Starting AAT and a career change

Hello all,

I am new here and just wanted some advice really regarding a potential career change.

A little about me.. I'm 27, have no accounting experience and am currently working in billing and collection of Council Tax, which I have now been doing for 5 years. I've been thinking for a while about a career change to accounting, which would be something I would enjoy and actually get satisfaction from.. I can't bear the thought of collecting Council Tax for the next 40 years!

My qualifications so far are relatively limited. I passed my GCSE's and one A Level, though quite frankly I didn't try hard enough at school and college, so I don't think my qualifications are representative of my ability.. More my lack of effort in my teens. Now I want to correct this and have been looking up AAT as a starting block in accountancy. So here are my questions..

1. I know I'm only 27, but I feel it may be too late to career change given the fact I have no real relevant experience and no degree. Is this the case? Obviously I am prepared to complete the qualifications and take an entry level job, but maybe this will be impossible to get with my career so far? From what I've seen people seem to really struggle getting experience.

2. I want to be an accountant in industry rather than in practise. I know of CIPFA having worked around the finance department in local Government, though this qualification doesn't seem to be respected in the same way as ACCA or ACA (maybe it's just snobbery?) If I was looking to work in industry, possibly still in but not limited to local government, would CIPFA be best or is one of the others more suitable?

I was sure I had more questions than that, but I've done so much research I have a headache! Many thanks for your help in advance!



  • ariadne
    ariadne Registered Posts: 218
    I think 27 is far from too old. I'm a few years older than you and hoping I'm not too old either! You do have work experience within an office and with a financial aspect, this is an advantage so play it up on any applications. Have a go at writing your CV for an entry level accounts role, it may be better than you thought. Getting voluntary work is a bonus too, for many it's the only relevant experience they have but it can get you the job. You may not find voluntary work(or real jobs) advertised and may be best asking around or being imaginative - I know scouts/guiding groups have accounts and I saw something about treasury work for charity shops. Plus having extra activities and interests will help set you apart. Linked in and talking to recruitment companies, or even popping into local companies to discuss the roles, shadow for a day or even work for a week may help. There are internships if you can afford it.

    As for the qualification, it sounds like there is no point pursuing a public sector specific qualification, unless your current employer offers to pay and you get experience. It may be possible to transfer to another qualification if you move into industry. However you can start ACCA without an employer, although look at CIMA too as most people I know of in industry go for CIMA- this is why it's good to talk to people in the jobs you think you want first. There may be a requirement to have a degree for some of these qualifications, if so AAT is a good route to overcome this factor. AAT L4 also gives you entry to some degree courses and there is a route with ACCA which you can turn into accountancy degree with a project at the end. So AAT is probably a good place to start and you can study fairly cheaply via self study, and quickly if you have the time and motivation.

    Good Luck.
  • stevef
    stevef Registered Posts: 258 πŸŽ† 🐘 πŸŽ†
    Hi Tjm1987, have you considered trying for a career as an accountant in local government? Considering you are already employed in the Finance Department of a local authority this may be an easier change. I would suggest you try talking this over with a senior member of the Finance Department who is responsible for training/staff development. It may be that they are willing to support training for an accountancy qualification in preparation for a future promotion out of Council tax. Or failing a quick transfer of department or training try looking at neighbouring authorities. Moves between departments is very common in local government, I have moved from costing to audit to income collection (rates in those days) to audit to exchequer to audit to accountancy to Head of Finance and have worked for six different Councils before ending up in a Fire and Rescue Service. I was supported in my AAT and ACCA studies. In your circumstances I thought it was worth consideing.
    In Local Government CIPFA is the most coveted qualification but does not have much application outside the public sector. However because of training costs, more and more Authorities are supporting ACCA, particularly as the local government accounting rules have changed to make them more private sector like.
  • Tjm1987
    Tjm1987 Registered Posts: 2
    Thanks for the replies!

    You've both pretty much summed up what I thought about CIPFA, it seemed far too specific for me. I'm sure it's a great qualification but seemed to specific considering I would possibly be self funding (if I get through the AAT first!).

    I will definitely write up my CV as if it's for an accounts assistant role, that's a good idea. Hopefully it will make me think more positively about my chances. I always just imagine getting nowhere due to young graduates and school leavers taking all the jobs, but I guess I just have to persevere and show what I've got!

    With regards to moving within the local authority, I have just taken a new role at this authority after being made redundant. I see it as short term as it is basically a call centre environment which I loathe. I will keep my eyes open for any finance roles within my authority and others though as that does seem like a good way to progress. I'm sure I could have got funding from my old authority but sadly it wasn't to be.

    Thanks again for the replies and putting my mind a bit more at rest, and making me think it is possible!
  • ariadne
    ariadne Registered Posts: 218
    You should be fine, in fact I think I'm disadvantaged because I have a degree and it may be possible that leaving off would help. You are only disadvantaged when it comes to applying for graduate schemes and anything specifying certain a level grades for non graduates. These schemes tend to be large employers. You may be eligible for apprenticeship schemes, if you can afford to be on such low pay. My sister had a career change at about your age, she moved home to do an internship and now is in her chosen, and much more competitive than accounting, career.
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