If you’re about to leave school, you may be interested to know that there is more than one route to becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. You can go straight to work and start training. Alternatively, you could go to university first.

The options don’t end there either. If you want to start work straight away, you can chose from a Higher Apprenticeship, a school leaver programme, or AAT. Likewise, if you want to go to university, you can do a degree followed by the ACA qualification, or combine both through and employer-affiliated degree.

It might surprise you to learn that you don’t need Maths as one of your a-levels. That’s not to say academics aren’t important.

For all entry routes, you will need to apply directly to an employer. As well as having a strong academic background, they will be looking for candidates who stand out from the crowd and can bring something extra to their organisation. Among other things, you’ll need to show a genuine interest in, and commitment to, your chosen career path.

What is a school leaver scheme?

A school leaver scheme is like a graduate programme, but you join straight out of school after you’re A-Levels. You will receive full training and will often work towards a professional qualification.

These schemes vary in length, usually around 4-6 years which is longer than a graduate scheme but will offer you the chance to gain work experience and get stuck into the world of work while you are being trained. This also means that you will be at the same educational level as a graduate entering the profession on a graduate scheme.

What are the requirements for a school leaver scheme?

The requirements for a school leaver schemes differ depending on the employer, however they often require at least a grade B in Maths at GCSE level. However, this does differ from employer to employer so we recommend researching a few companies to see what they require of their school leavers.

What is the difference between a school leaver scheme and an apprenticeship?

The two are very similar, with similar aims, and that is to equip you with the qualifications and training to succeed in your chosen profession. They also both involve working while earning, with the intention of gaining a qualification at the end of it. So how do they differ?

Traditionally speaking, school leaver schemes are offered by larger companies, and are seen as an alternative option to going to university. An apprenticeship, on the other hand, have been traditionally saved for vocational courses and were more focused on training on the job, rather than working towards a professional qualifications.

Another key difference is that apprenticeships follow a national framework, whereas school leaver programmes are offered by an individual company, and therefore they are the ones that set the framework.

That said, the two are very much interchangeable nowadays, and it is not unusual for you to see accountancy apprenticeships as well as school leaver programmes.

Is there an age limit to school leaver schemes?

There are some employers may allow people who have not recently left school onto their school leaver schemes if they are looking to enter the accountancy profession. However, this will only be for those that did not go to university and therefore are not eligible to apply for a graduate scheme but again, this varies between schemes so you will have to do your research first.

So, in short, you can become an accountant without a degree. You may have to study towards additional qualifications before achieving full qualification, but you will be able to earn while you learn. If you are considering joining the accountancy profession straight out of school, then you will be considering a school leaver scheme, which works in the same way as a graduate scheme but, instead of doing three years at university first, you go straight into the world of work.

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