Accountancy & Management: It takes a better class of degree to get in nowadays: Proportion of female trainees growing

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NOT so long ago accountancy was perceived as a sort of last resort job for those graduates who did not know what they wanted to do but could not face teaching or the dole, writes Roger Trapp.

While many may still opt for this career for negative reasons rather than a genuine desire to set the world of numbers alight, they are now unlikely to get away with it without a good degree.

Statistics recently published by the Institute of Chartered Accountants show that 65 per cent of the 4,354 graduates selected in 1991/92 had upper second or first-class honours degrees, compared with 55 per cent the previous year.

The number of Oxbridge graduates increased from 436 to 467 - although the overall total (graduates and non-graduates) was down sharply at 4,847, compared with the previous year's 6,391.

However, although ethnic minorities have still to make much of an inroad, more encouraging was the continued rise in the proportion of female trainees. It climbed just over half a percentage point to 36.5 per cent in 1991/92, and this was nearly 10 percentage points higher than the figure 10 years before.

The proportion of non-graduate entrants remained steady at 10 per cent, with an increasing number being accounting technicians.

Also static was the percentage of graduates with degrees related to accountancy - about 20 per cent.

The higher quality of degrees is also reflected in the pass rates for the institute's PE2 examination. In 1991/92, 53 per cent passed, compared with 51 per cent the previous year and 41 per cent in 1986. Sixty-two per cent of those passing the PE2 did so at the first attempt.

But, not surprisingly in the current climate, all this success is not being converted into hard cash.

Starting salaries rose only slightly - although the wide range, from pounds 13,500 in London to pounds 8,000 in the North-west, remained.