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4 tips for independent students

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 11 Sep 2020

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Not all ACA students start with a training agreement, but there’s a wealth of support on offer from ICAEW for independent learners.

In a crowded marketplace, businesses today are looking for motivated and committed individuals when they scout for new talent. One of the best ways to stand out – if you don’t have an ACA training agreement but want to become a chartered accountant – is to register as an independent student with ICAEW.

Starting your ACA as an independent student won’t put employers off, rather it shows your eagerness and commitment to pursue a career as a chartered accountant. While you can sit ACA exams as an independent student, there are several elements that can only be achieved as part of a training agreement to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

1. Land that training agreement

The training agreement dovetails with the exams, as the theoretical learning from your studies can be applied practically in the world of work. Through it, you’ll develop the necessary ethics and professional development skills and log the work experience hours necessary to progress. You’ll also need to be in the last year of your training agreement before you can sit the Advanced Level Case Study exam.

Securing a training agreement as early as possible is recommended, as you will benefit from an employer who has met the strict standards to train ACA students and is committed to supporting you through your training. Not only that, but you will be paid a competitive salary while training.

Registering as an independent student with ICAEW opens the door to an array of support to help you land the all-important training agreement. This includes a training vacancy site that has a selection of vacancies from employers including accountancy firms, commercial organisations, not for profit and the public sector. 

“On our training vacancies site, we have over 500 authorised employers who advertise their early-career accountancy, finance and business roles for school leavers, university students and graduates who are looking to complete the ACA qualification as part of a training agreement,” said Marie Lake, of ICAEW Students team.

The site also holds the Available Student Register, that ensures employers will see your CV and supporting evidence when they are hiring for ACA training opportunities.

“Our Available Student Register gets an independent student’s CV in front of our authorised employers quickly! If they have had experience studying our qualifications (ICAEW CFAB or ACA), or have previously got to the second stage of an interview process, then this is for them.”

If you’re working for an organisation that is not currently an ICAEW authorised training employer, they can become one very easily; the process is entirely free and takes on average between three to four weeks.

2. Power in numbers

Although starting as an independent student can seem daunting, one of the most important things to remember is you are not alone.

Our student societies and networks actively organise events and activities throughout the year, where you can meet people who are also studying for the ACA from a wide range of industries and organisations.

Regardless of the size of the organisation that you work for, ICAEW student societies and networks are available for all ACA students across the globe. If there isn’t one currently near you, why not get involved and set up one for the students in your region?

"One of the main benefits of getting involved in your student society is the number of people you can meet."

ICAEW’s Senior Student Relationship Executive, Mauro Lucrino says,"You can enhance knowledge and network with other students, helping you build lifelong contacts and the skills to help fulfill your career aspirations." CABA is also there to support you, contact CABA for confidential help and support.

3. Take advantage of our free resources

As an ACA student, you also have access to plenty of resources and services to help your studies, including a dedicated student support team; access to past exams and examiner feedback and a range of free resources as part of our student benefits

Signing up to Faculties Online will give you access to the online technical resources of all seven ICAEW Faculties, and access to the Excel Community and its Excel online training. You also get access to all the online publications from the Faculties, which includes magazines, guides, help-sheets, technical updates, and the full back catalogue of webinar recordings. 

The ACA qualification has 15 exams over three levels, which are designed to complement the practical experience you will be gaining in the workplace. We have a dedicated resource section to help you navigate each of these levels from certificate to advanced and professional, which is a goldmine of study packs, past exams, exam guides and helpful advice.

4. You’re in good company

Companies today are looking for a broad range of personal skills rather than pure academic ability, and one of the traits they value independence and the confidence required to undertake the ACA studies. 

It won’t stop you being a successful chartered accountant either, and many who began their careers this way have gone on to make a difference in accounting around the world.

Ilyana Ibrahim of Kuala Lumpur joined a college course in Malaysia to help hone her soft skills such as presentation and communication, and used every resource available on the ICAEW website to prepare for her exams. Ilyana interned at EY and won prizes for excellence along the way to becoming a tax assistant at Deloitte Malaysia.

Likewise, Roshan Ramesh started as an independent student in Dubai and scored the top marks globally in the Audit and Assurance exam and was awarded the Watts exam prize for achieving the highest marks. He said there are no limits to what independent students can achieve.

“The opportunities in this field are endless as almost every business needs a chartered accountant to advise on various business-related issues,” he said. “All you have to do is work hard and be passionate about your work.”