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Teaching to accounting

I would like advice on how I can make a transition to a new career.

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I am aiming to change career from teaching to accounting. I'm currently 29 and have been teaching physics at secondary schools for the last 5 years. I would like to ask for advice on my best route for doing so. I currently live and teach in China and due to commitments with my wife, I will be here for another two years. At this point I plan to finish teaching and pursue accountancy. I have a 2:1 Masters in Physics from Manchester. I understand that getting a training contract would be the standard route to becoming a CA. I would be interested to know how difficult this might be compared to a younger applicant (I would be 31 at this point). More to the point, I am most interested in what I can do during the next two years alongside my current job to give myself the best chance of gaining a training contract or following a different route into accountancy when my time in China is up. I know that relevant work experience would obviously be best but this isn't really an option as an expat here. Would it be worthwhile for me to start (or even get quite far through) the ACCA exams in the next 2 years for example? I have a decent amount of spare time at the moment for studying. Thanks for any thoughts or suggestions.

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By JoF
18th Aug 2019 12:11

Why?
The question of re-training gets asked a lot on here. See here for just one answer. Sure you can find some more with a bit of digging
https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/career-changing-from-teachin...

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By Accountant A
18th Aug 2019 18:15

As JoF has said, what makes you want to be an accountant?

As he also say, this is a topic that comes up every few weeks so it's worth you searching the forum.

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By GR
18th Aug 2019 22:12

Getting through as many ACCA exam courses would be a good idea. Although I don't think you will be able to sit the exams being abroad. Teach yourself how to use Xero and all the associated apps.

I don't think it will be hard for you to break into accountancy, i.e. you should find a junior accountant role, however the pay will probably be around £15k - £20k.

With the way things are going in accountancy, I would not be surprised if robots take over in the next 20 years. Therefore prepare to move back into teaching in 20 years time.

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Replying to GR:
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By SouthCoastAcc
19th Aug 2019 08:16

Pay depends on location, can be fairly easy getting 30k unqualified in the south east with little experience.

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Replying to SouthCoastAcc:
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By Mr_awol
19th Aug 2019 10:03

SouthCoastAcc wrote:

Pay depends on location, can be fairly easy getting 30k unqualified in the south east with little experience.

I think that's a bit optimistic, although rates have increased over the last few years due to a shortage of candidates.

Round here you are looking at 19-21 as a graduate trainee, mid twenties with a few years' experience (say 3-4 years) and to get £30k you probably need a good six plus years in practice, or a formal qualification.

I did a quick jobs search to check I wasn't too wide of the mark and the first one that came up was an AAT level three for a small Medway practice, salary of £21k-£23k.

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Replying to SouthCoastAcc:
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By Maslins
19th Aug 2019 12:21

SouthCoastAcc wrote:

Pay depends on location, can be fairly easy getting 30k unqualified in the south east with little experience.


Really?!
Possibly if it's London, and despite no qualification you have other ways of demonstrating you'll be good at the role.
I think someone with no/negligible accounting experience but perhaps some decent life experience will be more likely to get ~£20k.
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Replying to Maslins:
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By Slim
19th Aug 2019 15:02

At about 40miles from central London, my previous employer struggled to get staff and good staff were very tricky to get, not everyone starts out on 15k-20k.

We had to offer good offices, great perks, flexibility etc Some of the interviews opened my eyes.

Even then it was tricky!

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Replying to Slim:
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By Maslins
19th Aug 2019 15:39

We typically take on "raw" trainees (ie no accounting experience), also ~40 miles from London. Tend to start them on ~£15k. Always get lots of applicants.

The salary does increase fairly quickly, plus of course there's the significant investment (both financial and study time off) for ACCA.

We seem to retain staff fairly well. I appreciate that will boil down to far more than salary.

Still, re this thread, I think someone with no accounting experience, and perhaps a handful of ACCA exams behind them, would be extremely lucky to start on £30k. Only reason they might would be if their previous experience/skills were going to be very useful to the firm (eg an IT or marketing guru, retraining as an accountant, but happy for their previous skills to be utilised by the firm).

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Lone Wolf
By Lone_Wolf
19th Aug 2019 09:22

Do teachers not get taught how to use paragraphs anymore?

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
Hallerud at Easter
By DJKL
19th Aug 2019 10:34

Not in STEM subjects, you need to study humanities or social sciences to graduate to paragraphs.

It is still better than the training for accountants, ICAS for the auditing courses up here tried to encourage us to write in very short blocks with headers before each, "no novel writing" and certainly no answers extending into paragraphs, "if it needs paragraphs the answer is not succinct enough".

( Officially at 11.56 pm yesterday

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Replying to Lone_Wolf:
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By carmz
19th Aug 2019 13:53

I'm not sure why they were lost when I posted this, perhaps because I am on a phone.

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By paul.benny
19th Aug 2019 12:40

carmz wrote:

I am aiming to change career from teaching to accounting.

Why?
It doesn’t matter to me. But a prospective employer will want to understand your motivation, apart from it being Not Teaching

carmz wrote:
I understand that getting a training contract would be the standard route to becoming a CA.

It’s one route. ACA, ACCA and CIMA can all be obtained outside public practice. It depends what career path you anticipate once qualified.

Would you want to remain in public practice – that itself covers a very broad range from general practitioner (typically in a smaller firm, dealing with individuals and small businesses) through to Big 4 firms with very different sort of culture and working practices, with most people becoming specialists.

Or do you want to work in business? Again, a very broad range of roles. Many qualify in practice (ACA or ACCA) and move out. It’s rare to move in the opposite direction.

carmz wrote:
I would be interested to know how difficult this might be compared to a younger applicant (I would be 31 at this point).

Study demands a big time commitment. Your age means you are more likely to be balancing this with family commitments.

carmz wrote:
Would it be worthwhile for me to start (or even get quite far through) the ACCA exams in the next 2 years for example?

That’s a bit like learning a language without spending time in the relevant country. It would demonstrate commitment but it’s of little practical use and you might find the study harder when you’re not doing any of it for real.
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Replying to paul.benny:
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By carmz
19th Aug 2019 14:05

As I've grown older my main interest in life has grown away from science and education and towards business. I will obviously be considering how to convince an employer of this, but honestly it's just what interests me.

Currently I see myself qualifying in public practice and then moving in to business. Although I see myself working in business, as you mentioned, the fact that one can move from public practice to industry but not the other way round is making me favour this route.

Would you have any view on whether it would more or less realistic for me to get a place on a graduate / training scheme in industry straight away?

Thanks for the analogy regarding ACCA exams, I think it's quite a good one. In my position I figured it might be worth a shot just to show commitment though. I was thinking about trying to pass a number of tests roughly equivalent to the exemptions a degree in accounting or finance would earn.

I believe I may be able to 'transfer' some of these test passes to ACA if that is the training route a future employer prefers (i.e. in public practice).

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Replying to carmz:
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By Maslins
19th Aug 2019 15:35

carmz wrote:

...regarding ACCA exams...I figured it might be worth a shot just to show commitment though.


I think your logic here is sound. As has been suggested by others, one concern from potential employers will be your commitment to accountancy. Ie the fear that you'd just had a bad week in teaching, made a rash decision to apply for an accounting job, which 6 months in you drop out from to return to teaching. Of course that still could happen, but if you've been self studying for a year/whatever beforehand, it demonstrates this wouldn't be a snap decision for you.

I've realised when we're looking for new trainees, it really boils down to 3 things:
- do we think they're bright enough - academic qualifications (in any subject) plus our psychometric test results,
- do we like them - cover note/interview,
- are we happy they're committed to accountancy - either some relevant experience, or relevant qualifications.
Sounds like you're a shoe in for the first, can't really tell re the second, but doing some ACCA exams off your own back would defo help with the third.

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Replying to carmz:
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By paul.benny
20th Aug 2019 09:17

Are you in a position to contact the big firms locally? Can they offer you any relevant experience/training?

Gaining relevant experience is probably a bigger selling point to prospective employers for a career changer than having study. If you can get this with the local affiliate of a big firm, it may give you an 'in' once you're back in the UK.

The ICAEW may be helpful.
- there are "Support Members" across the world. There may be someone in your part of China who can make introductions etc.
- There may be resources available to guide 'older' entrants
- There will be a list of organisations offering training outside public practice - the public sector is one (National Audit Office, I think). They are more open-minded about unorthodox entrants.

The poster who mentioned Frank Wood is spot on. If you want to do some self-study, those have long been The bookkeeping primers.

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
19th Aug 2019 13:52

From a recruitment point of view, I think you would find it harder and not easier to self study ACCA, as this puts you in an even odder position than just being an older trainee- which clearly has advantages for an employer in that you will be 'office trained' and more mature than a fresh out when it comes to dealing with situations, but also carries disadvantages in that you are not neatly fitting into the normal defined junior role.

I would just plough through Frank Woods 1 & 2, so at least you can do some double entry bookkeeping and perhaps have a go at AAT lower levels, but i'd play that down. You will still be starting along side 21 year old graduates as far as an employer is concerned. Any delusions of being "ahead" of such peers will be quickly knocked out of you.

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Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
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By carmz
19th Aug 2019 14:11

Thanks for another point of view. My main motivation for taking some of the tests would be to make myself a more convincing candidate given I am switching career. I.e. I'd be hoping that the commitment to accounting shown would outweigh the sort of negatives that you mentioned.

I would be quite aware of and OK with the fact that I would be starting from scratch still with fresh graduates / trainees. Obviously the three years of work experience required mean it wouldn't speed up my qualification in terms of time.

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By NewACA
23rd Aug 2019 16:13

To original poster, you sound pretty much like a clone of myself 13 years ago.

I was a Physics teacher for 4 years, had a degree from Durham University in Physics.

I got a training contract with a local firm. I am sure if you sent your cv to a number of local firms you'd get snapped up pretty fast.

I now have my own small accountancy practice with 5 staff, earning over £100k a year, much more than your average head teacher (maybe!).

Had to take a pay cut at the beginning, and felt like I was in jail (little free time, and a young child or two as well) for a few years as I studied and worked at the same time, it was all definitely worth it!

So go for it!!!

Blessings

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