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Practical work experience: overview

Your guide to the integrated components of the ACA qualification - review the knowledge, skills and experience you need to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

Practical work experience is gained as part of a training agreement with one of our authorised training employers. You need to complete at least 450 practical work experience days, which normally takes between three and five years. The knowledge, skills and experience you gain as part of your training agreement are invaluable, giving you the opportunity to put what you’re learning into practice.

Practical work experience will give you the opportunity to:

  • apply the technical knowledge gained during your studies
  • develop your personal effectiveness
  • develop business awareness skills
  • exercise professional judgement

During your training agreement period, you should accumulate and show evidence of at least 450 days of practical work experience. This does not include sick leave, holidays, study leave, off the job training or office administration.

Practical work experience is undertaking real-life work of a financial, business and/or commercial nature.

You are required to relate your practical work experience to at least one of the following six categories:

  • Accounting
  • Audit and Assurance
  • Tax
  • Financial Management
  • Insolvency
  • Information Technology

If you are an AAT-ACA Fast Track student or eligible for a two-year training agreement you will need to accumulate and show evidence of 300 days practical work experience.

Log your work experience

As you progress through the ACA, you will log the number of days in the work experience tab of your training file. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you when logging your records:

  1. Keep records or timesheets of the number of work experience hours you complete
  2. At your six-monthly review, discuss and calculate the number of days you have accrued with your training manager
  3. Then log the number of days within the practical work experience tab of your training file. Use the ‘add practical work experience’ button to do this 

If you are unable to gain 450 days practical work experience during your training agreement period, then the agreement will need to be extended. You will need to speak to your QPRT, Counsellor or Principal.

Tips for updating your training file

  • Keep a record of the number of hours you complete per day using a timesheet or noting the hours in a diary. One working day is seven hours, so if you work longer than this, you may be able to record more time. You can’t count study leave, courses, sickness days, holidays or office administration towards your work experience.
  • Lots of students gain more than 450 days of practical work experience during their training. You must continue to record your days until the final day of your training.
  • If your employer is happy with the number of days you have accrued, add your number of days in six-month blocks in your training file and make sure that the days you enter are for the full period of your training agreement – don’t leave any gaps.
  • Once confirmed, the period of work experience will be locked, and your employer can then sign off your practical work experience progress.

Six-monthly reviews

It is a requirement of the ACA training agreement that you and your employer meet at least every six months. These meetings are to discuss and monitor your progress on professional development, ethics and professional scepticism, practical work experience and exams. It is your responsibility to update your records within your online training file.

Once you have discussed your practical work experience progress with your employer, you will need to confirm the number of days in your training file. When you have done this, your six-month period will be locked and stored within the file. If you need to update the record once it is locked, we can amend it. Please speak to your employer, as they will need to contact us to amend the record.

The six-monthly review guide for students gives more information on how to prepare for a six-monthly review, the topics to cover during a review and how to submit your training file at the end of your training agreement

Record audit experience

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. 

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Your training file

Log your progress throughout your ACA training

Update your progress