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Practical work experience FAQs

Frequently asked questions about Practical work experience.

What is practical work experience and what counts as work experience?
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Practical work experience is undertaking real-life work of a financial, business and/or commercial nature. Your work experience will need to be completed in at least one of the following six categories:

  • Accounting
  • Audit and assurance (audit is not compulsory)
  • Taxation
  • Financial management
  • Information technology
  • Insolvency.

Your work experience can be in just one of these technical categories, or in more than one area. Either way, it must expose you to as many practical assignments, finance functions and/or clients, in as many different sectors as possible. Your work experience must also incorporate levels of responsibility that increase in depth and scope throughout the course of your training.

You will need to accumulate at least 450 days of practical work experience, completed as part of a three to five year training agreement with an authorised training employer or principal. If you are eligible for a two-year training agreement, you must complete a minimum of 300 days of work experience. Your employer or principal will support you throughout your training, making sure you develop the knowledge, skills and experience you need to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

Does everyone have to complete 450 days of practical work experience to gain the ACA?
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Yes – unless you are:

  • an ACA student who is eligible for a two year period of approved training. In this instance you are required to complete 300 days; or
  • you are studying the ACA in a country where a memorandum of understanding (MoU) exists between your local institute and ICAEW which may recognise the work experience you have already completed as part of the qualification from your local institute.
How do I record my practical work experience?

As you progress through the ACA, you will log the number of days in the practical work experience tab of your online training file. You are required to add the number of days during or after your six-monthly review. To keep a record of the number of work experience hours you complete, you might want to do this by using a timesheet or note the hours in your diary.

Can I still record my work experience using the evidence of technical work experience form?

If you started your ACA training agreement before July 2013 and you are recording your ACA training requirements using paper-based records; please ensure that you complete the Evidence of Technical Work Experience form in relation to your work experience. At the end of your training agreement, you and your employer or principal needs to sign-off this form. You then need to send the form to us (along with your professional development and ethics records). Be sure to keep an original copy for your own records.

You can email scanned copies of these forms to us or you can post them to the address provided on the form.

What counts as a 'day' of practical work experience?
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A day is seven hours long. Remember that the requirement is both the minimum number of practical work experience days and the length of your training agreement. You need to accumulate 450 days during your training (which must be a minimum of 36 months).

You cannot count study leave, courses, sickness days, holidays or office administration as part of your practical work experience requirements. These cannot be counted because any practical work experience  work you do needs to demonstrate that you are gaining real-life experience of a business, commercial or financial nature.

Can I change from working in an accountancy practice to working in an industry and still fulfil the practical work experience requirement?
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Yes, it is possible to have a training agreement with employers in practice, industry, the public sector or not-for-profit sectors. Employers must be an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal in order for students to gain practical work experience.

What happens if I haven’t accumulated 450 days of practical work experience by the end of my agreed period of training?
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Your employer or principal will need to extend the length of your training agreement accordingly.

Does practical work experience need to be done with the same employer?
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We do not encourage students to change employer during their training agreement.

If students do need to have a new employer part way through their training agreement, the new employer (which must be an authorised training employer or principal) can decide how much of a student’s previous work experience to count. They are not obliged to count all of it.

I am leaving my current place of employment, what should I do?
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Make sure that your practical work experience, and audit experience if applicable, is up to date within your online training file is cancelled.

Can I transfer my practical work experience over to my new work place if I change employer?
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If you change employer part way through training, your new employer or principal can decide whether or not to count your previous practical work experience and time served under a training agreement. They are not obliged to count any or all of your work experience.

Please note that we do not recommend that students change employer during their training.

I am studying the ACA as an independent student. What records should I keep?
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To be able to record your practical work experience, professional development and ethics progress, you need to obtain an ACA training agreement.

If you are working for an organisation that is not already an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal, you may want to talk to your employer about how they can become an authorised to train ACA students. It is a free and straightforward process.

For advice on finding a training agreement, you can visit our careers website at icaew.com/careers.

How often should I record my practical work experience?
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You should record your experience regularly – and discuss your practical work experience progress (along with your professional development, ethics and exams) at your six-monthly reviews with your employer or principal. You must make sure that you have all your records up to date and that they are signed off at least every six-months throughout your training.

Is there a time limit for submitting my completed training records to ICAEW?
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As soon as you are eligible, at the end of your training agreement, we’d encourage you to submit your training records to us.

I have done all my ACA exams and have 450 days of practical work experience. However, I still have three months left on my training agreement. Do I still have to do this?
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Yes, you need to continue your training agreement until your expected end date.

If I can’t gain 450 days practical work experience during my current three year training agreement, what happens?
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If you are unable to gain the full 450 days practical work experience during your training agreement, then your training agreement will need to be extended. Please do let us know as soon as possible if this is the case, email our student support team or call +44 (0)1908 248 250.

If a student is rated as under-performing, can the employer still sign them off as ‘fit and proper’?
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This highlights the need for six-monthly reviews. Any performance issues should be addressed with the student during the review process. If an employer or principal is unhappy with the quality of work produced by a student, then we would advise them to discuss extending the period of training until the student has met the goals put in place.

How do I record my audit experience?
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If you work for a registered auditor which is authorised to offer adequate audit training you may be able to log time towards the UK Audit Qualification. You can log your audit experience within the Audit qualification tab in your online training file.

You will discuss your audit experience at each six-monthly review with your employer or principal. Before each review, prepare a log of your audit experience to include the number of hours you have worked in audit, you can do this by creating a timesheet or simply using your diary.

You will then take your log to your six-monthly review to discuss, calculate and agree the number of days audit experience with your employer or principal. Once you have discussed your audit work experience at your six-monthly review, you will need to add it to your online training file and it will then be signed off by the authorised individual listed. You will also need to add the nature of the audit work undertaken, the name of entities audited, their industry and the turnover of the audit client, plus a few paragraphs on the audit experience and development achieved during each period.

Make sure that you record your audit experience throughout your ACA training and agree the number of days at each six-monthly review. The authorised individual will also need to enter their feedback in a timely manner. If you don’t claim your audit experience within six months of submitting your training records, you will lose it.