sharrison1
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Hi,

I am currently a post grad chemist and have been working as a finance assistant for the past 2 years. I am studying towards my CIMA qualification, however I have only managed to take 1 exam in the year. I struggle to manage work life and exams and am usually too tired at the end of the day to revise (I have been diagnosed with ME a couple of years ago).

I have saved up quite a lot in the past two years, so I was debating whether to take a year out to focus on my exams or continue to revise at this slow rate whilst working. I know the exams are only going to get harder and harder and with no exceptions I have a to complete the basic certificate (4 more exams) and the full professional certificate (12 exams).

I was just wondering if some senior accountants/ FC’s (employers) can give me advise on this, I have heard both sides my colleague for pro and recruiters as for not to take a year off (though I understand they may be biased). Any help or advise on the matter as I am stressing out so much of this decision.


Many thanks,


Suzy
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ajj2000
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Hi Suzy - happy to help. I’m not very up to speed on CIMA exams as it’s been a few years since I had staff studying for that qualification.

Could you give me an idea of your current level at work - so what your main tasks and responsibilities are, size of company and software you use?
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ajj2000
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Also - when you say ‘post grad chemist’ do you mean someone currently studying post grad qualifications or someone with, say, a masters in chemistry?
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sharrison1
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(Original post by ajj2000)
Also - when you say ‘post grad chemist’ do you mean someone currently studying post grad qualifications or someone with, say, a masters in chemistry?
I just mean to say I have a BSc in Chemistry from university.
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ajj2000
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(Original post by sharrison1)
I just mean to say I have a BSc in Chemistry from university.
Now that makes a difference !
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sharrison1
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(Original post by ajj2000)
Hi Suzy - happy to help. I’m not very up to speed on CIMA exams as it’s been a few years since I had staff studying for that qualification.

Could you give me an idea of your current level at work - so what your main tasks and responsibilities are, size of company and software you use?
Thank you, so I currently am a finance assistant, we use a bespoke version of SAP and my responsibilities include labour analysis some month end responsibilities. I have done some billing raised PO's and deal with AP sometimes. It is an average sized company I would say.
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ajj2000
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Hey, sorry - home late. Will try to write something tomorrow.
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ajj2000
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Hey Suzy

First of all well done for managing to develop your skills in a full time job while coping with ME. Have you had any advice from your doctors?

My thoughts:

- its really not at all rare to see applicants for accounting roles who have taken time out to study full time for a whole range of reasons. It may be less common than in the days when you had to sit whole levels at the same time, but most interviewers will have friends and colleagues who have done so, and seen plenty of other candidates who have done just this.

- In terms of advice you may receive you may want to be careful to segregate accounting specific advice or more general careers advice.

Perhaps the important question to address is why employers may be nervous about people who have taken time out from a career - and quit a decent job. There can be some concern about why people would leave a job (forced out? sent to prison? health issues?), and whether the time out leaves them less sharp when it comes to getting back into work. Wanting to pass exams is a pretty explicable reason for taking time out - plus so long as you pass a respectable number pretty easy to evidence what you were doing, and that you have remained busy and gained relevant skills for your profession.

Loads of people in your position go backpacking - doesn't seem to be a problem for them to find work on. Equally some will look to take related masters degrees - possibly CIMA pathway courses. I have serious doubts about these but they may suit your situation if there is one close to home.

One thing you need to consider if you take a year out is that you will be asked about this in every interview you attend. You will probably have to discuss medical issues. This shouldn't be a cause of discrimination, but might be a concern for interviewers. Equally, faced with two good candidates employers might prefer the person who has got to the same level studying part time while working. However - you can only make the best decision based on the hand you have been dealt, not comparing yourself to others with different life circumstances.

I would also consider at what level you start if trying to cover exams in a year. I'd be tempted to pass the introductory level first (is it still called certificate?) and then try to clear the next two levels in the year. This leaves you far closer to qualifying. Appreciate that may be impractical. Any chance to go part time for a while or ask to be put on an apprenticeship scheme?
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Mosaic4
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Hi, the other thing to consider is that it is easier to pass the exams when you have seen some of the concepts in real life. This would be hard if you leave work and just try to study on your own.

As part of their training, I arrange for my trainees to talk to relevant people doing the job the trainee is learning about e.g if part of your exam is on costing, can you see how costing is done in your company? I have a programme in place to link practical experience with the syllabus, but you can ask your managers for help if you want to see specific things and maybe have a go at some of them.

This then makes the exams a bit easier as you have more of an understanding of how what you are learning is applied.
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Paloma42
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Hi Suzy

I am a CIMA qualified accountant and would suggest that you try as much as possible to continue your exams whilst you are working rather than taking a year out. I understand you have a medical condition that might make it more difficult than for other people but in order to become fully qualified you need to have sufficient practical experience (3 years of varied experience) along with approvers (From the firms you have worked at) to sign off your experience and taking year out or moving jobs before qualifying makes this slightly more difficult.

I do also understand that studying at the end of a working day can be tiring. I occasionally attended evening courses (Twice a week) so my daily routine consisted of leaving for work at 8am, working 9-5:30, going to a class from 6-9:30 (Be high on coffee at this point) and returning home at 10:30 only to go to sleep and wake up for work the next day...

My work / study / life balance did take quite a big hit during the 3 years that I was studying but unfortunately there isn't any way around that and everyone has that problem to some extent. The best thing I can suggest is to have a clear plan in place. If you are booking courses with a training provider then book them as far in advance as possible so you (And your employer) know when they are, book the exam and the required study & annual leave as early as possible so you can plan ahead and your employer also knows you will be off (Which will help prevent last minute work issues disrupting your studies)

Hope that helps
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