Accountancy: How to get into chartered territory

Jennifer Ward, 24, is in her final year of a chartered accountancy course at the training firm Reeves & Neylan
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The Independent Online

When I finished my maths degree at Bristol University I took a year out. I had decided that I wanted a career opportunity that would give me a job for life, and I chose to do a module on accountancy in my final year that I found interesting. While travelling I then met a guy who did chartered accountancy and it sounded like he had a good work/life balance. When I got back I became aware that there are lots of accountancy options in terms of where, what and how to study. I looked at a lot of local firms that were offering a training contract, as well as some of the bigger ones in London. Reeves & Neylan in Kent, my home county, were the first to offer me an interview and the first to offer me a place, so I went for them!

I'm doing an ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) qualification. I started at the firm in September 2004 and did my first exams in that December. You do six exams in the professional stage of the training, and I passed the last two in January this year. I'll go on to do the first two of the advanced stage this November. You also have to have done approximately three years' worth of working days to qualify as a chartered accountant, and Reeves & Neylan time it so that you pass your last exam when you've achieved those working days. I should qualify next summer.

There are 40 people on my course and the male-to-female ratio is about 50/50, and in the whole of the intake in my year there were more girls - the whole profession is becoming more even. I train with the Financial Training Company (FTC). We go for three-week intensive courses at a residential training centre in North Wales to learn the contents of a module, then break for five or six weeks to sit two link exams - like mock exams - then go back to the centre for two weeks intensive revision with exams the following week.

Some of my course is technical knowledge, like tax, auditing and accountancy, and we look into the operations of a business's finance and management. We also do work-based learning questions - two questions that the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) send us every month. They are reviewed by a qualified person responsible for training every six months and based on things like ethics, communication and business awareness.

Chartered accountants do all number of things. In training, we rotate offices and the type of work we do every six months - doing things like private accounts, taxation, audits and investigations. I'm trying a bit of each now and then hopefully when I qualify I'll have an idea of which I want to specialise in.

When I qualify I'll stay in Kent initially but Reeves & Neylan are expanding into London at the moment so moving there could be an opportunity in the future. I think about 80 per cent of the FTSE 100 have at least one accountant on board so there are plenty of options. The qualification is internationally recognised, so I'd like to do some travelling with my job in the future.

For more information visit www.icaew.co.uk

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