Accountancy: one of the most challenging professions to access?

Accountancy: one of the most challenging professions to access?

British adults believe accountancy to be amongst the most challenging profession to enter without a degree, according to a recent study.

Accountancy: one of the most challenging professions to access?

A new poll commissioned by AAT has found accountancy to be amongst the least accessible jobs without a university degree.

The findings of the research led by Opinium Research, which surveyed 2,005 adults, was released as thousands of young individuals complete their UCAS applications ahead of Wednesday’s deadline.

Out of those surveyed, many considered a lower-income background to be a crucial barrier to entering the profession. It was found that 47% of respondents believe this could hold an individual back from becoming an accountant, with 18 to 34-year-olds being more likely to support this claim compared to over 55s.

An ethnic minority background was also seen as a barrier to entering the profession by 22% of people surveyed – marking the still present issue.

In addition, the high cost of qualifications represents a major obstacle to the sector, with the relevant studies costing an estimated £21,356 for individuals wishing to access the accountancy profession. Despite this, accountancy is perceived as a well-paid career, with almost half of those surveyed believing so, although only 13% said it was a ‘rewarding’ job and 9% described it as ‘stimulating work’.

Perhaps surprisingly, only 8% of respondents saw the accountancy profession as ‘elitist.’ AAT members and students supported this claim, with 57% and 62% saying the sector was open to everyone, regardless of their background.

A different route

In response to the findings, Mark Farrar, Chief Executive at AAT, explained how entering the accountancy profession can also be achieved without studying for a degree, such as through an apprenticeship: “Going to university after completing school education remains a popular route – and there is no doubt that, for many of the thousands of young people currently completing their UCAS forms, putting down various university options remains their best route to take.

“But it’s not the only path available. There are other ways of accessing the accountancy profession, such as taking a vocational route like an apprenticeship. This approach wouldn’t saddle you with debt, nor would it cost several thousand pounds of your own money. Instead, you can earn while you learn – often in a junior accounting role supplemented by time to study accounting qualifications, the cost of which is frequently covered by your employer. Apprenticeships add to the diversity of their workforce, too – and many large accounting practices feature highly in the UK Government’s social mobility index.”

Farrar continued: “AAT qualifications are open to all – meaning you can become a professional accountant irrespective of your background, class or ethnicity. Despite common misconceptions, accountancy isn’t a profession dominated by men from higher-income backgrounds – two-thirds of AAT members and student members are female, while many thousands of our students are from lower income backgrounds and taking their first steps in an exciting career in finance.”

Towards new opportunities

Firms are now also focusing on providing further opportunities for individuals desiring to enter the profession – by offering new programmes and work experiences designed for non-university graduates. PwC, for instance, is gradually changing its recruitment process by expanding its talent pool, leaving the traditional hiring process behind.

Laura Hinton, Chief People Officer at PwC UK, said: “The accountancy profession is changing rapidly and we’re working hard to create as many routes into PwC as possible for as diverse a group of people as possible. Over the last few years, we’ve deliberately evolved our recruitment strategy with a stronger focus on growing our apprenticeships, school leaver programmes, work experience placements and degree partnerships.

“This is to ensure students without a university degree have the same access to opportunities. The world of work is changing rapidly and it’s important that we invest in people with the talent and potential to adapt to change – regardless of their background.”

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