mainly have to choose between audit and tax (Grant Thornton, BDO, Smith & Williamson, Mazars and Crowe) and am applying to Saffery Champness for their 'trainee chartered accountant' role too. I have had a look at Ineos, Unilever and PSA Groupe as you suggested Mosaic4, but unfortunately they didn't have any vacancies in accounting at all (at the moment at least) but thank you for the great suggestion! From what you've said I'm even more certain that financial accounting would be the best for me! Hopefully I can get my ACA qualification through structured training and experience with a good accounting firm and then move straight into financial accounting!
Reply 8
Original post by siana2000
Sorry for the late reply! Thank you so much to both of you, your advice has been really helpful! I've decided to apply for the audit apprenticeships with the firms where I mainly have to choose between audit and tax (Grant Thornton, BDO, Smith & Williamson, Mazars and Crowe) and am applying to Saffery Champness for their 'trainee chartered accountant' role too. I have had a look at Ineos, Unilever and PSA Groupe as you suggested Mosaic4, but unfortunately they didn't have any vacancies in accounting at all (at the moment at least) but thank you for the great suggestion! From what you've said I'm even more certain that financial accounting would be the best for me! Hopefully I can get my ACA qualification through structured training and experience with a good accounting firm and then move straight into financial accounting!

Good luck! I'd have a look at the top (dunno) 30 firms plus any others which are big in your region and check out their websites for apprenticeships. Pretty much all are offering them. Remember to practice for the aptitude tests as these are often sent early in the process.
Reply 9
Original post by ajj2000
Good luck! I'd have a look at the top (dunno) 30 firms plus any others which are big in your region and check out their websites for apprenticeships. Pretty much all are offering them. Remember to practice for the aptitude tests as these are often sent early in the process.

Thank you! I've had a look at the top 20 according to AccountingAge and the list I'm applying to above are the firms (excl the top 4 which I didn't look at haha) that still had school leaver vacancies open in accounting/audit, via the ACA route, in Liverpool or Manchester. So the top 20 was whittled down to only 6 that fit my criteria haha but it's still a good start I think! I'm thinking of maybe applying to some that I'm actually not interested as well though just to have some experience/practice with the tests and interviews as I have none at the moment. I have also found a website called JobTestPrep that has a lot of practice tests specifically for accounting aptitude tests but I'd have to pay £39-£69 for access to them. Do you think this would be worth it or are the free ones online just as suitable? I'm more than happy to pay personally as it's an investment in my future! Actually, do you think if I phoned up the firms and asked if they would be willing to send me any of their past tests or practice tests to prepare (as any smart person would practice online anyway) that they would look upon it well (as like taking initiative or something?) and possibly say yes?
Original post by siana2000
Thank you! I've had a look at the top 20 according to AccountingAge and the list I'm applying to above are the firms (excl the top 4 which I didn't look at haha) that still had school leaver vacancies open in accounting/audit, via the ACA route, in Liverpool or Manchester. So the top 20 was whittled down to only 6 that fit my criteria haha but it's still a good start I think! I'm thinking of maybe applying to some that I'm actually not interested as well though just to have some experience/practice with the tests and interviews as I have none at the moment. I have also found a website called JobTestPrep that has a lot of practice tests specifically for accounting aptitude tests but I'd have to pay £39-£69 for access to them. Do you think this would be worth it or are the free ones online just as suitable? I'm more than happy to pay personally as it's an investment in my future! Actually, do you think if I phoned up the firms and asked if they would be willing to send me any of their past tests or practice tests to prepare (as any smart person would practice online anyway) that they would look upon it well (as like taking initiative or something?) and possibly say yes?

I've never subscribed to the sites - is it £39-69 a month or a year? I would start with a couple of books - numerical and verbal reasoning to start with - then hit the free tests. The SHL website has some free ones you can use to practice. I'm not sure if the firms would send anything as they pay the test companies to administer the tests. You can get an idea of the style each firm uses by looking through these and other forums.
Reply 11
Original post by ajj2000
I've never subscribed to the sites - is it £39-69 a month or a year? I would start with a couple of books - numerical and verbal reasoning to start with - then hit the free tests. The SHL website has some free ones you can use to practice. I'm not sure if the firms would send anything as they pay the test companies to administer the tests. You can get an idea of the style each firm uses by looking through these and other forums.

It depends which 'package' you get, some are for 3 months, some a year, some only a week. I haven't looked in detail as I wanted to try out the free stuff first haha. Oh damn I didn't even think of books! So Gen Z of me haha :colondollar: Ahhh okay don't think I'll bother phoning them up then! Www I'll definitely look for some threads on the tests on here then, thank you!
Original post by siana2000
It depends which 'package' you get, some are for 3 months, some a year, some only a week. I haven't looked in detail as I wanted to try out the free stuff first haha. Oh damn I didn't even think of books! So Gen Z of me haha :colondollar: Ahhh okay don't think I'll bother phoning them up then! Www I'll definitely look for some threads on the tests on here then, thank you!

Basically you want to get used to SHL tests as anyone commenting on a particular firm/ company will either note that these are the ones used, or note a comparison of style, difficulty, time pressure and possibly the best approach to take.
Reply 13
Original post by ajj2000
Basically you want to get used to SHL tests as anyone commenting on a particular firm/ company will either note that these are the ones used, or note a comparison of style, difficulty, time pressure and possibly the best approach to take.

Awesome, SHL tests it is! Thank you so much for giving a damn and helping out another person btw, very cool of you :biggrin:

Have you been in the industry long? What kind of accounting have you done/what do you do now? :h:
Original post by siana2000
Awesome, SHL tests it is! Thank you so much for giving a damn and helping out another person btw, very cool of you :biggrin:

Have you been in the industry long? What kind of accounting have you done/what do you do now? :h:

Well - I started as a trainee in 1993. Yes - we had a course in how to use email in the first week! I now work in industry.
Reply 15
Original post by ajj2000
Well - I started as a trainee in 1993. Yes - we had a course in how to use email in the first week! I now work in industry.

I've heard it's very common for people who trained with the big 4 to go into industry after! Better pay and less stress apparently! Do you like working in industry? How different is it to working in an accounting firm?
Original post by siana2000
I've heard it's very common for people who trained with the big 4 to go into industry after! Better pay and less stress apparently! Do you like working in industry? How different is it to working in an accounting firm?

I like industry way more than practice - although its so long since I worked for an accounting firm things will have changed a lot. The thing to note is that working as an accountant in industry is a pretty standard office/ managerial job. You have a specialty, work with colleagues in other functions and act in a support function to the overall enterprise.

In an accounting firm you are provide front line client services and are client facing fee earner. The culture of accounting firms tends to be very different to jobs in industry. The average employee is far younger than in most businesses and also better educated (given that most employees provide skilled services). Its also - at least in most departments in the biggest firms - a place where many go for 3 or 4 years to get experience and skills and then leave. Most of your colleagues will not be expecting a long term job.

Anyway, if you work in audit you will see lots of different industries and get an idea of whether the environment might suit you and which types of roles/ industries you find attractive. Equally you may prefer to work in practice and consider what type of work and size of client you prefer.
Reply 17
heyyy!! i’m currently in the stages of crowe’s application process, i’ve got to the assessment centre. I was just wondering how you did and if you have any tips at all? x

Quick Reply