Future Accounting Trainees - What firms wish you knew
I’ve created an online course discussing all the things firms have told me over the years. All the things they wish their new clerks knew.
If you want to understand what firms expect of their clerks, this is a great course for you. It will give you an edge in interviews, for you to understand what they’re looking for from you.
Knowing the firm’s perspective will be very valuable for you from Day 1 of your training contract.
Take a look at the link to see the contents.
The ‘ideal’ path to qualifying as a Chartered Accounting is to do your SAICA articles after your CTA. This is because it makes sense to get all the ‘theoretical’ and academic knowledge in your head, and then apply it in practice.
There are a lot of arguments for, and against this. Some people say it’s better to learn the theory while you’re working, that it’s easier to learn the theory if you have more practical experience. I’m not going to get into that debate here.
The reality for a lot of people is that they don’t actually have a choice. Whether they want to or not, they have to start working while they’re studying, so they need to sign a training contract.
Can you start SAICA articles during studies?
Yes, you can. You can sign a training contract at any point in your studies. You can sign one straight out of school, and start articles right after you matriculate.
If you start after your degree, your training contract will be for three years. If you start before your degree is finished, your training contract will be five years. If you complete your degree during your training contract, those five years can be reduced to four years.
SAICA’s regulations are not the challenge here. Your challenge will be finding a firm that will sign you on. It’s up to each firm to decide for themselves who they will employ, and at what point in their studies they’ll sign clerks on. Below, I’ll discuss some reasons that you may struggle to find a firm. (These are purely from the firm’s perspective, so you understand their point of view).
Why don't firms seem to want you?
I created an online course for people who want to do articles / training contracts to explain what firms expect from you. All the stuff firms wish you knew before you started. VERY valuable for you.
The above course goes into all these things in a lot more detail, so I’ll be a lot shorter here:
You're supposed to apply academic learning to practical work
If you haven’t learnt the stuff yet, someone has to go through the theory, and then tell you what to do, how to do it, and why. This takes time, and costs money. Every hour that you’re not working directly on the client’s job, you’re costing the firm money, and they can’t charge the client for your training.
You might not finish the qualification
For all the THOUSANDS of students who start the CA(SA) journey, very few of them actually qualify. The journey is very long (longer if you’re not studying full-time), and the pass rates are low. Firms don’t necessarily want to take on article clerks who may not finish their degree, CTA because they fail or don’t want to continue.
You need study leave, and you're focussing on passing
You aren’t working, but the firm is paying you. Your mental energy is on your studies, which means they’re not getting your full attention on their client’s work
Does this mean you shouldn't start your articles while studying?
I worked and studied at the same time (you can read my qualification journey here). I’d advise students to avoid it like the plague! It’s hard, all-consuming, stressful, exhausting and requires a constant balancing act between what you need to do for others and what you need for yourself. If you attend classes somewhere, you fight traffic after work, consume lots of caffeine to stay awake late into the night. It was very very tough.
I didn’t want to start my SAICA articles before I completed CTA. Both for financial reasons, and because I wanted to get the most out of my articles by having as much technical knowledge behind me as I started.
You need to be work fit. Do not underestimate the energy it takes to put in two ‘work shifts’ (work and studies) a day while most other people struggle with one. If you haven’t studied this way through your degree, starting in CTA or even third year can be a nasty shock to the system. Moving from full-time student to employee is tough enough. There’s a large learning curve, getting used to your environment, people, work, duties, traffic. Then you have all the same study stress on top of that. It can definitely throw your academic year off. Keep this in mind when you’re making your choices!
Will it impact your qualification?
The quality of your career is in your hands. What you do with your experiences is up to you. Someone with all the right resources can mess up their career, while someone who struggles and makes do with what they can may rocket to success. You can only make choices based on the information and knowledge that you have.
If I did it again, I would do things differently. I’d change some of my choices, and some choices I’m proud of. Some choices, I made because that’s the only thing I could do. I can look back with more experience and knowledge than I had back then. I may have felt like I had it tougher… but my journey had a purpose, and I don’t regret that. It’s gotten me to where I am today, and I’m grateful for that. It’s really taught me that it’s up to ME to make or break my career… not my circumstances. Would I be better off now if I’d had the perfect journey then? I don’t think so. That’s really comforting!
Do all these obstacles and challenges mean that you can’t pursue this successfully? No. The more you understand about the industry, reasoning behind firms decisions and your qualification path, the better your decisions will be!
You can do it. Others have done it before you, others are doing it around you. You’re not alone. It’s up to you to make it happen!