CA student school leaver profiles

To hear about studying for the CA qualification without a university degree read some of our school leaver's profiles below.

Calum Finlayson, JC Futures Student at Johnston Carmichael

Calum FinlaysonA desire to work with figures coupled with an interest in business made accountancy an obvious choice for Calum and the prospect of qualifying as a CA before his university peers was very appealing.

Currently on his second year within the Johnston Carmichael Futures programme, Calum provides his reasons for choosing JC Futures.

What did you choose a school leaver programme over attending university?

This entry route is a faster way of getting onto the career ladder, whilst studying towards the same qualification route you would be aiming for if you went down the university route.

Therefore, the prospect of qualifying as a CA in less time than your university peers is undoubtedly a positive feature. Another clear advantage is being able to earn straight from school than potentially building up debt by going to university.

How did you find the transition from studying for school exams to studying for CA exams?

Although the two are very different, I have found the transition to be fairly smooth due to the high level of support I have received from both ICAS and colleagues at Johnston Carmichael.

The main difference between the two is the teaching element. Everything is taught at a slow pace at school and you have plenty of time to take it in, whereas with ICAS you may find yourself having to self-teach part of the course and when you do have the opportunity to attend lectures they are very intense.

Describe your current role?

I am training with Johnston Carmichael and I am currently involved in preparing accounts for non-audit companies.

The standard of training I have received to date has been absolutely superb - both in my day-to day job and that regarding my ICAS studies.

Everyone has taken the necessary time to help me with any queries I may have had and ensure I am comfortable with what I am doing.

Isla Mowat, Audit Trainee at BDO LLP

Isla Mowat Growing up in a business environment led Isla to have a natural understanding of how a highly skilled accountant is vital to any successful business. 

From her enjoyment to working with numbers and her desire to one day set up her own business, Isla was ambitious to start her career early.

Why did you choose a school leaver programme over university?

The school leaver programme proposes an endless amount of opportunities where I can develop quality skills through a structured training programme with full support every step of the way.

Being able to experience accountancy in real life situations not only provides me with a better understanding behind the theory I am learning at ICAS, but also exposes me to a working environment allowing me to get a feel for what the career is actually like.

This has therefore positively enhanced my ability to learn the profession quickly, whilst allowing me to see the bigger picture.

How did you find the transition from studying for school exams to studying for CA exams?

I prepared myself to expect studying for my CA exams alongside a working life to be highly challenging, therefore put the hard work in right from day one. I feel the main difference is that the CA exams involve taking in a large volume of information in a short period of time.

However, training as an accountant and studying for my CA exams is hugely beneficial towards my understanding of the theory. At school you are just given material and told to learn it, whereas the school leaver programme allows you to experience what you are learning in real life situations.

Describe your current role?

At BDO I have been given the opportunity to interact with a diverse range of clients from nursing homes to cheese making companies.

What I enjoy the most is being able to have an insight into numerous different industries, helping to shape my future career in terms of specialising in a specific area.

A major advantage the school leaver programme has over the graduate programme is you are exposed to more clients as your ICAS exams are more spread out, as opposed to the three year training programme that graduates undertake.

This has allowed me to gain more experience than the other graduates.

I have been working on account preparations as well as audits, which in a way supplement each other therefore widening the skills you can learn.

I have also performed stocktakes at client premises which is an area I enjoy as you are able to undertake a piece of work from start to finish which is always satisfying and rewarding.

Cammy Taylor, Trainee Associate at EY

Cammy Taylor With a few weeks to go before starting University, Cammy heard about EY's school leaver programme and found there to be more benefits of starting the programme as opposed to going to University. With maths and business management being the subjects Cammy excelled at most, he felt a career as a CA was an obvious choice.

Why did you choose a school leaver programme over university?

I had received an unconditional offer to study accountancy at university, but the university wasn't my first choice.

A few weeks before I was due to start there I heard about EY's school leaver programme. Having previously completed work experience there in 2010, I was already aware of how big a firm they were, so I thought there was no harm in researching the programme.

The school leaver programme had so many more benefits than university, and for me being able to qualify as a CA before the time your friends have left university was very appealing.

How did you find the transition from studying for school exams to studying for CA exams?

It did take me a bit of time to adapt, but personally it does take me a while to grasp new things. From speaking to colleagues I think that they have made the transition a lot more smoothly than me, but I feel everyone is different with their learning.

Describe your current role?

The first few weeks of my training were very difficult for me as I was making the transition between school life to working life and this required me to grow up quickly!

As a trainee associate working for EY, I have been involved in the day-to-day work of an auditor. At EY Aberdeen, we focus solely on clients in the Oil & Gas industry. I have performed audit work on numerous clients' accounts, including some of the major companies operating in the Oil & Gas industry.

Every day I learn something new when I'm on the job, which is one of the reasons why I thoroughly enjoy what I do. Since I have been at EY, I am constantly learning and developing technical skills and I have been able to develop good working relationships with my clients. Although I'm only 18 years old, I am treated by clients in the same respect to my colleagues.

Laura Montgomerie, Audit Assistant at Alexander Sloan

Laura Montgomerie Having always been interested in working in the financial sector and having a part-time job in a building society whilst at school, Laura was very aware of the opportunities a career in accountancy could bring. Having being awarded as Employee of the Year at Alexander Sloan, Laura can already see how valuable school leavers can be within a firm and that her hard work is clearly paying off.

Why did you choose a school leaver programme over university?

Becoming a fully qualified CA via the traditional route takes 4 years at university and a further 3 years after you graduate. With the school leaver entry route, I can become qualified in five years and won't have any student debt to worry about either. It also means that by the time I qualify I will have 5 years on the job training (as opposed to 3 years) which will be indispensable.

How did you find the transition from studying for school exams to studying for CA exams?

There is definitely a noticeable jump in the difficulty and complexity of the exams, however there is plenty of support available from both work colleagues and from ICAS.

What I found most challenging was finding the time to study out with work. At school you are given extensive holidays and class time for studying. It was difficult at first to find a balance between working, studying and having a social life!

Describe your role within Alexander Sloan?

When I started, I worked in the accounts department which involved preparing annual accounts, management accounts and VAT returns. This allowed me develop my practical accounting skills and provided me with a great exposure to the backbone behind a set of financial statements.

This undoubtedly provided me with an excellent foundation for working on my first audit jobs when I moved into the audit department 18 months later. One of the biggest advantages of working in audit is being out and about at clients for the majority of the time. This means you are always working somewhere different, alongside different people which gives a great exposure to different businesses and their processes.


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