Accounting - Choosing the correct path?

graph Registered Posts: 3 New contributor 🐸
Hi, after doing various searches related to accounting via google I would often end up here, reading some very good info on AAT and the like. I'm new to this forum and the world of accounting, nice to meet you all!

I'm almost 34 and live in a part of Wales which is fairly rural overall but does have some main towns dotted here and there. I have not worked for quite a long time and have recently decided that I would now like to pursue an education and career in accounting.

There is a college not far from where I live which does a 3 year AAT course that I have been considering but I'm not very keen on doing 1 day a week for 3 years study there, at the same time I'm not even sure if AAT is a right choice for me.

Whilst doing research on how to begin in accounting I have realised there are quite alot of paths (ACCA, CIMA etc.) you can choose to begin with, this has left me wondering where should I really begin (I dont know where I would like to end up just yet)?

I think I'm almost fully aware of what courses some training providers (OU, Premier, CIMA etc.) have on offer at the moment which I could enroll on. I realise that whichever path I choose I will probably need to start at the lower levels (or not?) as I have no qualifications or work experience in accounting.

Not getting or having any work experience is quite a tricky matter it appears when it comes to actually being fully qualified/certified although whilst studying I would happily volunteer to gain experience but I'm not so sure what is really about around these parts where I live.

I have enough money saved up to fund any courses and I'm serious about going down the accounting route, I do believe its right for me and cant wait to begin the correct studies. Anyway to sum up my post and hopefully receive some very welcome advice, what I'm trying to say/ask is which accounting path should I choose when being almost 34 with no accounting work experience?

Thanks for reading, cheers.


  • Amy Smith
    Amy Smith Registered Posts: 54 Epic contributor 🐘

    First of all, welcome to the forum! I don't know where i'm the best person to give advice considering I'm only fairly new myself, but I will help all I can.

    Firstly, I would definitely advise sticking with AAT as your start point. I work within an accountancy firm and everyone here has started with AAT and then progressed towards their ACCA, ACA,etc. Even those with degrees finish university and begin with AAT.
    I myself was brand new to accountancy like you are, and begun with AAT which has proven to be very interesting as well as challenging; I don't regret my choice one bit!

    With regards to how to study: I begun straight at Level 3 because my employers are insisting that abilities gained in Level 2 would be picked up through day to day work at the firm.

    Also, I have been told on the forum that some have self studied Level 2 and completed within a few months? That could be better than studying level 2 with a college that will extend the length of your course... It will also save you money! But classroom courses is a big YES from me for Level 3 and 4. I attend college once a week and it's brilliant.

    I'm a rambler, I'm sorry :001_smile:

    Wish you luck
    Here to help
    ~AAT Qualified~
  • Jo Clark
    Jo Clark Registered Posts: 2,525 Beyond epic contributor πŸ§™β€β™‚οΈ
    Hello Graph

    Welcome to the Forum a great place to make friends and seek answers to questions and get advice.

    I would highly recommend the AAT qualification. You could self study this as a distance student and would therefore complete (possibly) quicker than the three years at your local college.

    Once you have completed AAT and have relevant experience you can consider becoming a Member in Practice (MIP) and start your own business.

    Alternatively, you could complete AAT and then move onto ACCA or CIMA and both would allow you to start part way through the qualification using the AAT qualification as an exemption.

    I could go on and on and on, but will let others have their say about what they think.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.

    JC :o
    ~ An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ~
    Benjamin Franklin
  • liveprincess
    liveprincess Registered Posts: 214 Beyond epic contributor πŸ§™β€β™‚οΈ
    I'd say do at least level 2 on your own through distance learning route, it's pretty easy and if you are out of work at the moment and have a lot of time you will finish it under 3 months. While doing this you can look around for some jobs, volunteering etc.. And by summer you'll know more about if it's for you, whether you enjoy this and you can continue studying that way or sign up to college and start level 3 in September. Having said that everyone is different and distance learning is not the best way of studying for everybody but I think you can get bored in college doing level 2 for the whole year.
  • Vlee
    Vlee Registered Posts: 136 Beyond epic contributor πŸ§™β€β™‚οΈ
    No advice really as I'm in a similar position. Although I have two small children so am restricted when it comes to volunteering or studying. So my plan is to self study level 2 and not even take the exams - they are Β£50 each! I am then thinking of either distance learning level 3 or starting a one day a week college course in September as my eldest will have funding for a nursery place and I can stretch to putting my youngest in private nursery.

    Getting work experience is going to be tricky. Depending on childcare I plan to offer to work either a day a week or a week here and there when my husband can take time off work - I'm looking at local practices and charities. I might ask the church if I can help the treasurer too. I need to explore all my contacts too and see if they can get me work experience, most larger companies have accountancy teams so I have lots of potential leads but I'm very restricted on time as childcare is so expensive. Plus being out of work for a few years has reduced my confidence a lot!

    I hope you find a way that works for you and good luck.
  • graph
    graph Registered Posts: 3 New contributor 🐸
    Hi guys, thank you for your welcome and replies.

    It seems as though AAT level 2 is probably the best path/choice for me to start with then. Would definitely do the level 2 distance learning, just not very sure if Premier or perhaps Eagle is the best learning provider to go with (or others?).

    Another thing I'm not sure about is where in Wales could I sit the exams, Cardiff might be the closest area I'm thinking although that will mean travelling around 200 miles there an back. Wether Pembrokeshire College (which is basically on my doorstep, who do the AAT levels 2, 3 and 4) can allow me to sit any exams there I dont know, I will try to find out.

    Hopefully so long as I can somehow get into an accounting role locally, even if its volunteering, things will look ok for my future and in the profession. However, at the moment, I cant help wondering that this may not happen and so it could all possibly be a waste, spending so much money and time studying for nothing if I cant put the actual qualifications and knowledge to use.

    I'll give it all a good think over the next few days. Any more of your helpful advice or suggestions are most welcome, thank you.

    Cheers, all the best.
  • stevef
    stevef Registered Posts: 258 Dedicated contributor πŸ¦‰
    Hi Graph,
    Good to have a fellow Harfat on the forum. I also live in Haverfordwest but work in Carmarthen. Regarding exam centres, Pembs College is an exam centre for both AAT and ACCA and does a fairly decent job in teaching AAT.

    If you have no background in accountancy or do not have a relevant degree AAT is indeed a good place to start, it is a stand alone professional body and depending on your aspirations, may be all you need to carve out an Accountancy/Finance career. If you later find that in order to meet your goals you need to become a member of one of the Chartered bodies, your AAT studies will have given you a good grounding, confidence in your knowledge base that you will build on and give some exam exemptions.

    You will note from the forum that practical experience is an essential element in progressing an accountancy/audit career and in the present economic climate, experience is the one thing that is hard to come by. But things will get better in the next two years or so and when the economy picks up trained finance staff will be in demand. In the mean time, just persevere and hang on in there. I would recommend keeping an open mind about jobs (but be careful when volunteering that it is truely a volunteer role), private practice/self employment is not the only route, there are lots of accountants working in commerce, industry and the public sector. Jobs are rare but remember that not all Accountants have the words finance or accountant in their job title (particularly in the public sector where I work) and not all finance jobs are in the Finance Dept. Remember, you may live in rural Wales, but on your doorstep there are two County Councils, a National Park, two area Police HQ's and Police Authority HQ, a Health Trust, a Fire and Rescue HQ plus some private sector employers and practices.

    Good luck.
  • graph
    graph Registered Posts: 3 New contributor 🐸
    Hi Steve, thanks for your very informative and helpful post.

    I did check with Pembrokeshire College about whether they allow external candidates to sit exams with them and like you said, they do. That is a relief!

    I've not enrolled on an AAT level 2 accounting course just yet but will be very shortly. I recently completed a quiz on Premier Training's website to confirm at what level would be best for me to start at, the result was that I am eligible to start at the level 2 certificate in accounting which is great.

    Premier Training is who I'm thinking I will do the AAT level 2 course with but so that I'm fully prepared and ready to go when I begin the home learning course I'm wondering what decent calculator (brand/model) is recommended for accounting work and is there perhaps any additional study material I should aquire?

  • billdoor
    billdoor Registered Posts: 129 Beyond epic contributor πŸ§™β€β™‚οΈ
    Hi Graph

    It seems you have received plenty of helpful replies already.

    I would also recommend the AAT. I started Level 2 through distance learning and found it fine to get into without an accountancy background. The Basic Accounting 1 and Basic Accounting 2 modules give you a very good grounding, I found Basic Accounting 1 to be quite large but it gives you a lot of knowledge and understanding to take forward into the rest of the course, so it's well worth persevering with and gaining a thorough understanding of.

    I self-studied Level 3 and am now self-studying Level 4 (i.e. I'm not buying the courses, I'm just buying the textbooks and then sitting the exams) which is much cheaper, but I'm glad I did Level 2 as distance learning as the support is there if you need it.

    Regarding study materials, I found the course materials and books were enough, with the additional resource of this forum as there is a lot of good advice and help to be found on here. I just use a rather basic Casio calculator (one of the pocket ones) and have found it to be fine, although I've seen other people with huge things - I believe there are rules regarding use of calculators in exams i.e. not ones that can be programmes, which is why I've always just used a very basic one.

    Good luck with the course, hope you enjoy it!
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