Direct entry route to becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA)

CA Qualification. Become a Chartered Accountant

With many ambitious school leavers ready to start a business career straight away, a university may not be the desired route for everyone. ICAS offers a variety of different entry routes into CA training for school leavers.

The school leaver route

The school leaver entry route into the CA qualification enables school leavers to train to become a CA over a five-year training contract with an ICAS authorised employer.

What to expect

The syllabus is taught in such a manner that students are not required to have any previous accountancy knowledge. We would simply recommend that students obtain strong Higher/A-level results that would secure them a place at university. Students studying to become a CA on this route receive a combination of relevant work experience and technical knowledge which is key to becoming a CA.

ICAS authorised employers offering school leaver programmes

We have an exciting range of accountancy firms offering the school leaver entry route, which ranges from multinational firms to small-mid tier firms. Firms that are currently recruiting for school leavers can be found on our Become a CA recruitment platform.

AAT Route

The AAT route allows students to go from school directly into employment, whilst working towards professional development by becoming a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT).

Moving onto CA training from AAT, you'll need to secure a training contract with an ICAS authorised employer and may be eligible for exemptions. To find out more about the AAT route to becoming a CA and exemptions visit the AAT website.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who is ICAS?

ICAS is the first professional body for accountants and was created by Royal Charter in 1854. We are an educator, examiner, regulator and thought leader. Our members have all achieved the internationally recognised CA qualification.

ICAS has over 21,000 students and members worldwide who work in a variety of areas such as industry, public practice and the financial sector and in more than 100 countries around the world.

We represent our members on a wide range of issues in accountancy, finance and business and seek to influence policy in Europe and the UK, always acting in the public interest.

What is the CA qualification?

The CA qualification comprises of exams and work experience which is recorded by students in their Achievement Log. The Achievement Log is competency-based and self-assessed, with ICAS reviewing the Achievement Log during and on completion of the training contract.

To study for the CA qualification, you must meet ICAS' entry requirements and enter into a training contract with an ICAS authorised employer for the prescribed period of normally three years.

Find out more information about the CA qualification and the qualification structure.

How is the qualification structured?

The CA qualification is broken down into the following levels:

Test of Competence: teaches you the basic and technical skills in selected business and accounting subjects.

Test of Professional Skills: this is about applying your technical knowledge, communication skills and working with your clients.

Test of Professional Expertise: combining your knowledge and skills from the previous levels, you will work on a multi-disciplinary case study.

Business Ethics: in addition to including ethics within the three levels, Business Ethics forms a stand-alone subject and assessment.

Work Experience: to qualify as a CA, students must complete a minimum of 450 days' relevant work experience.  

Find out more information about the CA qualification structure.

How long does it take me to qualify as a CA through the school leaver route?

This route generally takes five years to qualify, to find out the different routes available for school leavers visit the information for school leavers section.

How do I apply for School leaver vacancies?

To become a CA, you start by applying for a training contract with an employer ICAS has authorised to train CA students. Opportunities range from multinationals to small-mid tier companies.

Our recruitment website advertises the latest School leaver vacancies with ICAS authorised employers throughout the UK. This site enables you to apply directly for CA training contracts.

What are the entry requirements for school leaver programmes?

Entry requirements vary by employer, however we would recommend students to achieve grades that would secure them a place at university.

Do I finance my CA qualification?

The employer you train to become a CA will cover the costs of the CA qualification. This will all be highlighted when agreeing your CA training contract.


  • Become a Chartered Accountant
  • School leavers route

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