The pros and cons of an accountancy school leaver scheme

The pros and cons of an accountancy school leaver scheme

The pros and cons of an accountancy school leaver scheme

Accountancy school leaver schemes, the good the bad and the ugly. Find out whether they are right for you from someone who is doing one. The discussion between the pros and cons of an accountancy school leaver scheme vs going to university is going to be a controversial topic for a long time. I am going to let you make your own opinion with the following pros and cons.



Ok, let’s get this one out the way. For some this is the biggest draw to going straight into work. If you go to university in England, to study Accounting and Finance, you will be spending at least £9,000 a year. And that’s just tuition fees! Swap this however, with earning much more than this a year (in some cases double in your first year) and it makes you think.


While working as well as studying you are gaining invaluable experience in the field. This simply cannot be replaced by any education system. Of course, going to university will help you learn the theory but if you asked a graduate to create a set of accounts for an FRS102 1A company they wouldn’t know where to start. This is where, in my opinion school leaver schemes trump university. A perfect example of this is me. When I first joined the firm I couldn’t tell you what a debit or a credit were. Now I can set up a reasonable set of accounts from start to finish. Now of course, my work is not perfect however, I am no worse than graduate, in the same firm, who started at the same time as me with an Accounting and Finance degree under their belt.


Becoming a Chartered Accountant is one of the most worthwhile profession journeys you can do. The doors the qualification opens up are endless and as soon as you are qualified you are likely going to be in demand for the rest of your career. The fact that in a school leaver scheme you can start the qualification at such a young is a massive bonus. The biggest bonus however, is that the entire qualification is paid for by the firm. This is a serious amount of money invested in you by the firm. When you compare tuition that is paid for you for a profession qualification vs paying close to ten grand a year for a degree – well, you do the maths.


Linking on nicely from the above point is the total time it will take until you become qualified (assuming you pass all the exams). If you do a degree which takes three or four years, depending on the type, then do a three-year training contract at a firm, this will take you potentially seven years (assuming you have no gap year, masters or year out of uni). With a school leaver programme your training contract will be five or six years. Even if you are given the longer contract you will still become a chartered accountant quicker than if you went to university.


No degree

The most obvious con of not going to university is not getting a degree. Some might argue that if you get a professional qualification why does this matter? Well the answer is simple. First of all, some employers will want to see a degree as it shows hard work and determination over a long period of time (as do other things but it is the most common example). The second reason is that there is a reasonable possibility that you may not complete the professional qualification. Either because accountancy  isn’t for you, or you don’t pass the exams. If either of these happen and you went to university and graduated with a degree, then you have something to fall back on. This is no the case if you are a school leaver as the only qualifications you will have will be from school. This rules you out of graduate jobs which could be an issue. The moral of the story is – if you want to go into something that takes a lot of work and time, make sure you want to do it!


Something I noticed that I didn’t initially think about is the reduction in holidays. When you are at school or university you get used to the long summer holidays along with all the other holidays that are included in the school year. When you go to work you get about 30 days holiday a year (if you are lucky, some places will give you less). This is even worse when all your friends are on holiday having a great time together while you are stuck in the office. Don’t let this get you too down though as you get weekends and you are earning money which they aren’t, so bear this in mind.

Relaxing/Uni being important experience

Last but not least, the university experience is something that many deem to be an important part of life. University is where you will become more mature and for most people is the first time they will live away from home. University is a brilliant place to do this as you are in the same boat as thousands of others around you. On a school leaver salary it is unlikely you will be able to move out straight away, especially near to the areas that the major firms are based e.g. the centre of major cities.

The other benefit of university is it is three or four years of extra time to have fun before your working life begins. This is not to be underestimated as some people just aren’t ready to begin to work.


Whatever you do make sure you are ready to begin working in a work environment before you hand in your application for an accountancy school leaver scheme.

At the end of the day it is completely up to you which route you take. Both are beneficial in different ways and there is no wrong answer. Ultimately the only person making the decision is you and you have to think strongly about whether you are ready to enter the workplace.

If you want to read out guide on how to get onto an accountancy school leaver scheme click here.

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