A High-Flying Career in Business Without A Degree

Contrary to popular myth, not everyone wants to go to university. If you're not entirely convinced that university is the right route for you, don't worry ­ you're not alone. However, while many students are opting to enter into employment straight from A-levels, it can be tricky finding a decent job in business without a degree. If you've already decided against university but still want to pursue a successful career in business, a professional business qualification is a must

Professional qualifications come in all shapes and sizes but generally aim to achieve the same things: to give your CV extra "clout" and provide a route to opportunity and choice. One of the most highly regarded professional business qualifications, the ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant), is offered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). Chartered Accountants are viewed as highly trained business consultants and hold premier positions in the business world ­ over 80 per cent of all FTSE 100 companies have a chartered accountant as chief executive officer, finance director or on the board. Those who are entering chartered accountancy are young, dynamic and highly ambitious individuals who want to make their mark in business.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales offers training to a wide range of students. For example, although 92 per cent of entrants into ACA training are graduates, A-level, Advanced GNVQ, BTEC National, HND/HNC and AAT (Association of Accounting Technician) students are also eligible to train towards the ACA chartered accountancy qualification.

To train towards the ACA, students must join an organisation that is authorised to train so that they get relevant work experience, which is a vital part of the qualification. There are around 2,200 authorised offices in the UK as well as a limited number overseas. The work experience will be varied and every client and task will be different. Broadly, there are two types of training environments (although all trainees ultimately take the same examinations). Some choose to train in a commercial business, although the majority of students decide to train in a chartered accountancy firm (or "public practice"). It is important to weigh up all the options and select the training environment that is best suited to your long-term career aspirations. You may already know that you want to work in a specific industry, or you may prefer to keep your options open. Either way, you can expect to be working in a key role at the heart of business, tackling projects that have a real impact on the company's performance.

As well as a minimum of three years' work experience, students must also pass the Institute's exams, which are approached in two stages. The Professional Stage involves six examined subjects that will test your knowledge of commercial and economic topics. The Advanced Stage covers subjects that will integrate professional skills with business issues to prepare you for a role as a business adviser.

The level of early responsibility when training to become a chartered accountant proves to be excellent experience for the future. Your clients will range from publicly listed companies to charities, owner-managed businesses and individuals. There is, however, a lot more involved than just the formal work. As your contract progresses, there may be increased responsibility for developing training techniques, recruiting staff, marketing to clients, travelling, and managing information technology.

Chartered accountancy training can provide exposure to a wide range of business fields. The broad range of experience, combined with the level of technical expertise gained through completing the exams, leaves the newly qualified ACA well skilled for their future career in business. The qualification not only prepares you to do a particular job; it says a lot about you as an individual. Not only have ACAs proved themselves academically, they are also determined, self-motivated achievers with excellent communication skills, inquisitive and persistent with good problem-solving skills and a wide exposure to a variety of businesses. All these characteristics make them very attractive to employers ­ even without a degree!

Applications for training contracts should be made directly to employers, and vacancies are available throughout the year. For further details on training to become a chartered accountant and a list of current vacancies, please call the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) Student Recruitment and Promotion Team on 01908 248108, email us at careers@icaew.co.uk or visit our web-site at www.icaew.co.uk/careers.

About the Institute:

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) is the largest professional accountancy body in Europe with more than 117,000 members. Chartered Accountants work at the cutting edge of business and industry, and have a far-reaching impact on the strategies of organisations throughout the world.

*Student Living Report conducted towards the end of 2000 on behalf of The Unite Group Plc.