An accountant apprenticeship provides an ideal pathway into the industry for those looking to achieve a recognised accountancy qualification while learning on the job

Accountancy is a highly skilled profession where formal qualifications play a vital role in the career journey. Therefore, an apprenticeship, that combines work with study, is an appealing choice for many. Apprenticeships can also offer a fast-track to chartered accountant status.

Depending on the level of apprenticeship and the job role, you could be involved in a variety of financial activities, from managing bills and expenses to payroll and taxes.

Types of accounting apprenticeships

There are three levels of apprenticeship, each allowing you to train for different finance roles:

  • Intermediate (Level 2) - equivalent to GCSE standard, includes accounts assistant/clerk, cashier, finance assistant and sales ledger clerk.
  • Advanced (Level 3) - equivalent to A-level, this covers assistant accountant and trainee accounting technician roles.
  • Higher (Levels 4-7)/degree (Levels 6 and 7) - higher apprenticeships are equivalent to foundation degree and above, with accounting degree apprenticeships providing an opportunity to gain a full Bachelors or Masters degree. You could work as an accounts manager or accounts technician.

See GOV.UK - Apprenticeships for more general information.

AAT apprenticeships

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) offers the Accounts/Finance Assistant apprenticeship (Level 2), Assistant Accountant apprenticeship (Level 3) and the Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship (Level 4).

Its Level 3 and Level 4 Diplomas in Accounting allow apprentices the opportunity of studying towards a globally recognised qualification.

The AAT Diploma in Accounting is expected to take around a year to complete, although it's possible to do so in as little as six months, while the Diploma in Professional Accounting usually takes between 12 and 18 months.

If you're 16 or older and aren't in full-time education, you'll be able to apply for an AAT accounting apprenticeship. There's no upper age limit and they've proved popular with career changers.

As an apprentice you'll need to work a minimum of 30 hours per week, and you'll receive the National Minimum Wage (NMW) or higher. The average weekly wage is £170, and you'll also receive a holiday allowance. By completing the professional level qualification, you can expect to earn around £24,500.

Once you begin your apprenticeship, you'll register as an AAT student where you'll be given the necessary study materials and support to kick-start your accountancy career.

As one of the 'big four' professional services firms, KPMG has embraced AAT qualifications for its six-year KPMG360° Consulting Apprenticeship programme for school and college leavers.

Apprentices will progress from AAT Level 3 (one year) to a Level 4 Technician (another two years) before progressing to the professional level (the final three years), where you could go on to take further professional qualifications such as CIMA or the ACA.

ACCA apprenticeships

The accounting apprenticeships offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) are open to school leavers and graduates alike.

You'll find it takes 12 to 18 months to complete the ACCA Accounting Technician (Level 4) apprenticeship and achieve the Diploma in Accounting and Business.

The ACCA Professional Accountant (Level 7) apprenticeship, which is aligned with the full ACCA qualification, is expected to take about three years.

Those on an ACCA Accounting Technician apprenticeship can expect a starting salary of around £15,000, to work in a range of industries and be given the opportunity to progress. After you finish your apprenticeship, you could be earning around £25,000 as a trainee accountant.

You'll also have the chance to study for a BSc in Applied Accounting from Oxford Brookes University or an MSc in Professional Accountancy from the University of London.

By attaining the professional ACCA qualification, and becoming an ACCA member, you'll be able to earn £50,000 as a newly qualified chartered accountant.

Chartered accountant apprenticeship

An accountancy apprenticeship with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) can be used as a pathway towards qualification as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

The Level 4 ICAEW Accounting Technician Apprenticeship enables you to attain the Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB). While this is a standalone qualification, it incorporates the first six exam modules of the professional ACA. It takes 18 to 24 months to complete and is the equivalent of the first year of a Bachelors degree.

If you've already decided on a career in accounting and are aiming to complete the full ACA, the Level 7 ICAEW Accountancy Professional Apprenticeship allows you to gain advanced business knowledge as well as leadership and communication skills.

By completing this Masters-level apprenticeship within 36 to 48 months, you'll be on your way to becoming a fully qualified chartered accountant.

Apprentices on both programmes will be allocated time away from the office for study and to sit exams.

In terms of entry requirements, these are determined by the employer, but you'll need a grade 4 or above in GCSE maths and English.

CIMA apprenticeships

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) has developed the Level 4 Professional Accounting Technician Apprenticeship for school leavers and those looking to upskill, as well as the Level 7 Accountancy/Taxation Professional Apprenticeship.

For the entry-level CIMA apprenticeship, you'll study the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (CIMA Cert BA), providing you with the key finance and business skills to become a management accountant.

Even if you're already on your way to finishing university, and have just a basic knowledge of management accounting, you could consider the CIMA Professional Qualification, a globally recognised award, which can lead to becoming a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA).

BAE Systems, DHL and Jaguar Land Rover are just some of the leading recruiters that offer CIMA apprenticeships.

At Jaguar Land Rover, its four-year Level 7 finance programme supports apprentices as they work towards achieving CGMA status.

Actuarial apprenticeships

If you've a passion for maths, data and analytics, you might wish to pursue a career as an actuarial analyst, with some apprenticeships providing a pathway to professional status via the internationally-recognised Certified Actuarial Analyst (CAA) qualification.

A joint venture between the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (IFoA) in the UK and the Society of Actuaries (SOA) in the US, the CAA is usually completed within two to three years.

Global professional services firm Aon runs the two-year Level 4 Actuarial Apprenticeship, which sets you on your way to becoming an actuarial analyst, while leading you through the first stages of the CAA.

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