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How to become a chartered accountant

At Robert Walters in South Africa we've been successfully managing the careers of newly-qualified accountants for 15 years. So, we're well placed to offer you the help and advice you need at this key point in your career.

If you are currently in high school your subject choice must include core mathematics. The minimum entry requirements for university is a Level 4 pass in mathematics and a university exemption. Before applying to a university check that it's accredited by SAICA.

Good English skills are also essential to get good results and will help you understand concepts better. School accounting might be useful but it's not essential to get into most universities.

Full-time study: should study a relevant BCom degree at a SAICA accredited university. When you have your degree you must complete your certificate in the theory of accounting (CTA) or an equivalent qualification. It takes at least one year. You are then eligible for a three year training contract with an accredited training organisation such as an auditing firm or in the public or private sector which offer various training electives.

Part-time study: you can do a five year training contract with an accredited training organisation in the public or private sector. You will then need to complete a relevant BCom degree and your certificate in the theory of accounting (CTA) or an equivalent qualification while you are training. If you have a non relevant degree your training contract will last four years during which you will need to complete a bridging programme and your CTA.

Exams: Once you have your degree, CTA and are working in your training contract, you must pass Part 1 of the Qualifying Examination, complete a professional programme which will then allow you to write Part 2 of the Qualifying Examination. You must have completed a minimum of 18 months of your training contract before you can write the second qualifying examination.

Once you have completed your training and passed your exams you will be a Chartered Accountant CA (SA).

First things first you need a good CV - A good CV is absolutely vital to getting you noticed in the first instance. Always remember that it has one purpose: to help you get that all important interview.

Finding a job as a Newly-qualified Chartered Accountant

First things first you need a good CV - A good CV is absolutely vital to getting you noticed in the first instance. Always remember that it has one purpose: to help you get that all important interview.

You don’t have much time to impress with your CV – employers tend to scan rather than read them – so it must generate interest but be succinct and to-the-point.

Crucially, it needs to show that you have what it takes to be successful in your chosen career. The best CVs are typically made up of education and work experience. You also need to think about out-of-work activities that make you stand out.

Don’t just list your hobbies, highlight achievements outside work, and expand on them rather than using broad, throw-away statements. For example, say you ‘climbed to K2 base camp’, rather than ‘enjoy mountain climbing’. Or, ‘elected as social secretary of Thames Rowing Club’, rather than ‘enjoy rowing’.

Employers like to see your A-level results (or equivalent), including subjects and grades, your degree and your accountancy qualification. If you gained first time passes, distinctions or awards, be sure to highlight these.

You need to talk about the experience that makes you stand out. You are competing for the top roles with other candidates from very similar work backgrounds. What have you done that shows initiative or flexibility?

For example, have you worked on special projects for a client rather than just ‘vanilla’ audit? If so, describe the extra responsibility you had, what you have learned and the extra skills developed.

Focus on what you can offer the employer - Focus on the employers’ needs, not what you want from them. Think ‘who would make the perfect candidate for this job?’ and make sure you cover all aspects in your CV. Illustrate your achievements to demonstrate what makes you a superior candidate.

After you have made a point on your CV ask yourself ‘why is that important to an employer?’ – this helps you to write relevant points about your achievements rather than bland statements.

Be clear, concise and to the point - Employers (and recruiters) are very adept at spotting ‘padding’.

Interview preparation

Your consultant will brief you in full before each interview, giving you advice about the role, the company and pointers for further research. This briefing will also ensure that you are not caught out by obvious questions such as, ‘why are you leaving your current role?’, ‘what do you earn?’, ‘what are your salary expectations?’ and ‘why do you really want this particular role?’

Our consultants can also guide you through the techniques required to answer tricky competency based and technical questions, as well as giving pointers on how to approach psychometric testing.

Handling your contract negotiation

When you receive an offer, your consultant is still on hand to guide you through the contract negotiation process. According to your instructions, your consultant negotiates your new salary and benefits package on your behalf, including bonus percentages, start dates, issues concerned with work / life balance and holiday entitlement. This ensures you start the role on the right note and will save you valuable time.

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