New! Looking at Level 2/Career Change

liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
Hi all I am new to the forums so apologies for any questions that might sound daft! :blushing:

I'm 23 and have just come out of a role in digital marketing that I really didn't fit in well with, and has now made me re-evaluate my career choice.

I am a graduate of journalism and media, but now I feel like I would like to be able to have a practical skill to offer to make me employable. Accountancy ticked that box, as well as the fact that a close member of my family is established within the industry, showing it can be done with hard work!

That being said, I'm a little worried as to the best course of action to take from now. I have zero finance/accountancy experience, a degree (but completely unrelated) and I am currently out of work. My highest level achieved in Maths is a grade B at GCSE, which I am also concerned might hinder me finding experience in the industry.

Luckily I have a nest-egg of savings I am willing to demolish to become trained in this field. I took the skills test (recommended Level 2) and read through the information pack and reams of posts of advice, but am very nervous about taking the first step! I would like to gain my Level 2 qualification as soon as possible so I am not out of work for too long.

I was advised (even with my complete lack of experience) to send through a CV and cover letter to local Chartered Accountants indicating that I am looking for a role as Trainee Accountant, in the hopes that they will take me on and I will be able to do my course as I work there. In all honesty, is this realistic for someone like me? Or will I need to just apply for AAT, self-fund myself and look to get any job (retail etc) to tide me over?

I have read about learning on my own (just by buying the textbooks and learning at home) and just paying to be an external candidate (meaning I can save on paying for a training provider). Is this still the case? And if so, is there a place I can find the list of books I need to get and can I just get started on learning now?

I also read somewhere you will need 1year + experience to study later qualifications. Is this true?

I'm sorry for the wall of text and the many MANY questions! I am just very much at a crossroads at the moment and could use advice from people who are going through what I could potentially go through myself!


  • Nps
    Nps Registered Posts: 782
    Hello and welcome,

    This question gets asked A LOT. I've answered it myself a few times so won't type it all out again. If you click on my name, then look at my previous posts, I think you'll find some threads that pretty much answer all of your queries.

    In a nutshell though, I think you'd be lucky to jump straight into a trainee accountant role. I think you'd have to set your sights a little lower to begin with (others may disagree). Self studying is very achievable and you're right with everything else you've asked.

    As for books, they are generally called the same as the module so just get the list of the AAT website and you'll find they're easily available online. There are 3 main publishers, BPP, Kaplan and Osborne. I've always used BPP and have been very happy with them. You'd need a study text and a question bank for each module at the minimum.
  • liam89
    liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
    Thanks for your reply Nps1976. I appreciate your help even though I know you must get sick of newbies asking daft questions!

    I forgot to mention that I already have access to the following already:

    UNIT 30 Introductory Accounting Book3 (presumably missing books 1 & 2)
    UNIT 31 Accounting Work Skills Book1
    UNIT 31 Accounting Work Skills Book2
    UNIT 31 Accounting Work Skills Book3
    SAGE Instant Accounts

    These are from a friend who bought them as part of the Home Learning College course. In your experience, am I best to not use these at all and buy the BPP books and start from there?

    And in theory, with self-studying I can book my exams whenever I am ready to? (So in theory, I could qualify as fast as I pick up the syllabus)?
  • Jo Clark
    Jo Clark Registered Posts: 2,525
    Hello Liam

    Welcome :o

    I echo everything NPS has said (I usually do :001_tongue: ) and would definitely recommend you read some of the posts made by NPS.

    I look forward to seeing you on the forum more in the future.

    Any further questions post away!

    ~ An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest ~
    Benjamin Franklin
  • Nps
    Nps Registered Posts: 782
    Not daft questions at all, they've just all been asked before!

    The AAT syllabus has all changed since the modules were called units. I don't know how well the units relate to modules but I'm a big believer in buying the most up to date text books - why have the extra worry of not knowing if there is something missing. The syllabus is also changing very soon so you'll need to make sure you're aware of where all the modules sit in the new structure.

    And yes you can book exams in whatever order you like, and as quickly as you want. I generally sat 2 exams in a day (though some centres have 3 sittings) and I did levels 2, 3 and 4 in 6 months, though a year per level is acceptable.
  • liam89
    liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
    Terrific. Thanks a lot for your advice. It's really appreciated!
  • liam89
    liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
    Thank you Jo!
  • Nps
    Nps Registered Posts: 782
    No problems. Any more questions, just ask.
  • CeeJaySix
    CeeJaySix Registered Posts: 645
    You're also a graduate not long out of uni (presumably, unless you were a child prodigy :tongue_smilie:), with the added bonus of a bit of real-world experience. If your degree is no worse than a 2-1 (given that it's unrelated) you may have some joy applying for grad training posts which chuck you straight into ACA/ACCA. Nearly all regional and larger firms run them and usually recruit up until around now for a Sept start. If you're lucky you may find some still accepting applications for this year. Doesn't hurt to try - if you're in the S/SW I can give you a few firms that I know have them, and there's the big 4 all over - my cousin is now training with KPMG after doing a degree in Ancient Civilisations and spending a year trying and failing to pass Royal Marines Officer training.

    Failing that, Level 2 plus real life experience got me a job as an accounts trainee in a practice straight away. I know many others aren't as lucky as I've been, maybe just down to area, but I got three job offers in 3 weeks through speculative applications. If you're not working you can pass level 2 in a month easily if you get the exams booked up, it's straightforward enough if your brain works the right way. Like Nps, I'm flying through it as fast as possible (want to get onto ACA) - although it might take me a bit longer than six months for all 3 levels :huh:

    Experience - you need a year's experience to get MAAT once you've passed all the exams, and ACA (and ACCA??) you need three years experience if/when you get that far - at least that's the illusion I'm striving under, someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

    Good luck!
  • liam89
    liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
    Thank you for your great input CeeJaySix.

    I am looking to purchase the books for the Level 2 modules (Osborne or BPP based on recommendations) but I just wanted to clarify a couple of points before I go ahead and purchase them.

    - I have found a seller of textbooks which are the 2012 editions. Are these up to date to learn from?
    - Will self-teaching be OK from the standard Level 2 books from now (Basic Accounting I, Basic Accounting II, Work effectively in accounting and finance, Basic costing, Computerised accounting) considering the new changes to the syllabus in September? I'd rather not have to delay my studies for four months to make sure I am learning the correct material!
  • Nps
    Nps Registered Posts: 782

    Not sure about the books as unsure if the syllabus has changed this year. It is fairly unlikely though as the basics will stay the same for ever.

    Just a suggestion.....have you considered just studying level 2 but not sitting the exams. So long as you can pass the free skills test on the AAT website, you can go straight onto level 3. This is what I did as after reading the first level 2 book , I decided that I wasn't going to spend my hard earned cash on the exams, so just read the books which I felt I needed to get the basics (I too had zero accounting experience). There is a lot which is very basic and as a graduate you may well agree with me. Some people feel the need to take them to get back into 'exam mode' but as you've not long finished studying anyway, I doubt you need that. It also means you don't need to do the computerised accounting module at all (I just did a basic Sage course after I'd finished AAT, but that was for cv purposes only). To be honest I don't even know what Working Effectively in Accounting and Finance is, let alone studied it, and it hasn't held me back at all. I'm not even sure if you maybe need a full tuition package from a learning provider for those 2 packages. Save as much of that nest egg as possible!

    I just used level 2 to ensure that I knew the basics of double entry (as I'd never even heard of it beforehand) and that I had the necessary foundations to do level 3.

    This way you can concentrate on getting level 2 finished (well reading the books anyway) and not having to worry about syllabus changes. You can then go onto level 3 on the new syllabus (though to be honest, theres a good chance you'll be back here in a few weeks asking the same question about level 3 as you'll be ready to start it but will again be concerned about the imminent syllabus change!). Did you realise though that if you have already started a level come the change, you will stay on the old syllabus until Dec 14? You only move to the new syllabus when you move up a level after the new syllabus has been implemented. I think it's likely you'll start level 3 before September, and then just move on to the new syllabus when you go up to level 4 whenever that may be.

    Hope that helps, sorry if I've rambled, it's been a long day!
  • liam89
    liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
    Don't ever apologise for offering advice. I am really appreciative of the help!

    You've offered a very interesting idea I hadn't considered. I'll look to pick up the current level 2 books (or a couple of them anyway) and see how I cope. Then, like you said, the possibility is there for me to actually squeeze in the start of level 3 before the syllabus change comes into effect in September, all the while managing to save valuable money for later study!

    Thanks again.
  • Nps
    Nps Registered Posts: 782
    Yes, funnily enough the option of skipping level 2 is not advertised by the AAT!

    You definitely need to study level 2 as you learn the basics of double entry but I realised that perhaps I didn't need to be covering everything when I got to the bit about explaining what a cheque was! I think you can start AAT at 16 years old so I do appreciate that they need to cover things that perhaps someone a little older may find a bit too basic.
  • Vlee
    Vlee Registered Posts: 136 ? ? ?
    I'm doing what Nps is advising. I am almost finished with L2 reading and my L3 books are waiting for me (I'm ill with a ***** and annoyed I can't get stuck in). BA1 and 2 are worth going through carefully but I sailed through BC and didn't bother reading working effectively, just did the chapter activities and practice assessment. I plan to do sage later for my cv too.

    The problem I'm having is that colleges won't accept me for L3 without a fight because I don't have L2. So self study is probably where I'm heading and is half the price. They also don't think having a degree is a good indicator. As for GCSE maths I also have a B but had low confidence and sat the paper where B was the highest mark. It wasn't until starting an analysis job that I realised I could do numbers and was good at it. With computers the sums are done for you and you need to understand the concepts. In fact I get the impression that the AAT course has more maths than some of the real accountancy jobs out there.
  • liam89
    liam89 Registered Posts: 27 ? ? ?
    Did you pick up the Workbook and Tutorials for each module Vlee? I've found a full set on eBay with both for each module, but after NPS' advice Im thinking of just buying the most up to date books from the website new. Just wondering if you did the same as a self-studier?
  • Nps
    Nps Registered Posts: 782
    Liam, if you're set on the idea of not taking level 2 exams, then the 2012 text books will be fine. The principles will not have changed, I just err on the side of caution if taking exams, by buying the most up to date books so that I know no sneaky new questions will crop up in the exam.
  • Vlee
    Vlee Registered Posts: 136 ? ? ?
    I got the level 2 books on eBay and I've ordered a few L3 ones which are 2012. They were a bit of a bargain and I am using them as a way to judge how I'm going to do, and try out different publishers. One college was going to test me on L3 stuff so I wanted to be prepared and try out the books they use.

    I'm not yet registered with AAT so I'm guessing there may be some guidance on the syllabus there to double check my knowledge. If I do find the books are out of date at least I haven't lost much money if I do buy them new. I do need to shot up on these changes as I was sure I was going to attend college so didn't worry before.
  • mrb82
    mrb82 Registered Posts: 147 ? ? ?
    I'm a Journo and Media Comms grad (Lincoln?) and went to sales in a call centre after uni. Only started my AAT in 2010 having managing to get in to finance through a secondment in 2008.

    I find you don't need to have a matths subject under your belt (lord knows I didn't), you just have to be logical to be able to use a calculator and follow through a process to get an answer.

    I've not read the rest of your post as I'm having a sneaky tea break, but I've not regretted my studies!
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