When it comes to career progression, having a recognised qualification behind you can stand you in good stead, and show employers that you have the commitment and knowledge it takes to carve out a successful career in finance.
Having the time to study, however, can be tricky when you’ve got a full-time job. Fortunately, there are now a range of options, including online and distance learning courses, for finance professionals.
Stuart Pedley-Smith, head of learning at Kaplan Financial, says the big advantage of doing an online learning course is the fact that students can fit it in around their work schedule and other commitments. “You can slot an exam in when it’s convenient and study independently in your own time,” he notes.
How to stay motivated
Being in control of your own learning programme can, however, bring its own set of problems. Namely, the fact you have to stay motivated and make sure you don’t succumb to distractions.
In order to ensure you stay focused Pedley-Smith says that it is worth trying to schedule a timetable for your learning. “It’s about making the most of your down time and applying the same sort of discipline that you would to getting fit or any other sort of project,” he notes.
Allocating set study times and breaking it down into small, achievable chunks of time during the day should, says Pedley-Smith, help you stay focused.
If, however, you are struggling to concentrate the mind when it comes to studying, the fact that you will probably be financially rewarded might help.
The 2017 AAT Salary Survey found that a third (32%) of AAT members received a bonus, typically 3% of salary at student level and 4% for full and fellow AAT members.
The survey showed a salary increase at each AAT level, with an average salary of £17,591 for those with a Foundation Certificate in Accounting to £20,897 at Professional Diploma level to £37,490 for FMAAT.
Moving up the career ladder
Claire Owen, an accountant at Loud and Clear Accounting, says one of the best things about having a qualification behind you is that it gives you knowledge of a wide range of topics, from bookkeeping to tax calculations. “It gives you a very solid understanding of accountancy in its entirety and that enables you to focus and specialise as your career progresses – whether that is using the exemptions and moving onto the ACCA or setting up your own businesses,” she notes. “I’ve really appreciated the flexibility of it.”
Owens said that she was fortunate to get a pay rise each time she completed a level whilst studying. “I think having a qualification behind me helped me to gain the new roles I needed to progress up the career ladder,” she comments. “It showed that commitment and breadth of experience.”
Jack Conlan, an accountant at a Premier League football club and Kaplan student, passed eight exams in under a year with OnDemand. Conlan says he set himself a target when he graduated university of being fully-qualified before the end of 2017. “I achieved that with a few months to spare,” he notes. “My motivation was driven purely by professional development.”
Conlan says the fact that he could access the course on his laptop wherever he was, be it at a café or at home, and the interactive tools the OnDemand programme offered, made it more manageable. “The mock exams and also the ability to pause and replay the videos for parts of the syllabus that I struggled with really helped,” he notes.
Increasing your salary
Lee Owen, senior business director at Hays Accountancy & Finance, says finance and accountancy staff with a qualification behind them usually have the edge over those that don’t. “The qualifications provide training for a range of accountancy and finance roles which allow students to take their first step towards working in the industry,” he notes.
The financial benefits can also be considerable, says Owen. “Candidates who possess a [qualification] can usually demand a slightly higher salary than those who don’t,” he notes. “Having a qualification or working towards one will allow professionals to demonstrate their worth to their employer – and thus move up the career ladder quicker, potentially increasing their salary,” he says.
So, perhaps the question is not whether you can afford the cost of getting qualified, but rather, can you afford not to?
Want to breeze through your AAT qualification?
With Kaplan’s OnDemand course you get:
- Access to dedicated tutor support when you need it – including evenings and weekends
- Online resources include tutor-led videos, practice questions, study materials and an integrated workbook.
- Over 600 practice questions including mock exams with personalised feedback.
Try it for yourself with an extensive free demo of OnDemand
Kaplan is the UK’s leading global provider of diverse education and training.