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Should I continue my studies?

To get fully qualified or not?

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It's that time of year again when I ask myself the question above. I'd just like to hear what people think.

My background - I've been working in finance since the early 90's, I passed AAT in 2003 and started studying with one of the chartered bodies where I quickly got through the initial exams.

With work I started out as an Accounts Clerk in industry and became a Management Accountant in 2003. In 2006 my boss was caught doing some things that [he or she] shouldn't have been doing and I was called upon to step up and take the reins of the accounts department. I was given the tittle of Cheif Accountant and was incharge of finance faclilties in the UK and two other european offices.

All of that was a destraction from my studies and I pulled out of the exams that I was due to take. I started studying again in 2008 but with a personal desaster and the credit crunch hitting, again, I was unable to focus on studying and pulled out of exams.

Since then I have seen a few more corporate scandals (all extremely good experience) and, I feel, that I'm at the top of my game. In 2014 it was all put to the test when the company that I worked for folded and I needed to look for a new job.

Despite having the label 'Part-qualified' and/or 'Qualified by experience', I only got put forward to Financial Controller/Chief Accountant level jobs and had offers from all the jobs I was interviewed for.

I now have a Financial Controller/Chief Accountant level job in a slightly different sector.

I seem to be completely unaffected by the fact that I've never fully qualified, yet I know of much younger people that have qualified that seem to stay in 'accounts assistant' type roles for years and years and struggle to get any further.

Is there any point in me trying to complete my qualification? ...I'm 44 and could probably complete outstanding exams in two sittings.

Anybody else in the same boat? ...or does anybody feel that qualifying not that necessary (not including practice).

Does anyone have the oposite opinion that it is totaly necessary?

What would you do in my situation?



Replies (12)

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By tom123
16th Feb 2018 13:41

In my view, it is never a bad idea to finish qualifications that you are able to.

You never know when not having them will be an issue.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
16th Feb 2018 14:30

The main point of the exams is to prove your potential and broaden your knowledge.

"job done" on that score quite frankly.

I am about the same age as you and passed all mine first time out of the traps by the time i was 24 (in fact I was exam qualified at 23). Whilst its still helpful to pin the "CA" badge on now and again but it has almost nothing to do with my day to day work.

I am not sure it would be a doddle to pass them however. You would probably have to learn a lot of stuff you wont use again, that said some of it may be useful.

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Hallerud at Easter
16th Feb 2018 14:59

I had the same thoughts a long time ago, should I complete ACCA after not completing CA.

The lack of CA certainly slowed early career progression, in practice I stalled at a audit/tax senior level/sort of manager level in a smaller firm in my later 20s, I jumped into industry for the first time age 30, returned to practice at 34 (to same firm in same role but better paid) then jumped again (to current role) age 39 (18 years ago) as I was not, working in practice and despite promises, really going to progress.

The main thing seems to be the scale/size of business that will employ, I have both times in industry worked for private companies/groups, I doubt really large entities would employ me , certainly not for what I am currently paid.

The private company sector buys your skills but also likely places far more trust in you the individual, re both the above I was approached re the positions (both clients), I applied for neither.

I think there does come a time when even if you did gain the qualification it would be too late re larger employers anyway, and re smaller ones I doubt they would really care, so certainly post 50 it is imho too late to impact my earnings, besides I doubt I would these days be happy as a small cog in a big wheel, I have got used to being no 1 re financial matters.

The question really has to be, if you now get the qualification would it really make much difference re what you would likely want to do and be accepted to do?

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Replying to DJKL:
By Numberwang
16th Feb 2018 15:21

I agree with that totally.

I guess I'm at an age where I'm thinking about completing things that I had every intention of finishing when I started (I'm not including my bathroom or kitchen in that...both of those I have good reasons/excuses for).
I guess it's more about ego than anything - I had a career in music before I started in accounting (hence the late start), I never had any music related qualifications despite being quite a successful recording and performing musician, I always felt a bit of a fraud so, in 2016 I sat and passed two sets of grade 8 music exams - I now feel that I've rounded that off and can properly call myself an expert rather than trying to convince people that i'm 'the equivalent to a grade 8 musician'.
I guess I feel the same about accountancy - although, in answer to your question, it wouldn't make any difference to me whatsoever....and that's probably the deciding factor.

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By John Charman
16th Feb 2018 20:17

Sounds like you've been a success overall. So I wouldn't suggest you need it.

I don't think being qualified makes a great difference. I'm in practice and am regularly recruiting new employees, and I dont insist on potential employees being qualified.

Like mentioned above by someone else though. I had to get the Chartered status for my ego mainly.

Have you been in touch with the professional body? And can you definitely carry on from where you left off? As I know some bodies have a time limit. If you had to start again or were significantly put back then that may help you make your decision.

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By Agutter Accounts
22nd Feb 2018 10:31

I started in accounts 31 years ago at the age of 37 and started doing CIMA but only got as far as studying for Level 2 in the early 90s. And like you, the vicissitudes and vagaries of life intervened. I never finished the exams.

In 2007 I was made redundant from a long term job in the property industry. I spent 4 years freelancing on the temp scene turning my hand to any aspect of accounts that came to hand.

Meanwhile a did a Skillstrain course that in many ways was an equivalent to AAT and passed everything with no problem. It proved to me I really do know my stuff.

Seven years ago I set up my accounting practice, catering for those who otherwise would be unable or unwilling to employ the high street accountant. It has involved me turning my hand to all the basic accounting tasks, and educating myself in all the nooks and crannies of our "wonderful" tax system. It's been challenging but I have always come thorough.

I look at the work done by people who have the usual letters after their name, and to be honest I wouldn't sign off on some of it. And for the fees charged, I think for the ordinary small business person the standard high street accountant represents poor value for money.

My advice is simple. you can have all the impressive sounding letters after your name. But that just says you've passed the requisite exams. You then have to prove yourself at the sharp end. I've done that, and from what you have said, so have you.

At the age of 68, I intend to carry on for perhaps 5 years or more. There's lots of work for my business model - micro-businesses and freelancers. I occasionally think of completing an AAT but at my age it would be for personal satisfaction only. I know what I can do, that I know what I am doing, and I like doing it.

You have an impressive CV. That for me says an employer looking for someone with experience at the sharp end should give you a chance. Do a qualification by all means. It may open more doors, if that is what you want. But essential to continued satisfying employment, I suggest it is not.

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Replying to Agutter Accounts:
By Numberwang
22nd Feb 2018 11:11

This is exactly what I was thinking (this is my post by the way, I started it anonymously but then realised that you can't reply anonymously!).

I too was made redundant four years ago and one of the things that put me off completing my studies was that the ACCA were absolutely horrible during the time that I was out of work....for all the years that I paid my student subscription, their message to me was "we don't care that you're not earning, we want our money"....the AAT, on the other hand were completely sympathetic.

I also have had similar experiences with 'qualified' accountants and have mostly been left wondering how they maintain gainful employment. I remember once being audited by BT and I spotted a huge material error in the previous years numbers - BT told the board that they wouldn't put through a prior year adjustment as it would make them look stupid!

I think my mind is made up!

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Replying to Numberwang:
By Agutter Accounts
22nd Feb 2018 14:03

Yes, the errors committed by so-called "professions" can be glaring, and the most infuriating thing is they won't hold up their hands to it. Then we wonder why we get Carillion. Professional snobbery can be most irritating at times. The same or worse applies to lawyers and surveyors in my experience.

It's always seemed to me the AAT course is down to earth and fits you for what you will encounter in your daily round. If I decided to complete a formal qualification, that's the way I'd go.

Hang in there. You know your stuff and there will always be those who will value your expertise and experience. Much of my work comes from personal recommendation so I must be getting things right. I am never short of work and for that I am very thankful.

Best of luck!

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By John Murdock
22nd Feb 2018 10:32

I am in a slightly different position. I actually qualified as ACCA back in 1987 and became FCCA. I qualified whilst in practise at a firm of Chartered Accountants and became Technical Manager dealing with new legislation, SSAPs (you can tell how long ago it was) and specialised audits.

I left practise and went into industry in 1990. I let my membership lapse as it was of no practical use to me.

In 1997 I set up my practise and have never looked back. I did consider renewing my membership but decided against it. The only things I cannot do is audits (not really bothered) and it used to prove more time consuming getting approval for clients' mortgage applications as lenders did not recognise ICPA.

This only proves that there are other routes to becoming a respected accountant other than putting letters after your name.

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By FCExtraordinaire
22nd Feb 2018 10:44

I don't think you need to do the exams as you clearly have a role with proven responsibility and status.

However, at 44 years old , you have over 20 years of working life left and I would safeguard the future being assured that you are in the best position should you ever need to find yourself another position.

It would only be two sittings , as you say, which is not alot of time in the grand scheme of things and which you can then say that you achieved what you wanted, even if you don't need them right now.

Although different to your situation, I do alot of contracting and the qualification is essential on your C.V. to be considered for any positions of any FM or better.

I qualified ACCA in 1999, got a PC, and at age 48 I completed 4 years of part-time study for an Economics degree. I am now doing ATT exams to formalise the tax areas that I know and have worked in.

I personally don't think you can have too many qualifications at any age as you never know when you may need them. Once you have got them, you've got them. If you are time-barred, you may be able to do something else such as a MBA, which many managers opt for.

My viewpoint may be different as I have not had a 'regular' job in years and the competition maybe different. IMO, employers do still look at this as it offers them a standard for comparison.

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By dmmarler
22nd Feb 2018 11:03

If you are AAT qualified, with your background that is sufficient (particularly as you have other post AAT passes). AAT has progressed considerably over the years, is a full member of IFAC and recognised for regulatory purposes. Make sure your AAT membership is up to date and you carry out appropriate CPD and all will be well.

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By bradburn
27th Feb 2018 13:02

I am 51. Never finished my qualifications. I now run the accountancy practice that I have worked for for 30 years. In fact the practice I work for gave up their "chartered" status many years ago when the institute brought in "practice assurance" and wanted to charge us silly amounts of money for checking our work. (something like £800 for checking a client that we only charged about £400). The only problem with the non-qualification was when banks wanted us to certify someones earnings. Well now they want records from HMRC anyway!

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