How on earth do I get into an accountancy practice?

Hi All,

I'm new to posting on here before, so forgive the naivety if this has already been covered.

I seem to face a dilemma in regards to getting my foot in the door to working for an accountancy firm. I have a background working for a number of different organisations from small companies to larger multi-million pound firms, however I want to gain access to Chartered Accountancy.

I have tried sending my CV to local firms (I'm Derbyshire based) and even applied for specific roles that I have come across. Each and every time I have been either dubbed as not having enough experience or rejected for the low level trainee roles (perhaps I'm too old for them anyway, I am 36).

I wanted to know whether anyone else had a similar experience (someone who is perhaps of similar age too) and found a way in to the profession?

It seems to me that it's fine if you are a school leaver as there are apprenticeships, or if you hold a chartered qualification, but then what about people who are older in the 30'2 and 40's who still want to progress with their career, seems a little unfair really.

Many thanks



  • Neillaw
    Neillaw Registered Posts: 307 Dedicated contributor 🦉
    Have you tried approaching a recruitment agency.

    They will usually know of any practices who required people or they will be able to let you know where the market is at the moment and any practices that take in older intakes.
  • edwalford
    edwalford Registered Posts: 5
    Hi Neillaw,

    Thanks for your reply. I have registered with quite a few agencies, but don't know of any who specialise in just accountancy firms and are able to tell me about opportunities for older individuals.


  • reader
    reader Registered Posts: 1,037 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
    1) How long did you stay in each of your previous roles? Employers tend to prefer people who have been continuously employed and had fewer jobs who tend to stick around for a while, e.g. someone who has had 3 jobs in the last 9 years (rather than 9 jobs in 9 years). If you haven't been in your current role long then stick it out and get some ACCA papers under your belt.

    2) What did you actually do in each of the previous roles? The more direct tax, VAT, accounts and bookkeeping the better.

    3) What type of roles are you applying for now in practice? And what level? I'm assuming accounts and tax junior? The problem with this type of role is that anyone can do it and therefore it will be highly competitive, e.g. you will be competing with school leavers, sixth formers with a-levels in accounting, graduates with degrees in accounting and ACCA-exemptions, people who have completed the entire AAT/ACCA qualification by exam and have no experience, stay at home mums looking to come back into the work force, career changers, etc.

    4) What qualifications do you have? I'm assuming you are MAAT/FMAAT

    5) What qualifications are you studying for? Employers tend to prefer people studying for ACCA (rather than AAT)

    6) Have you tried to make your CV stand out by becoming competent in the major bookkeeping soft wares, e.g. Sage, Xero, VT, KashFlow, QuickBooks, etc. And by improving your tax knowledge by doing the ACCA tax papers (F6/P6)?

    7) How much research have you done into the major areas affecting accountancy firms at the moment, e.g. cloud accounting, automation, making tax digital, outsourcing work, offering value added services, etc.

    I don't think you are ever going to come across a recruitment agency that specialises in entry level jobs in accountancy firms for older applicants.

    Don't forget that you will be up against cheaper apprentices for entry level roles, and more experienced part-qualified ACCA studiers for semi-senior roles.

    I don't think age should make a difference. An employer simply wants to employ someone who has some relevant experience, hard working and can use their initiative, who is going to stick around, and is capable regardless of age/race/gender/etc. Given that you have worked in industry you should have some interesting skills and experiences that a practice can draw from which they don't currently have from their existing practice-only workforce. I see plenty of older people, especially stay at home mums, coming into the workforce for entry level roles and it is something that will be happen more frequently as the state pension age increases and traditional jobs in an outdated fields disappear.

    Of course it won't be easy getting into an accountancy practice, however with the correct preparation, hard work, and perseverance it is definitely not impossible.
  • edwalford
    edwalford Registered Posts: 5
    Hi Reader,

    Apologies for the late reply and many thanks for your extended post.

    1) Unfortunately In my previous roles (except for one of them where I stayed 3 years), I only stayed for 6 months max, although gained a lot of experience in a small space of time. I have been in my current job for about 14 months, so perhaps not that long really, though i'm really eager to progress with limited or even no opportunities. Still need to finish my AAT before I move on to ACCA or CIMA, although it will of course take time to do this and I feel time is against me really.

    2) In the previous roles, I did mainly transactional accounting, bookkeeping, bit of VAT and quite a bit of payroll, although I prefer mainly varied accounts roles.

    3) You are right in saying that I am applying for junior roles in accountancy practices, and rightly so, younger inexperienced school leavers could fill these roles as well as pretty much anybody else.

    4) I have completed AAT Level 2, currently doing Level 3 with a view to doing Level 4 afterwards.

    5) I have made my CV stand out a little bid - I am competent with all Microsoft packages and experienced with Excel etc. I have used Sage 50/200 in pretty much every accounts role as well as several ERP systems too. Although of course, I won't be the only one with these software attributes!

    6) If i'm honest, I haven't done an awful lot of research into the differing accounting areas although I do prefer Management Accounting (costing etc and working on ways to reduce expenditure).

    I've not seen many who do specialise in just accountancy firms although a good few do have a number of accountant clients on their books...

    True, age shouldn't make any difference, but there is always the feeling that younger people have more time to learn and contribute to a company and therefore appear more of an asset. Having said that I agree that people will be working for longer and therefore age in the future won't be such an issue! Hopefully anyway! :)

    Thanks for the boost about getting in practice, it won't be easy - pretty bloody hard really but hopefully I can edge my way in somehow with perseverance and a bit of luck.

    All the best


  • reader
    reader Registered Posts: 1,037 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
    1) It is excellent that you have been in your current role for 14 months. This makes you look much more credible than people who just jump around from job to job every 3 months because they have the attention span of an ant or can't pass probation.

    2) It is good that you have a lot of the core skills. AAT levels 3 and 4 should help you build on this.


    4) Try to finish levels 3 and 4 ASAP so that you can move onto ACCA and make your CV even more enticing.

    5) It really good you have Sage experience. This is a valuable skill in the practice market.

    6) You should do more research. I wouldn't expect a school leaver to have done much research due to their age/inexperience. However I would have expected much more from an older applicant as they have been around the block and should know that hard work, preparation, and planning are key.

    There are loads of recruiters that have a specialism in accountancy, e.g. protax, jam, reed, aj chambers, morgan hunt/McKinley, etc.

    I would disagree with your comment about young people being an asset. Some young people constantly take sick days due to hang overs, and when they do come to work just play on their phone. In addition, they will know little about life, mortgages, finance, marriage, children and all the other things that make clients tick. If you can relate to an accountancy firm's clients you will be much more of an asset. Consequently you should be much better placed than most young people.
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