Follow the school-leaver route and become a Chartered Accountant (CA)
The school-leaver route to becoming an ICAS Chartered Accountant (CA) enables those with good Higher/A Level results to skip university and begin paid training.
Lots of school leavers seeking an interesting and rewarding future in business and beyond choose to bypass university and come directly to ICAS to train as CAs.
You don’t need any accountancy or business knowledge to follow this route, and you’ll earn a competitive salary with your training employer whilst you learn.
All you need are strong Higher/A Level results – like those that would secure a place at university – and the ambition to begin a truly extraordinary career.
Find a CA training vacancy that's right for you:
What to expect
- takes approximately 5 years
- supported study
- earn while you learn
- detailed workplace experience
- a training vacancy that fits
Five-years’ supported study
The school-leaver route to becoming a CA usually takes five years. The qualification is rated at the same level as a master’s degree and is organised to cover everything from the essentials to advanced principles of accounting, business and ethics.
We’ll provide support throughout your studies, offering high-quality information, advice and guidance.
Paid workplace experience
To qualify as a CA, you’ll also need 750 days of relevant practical experience. You’ll gain this by working a training agreement with an ICAS-authorised employer – and earn a competitive salary whilst you learn.
A training vacancy to fit you
The range of available employers varies, from big accountancy firms and large corporations, to government offices, smaller start-ups and local companies, so you’re bound to find a training vacancy that fits.
- Highers or A Levels
- meet the employer’s requirements
- course fees covered
No previous business or accountancy knowledge is required because the ICAS course syllabus is structured to cover everything you’ll need to know.
All that’s required are strong Higher or A Level results, like those that would secure a place at university. However, entry requirements vary per employer, so you’ll need to check carefully before applying for a training agreement.
Fees paid for you
The employer you sign a training agreement with will cover the costs of the CA qualification. This will all be detailed upon commencing your CA training agreement with them.
The alternative AAT route
This route to becoming a CA is suitable if you have:
- Qualified as a full member of the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and have been awarded the MAAT designation;
- Achieved this qualification whilst working at an ICAS Authorised Training Office (ATO); and
- Secured a CA training agreement with an ATO
How long would my AAT training agreement be?
Once the above criteria have been met, you might be eligible to have a portion of your work experience recognised as counting towards your CA training contract length. This time will only be recognised in increments of six months (the minimum), up to a maximum of 24 months and must have been carried out as continuous work experience. Typically, the experience will have been gained at the same ATO at which you will be undertaking your CA training contract. However, experience gained at another ATO immediately prior to commencing your CA training contract may also be recognised as long as the work experience is for a period of at least six months.
Training agreement length - five options:
- No AAT experience (does not meet above criteria) + 5 years/750-day CA Training Agreement
- 6 months of AAT experience + 4.5 year/675-day CA Training Agreement
- 12 months of AAT experience + 4 year/600-day CA Training Agreement
- 18 months of AAT experience + 3.5 year/525-day CA Training Agreement
- 24 months+ of AAT experience + 3 year/450-day CA Training Agreement.
For your work experience to be recognised we require a written statement – sent to firstname.lastname@example.org – from the Training Principal and an authorised Counselling Member of the ATO(s). This must outline the amount of experience gained (stating the number of months) and confirm that it was supervised work experience performed at or above the expected standard of a CA Student Member. Where the Training Principal also meets the qualification criteria of a Counselling Member, a single statement from the Training Principal will suffice.
If you have any other questions about this route please contact us at email@example.com.
Would I be eligible for exemptions from ICAS’ first year Test of Competence (TC) exams?
If you have sat and passed the AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting under the syllabus launching in September 2022, depending on the optional AAT units chosen, you will eligible for up to three exemptions from the following TC exams:
- Financial Accounting
- Management Information and Technology
- Principles of Tax
What is AAT?
To learn more about becoming a member of the Association of Accounting Technicians please visit the AAT website.
Apply for an ICAS CA training agreement
The first step to becoming a CA is to apply for a training agreement with an ICAS-authorised employer. Entry requirements vary per employer, and we offer a range of firms to work with, from small local companies to large corporations.
Find a CA training vacancy that's right for you:
Why should I become a Chartered Accountant?
By training to become an ICAS Chartered Accountant (or CA for short), you’ll be on the fast track to unlock some of the most powerful and rewarding positions in business, accounting and industry, in the UK and internationally.
- Qualify for more than accountancy
- Use the prestigious CA letters after your name
- Unlock international opportunities
- Enjoy competitive salaries and job security
- Join a global business community
- Access ICAS’ unrivalled professional support
How is the ICAS CA qualification structured?
The ICAS CA is widely viewed as one of the most prestigious accounting qualifications in the world.
The advanced syllabus delivers technical expertise in accounting and finance whilst instilling wider business acumen and an overall commercial awareness. It consists of three levels:
- Test of Competence
- Test of Professional Skills
- Test of Professional Expertise and Business Ethics
Assessment is by examination (UK only) and, in addition, candidates must complete, and have validated, 450-750 days of relevant practical experience.
The qualification is credit rated at Level 11 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) and is recognised nationally and internationally as sitting at the level of a Masters degree.
Where do I apply for a CA training agreement?
Our dedicated job site Becomeaca.org.uk offers an interesting range of firms to work and train with, from small local companies to large corporations.
What are the other routes to becoming a Chartered Accountant?
There are various ways to become an ICAS Chartered Accountant (CA), with options for school leavers, graduates, professionals and apprentices:
Where can I view the ICAS 'Become a CA' brochure?
Our Become a CA brochure gives you more information on ICAS, why you should become a CA, and all the training steps required to become a CA.