Go for it! Top tips from a current Q2022 student

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When dental hygienist Emma Sainty decided to turn her lifelong affinity for numbers into a new career by retraining as an accountant, she was advised that AAT qualifications were the way to go.

“I’ve always liked maths and I found I was really enjoying the logic of the bookkeeping work I was doing for my part-time job as a payroll administrator,” says Sainty, who lives in Chesterfield in Derbyshire with her husband and son.

“So, I asked both the bookkeeper at work and the accountant who does my self-assessment returns for their advice, and they both recommended an AAT course.”

Her AAT journey began with Bookkeeping Level 2 Certificate, which she started online in September 2022, making her one of the first people to take the new Q2022 qualifications.

About the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping Q2022

“The purpose of the Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping is to ensure students have the solid bookkeeping skills necessary for most finance roles. Students will develop practical accountancy skills in the double-entry bookkeeping system and in using associated documents and processes, as well as dealing with VAT ad trail balances while developing their understanding of the relationship between various accounting records.”

Keen to progress in her chosen field, Sainty quickly followed that up with the advanced bookkeeping course, which she also did online before heading to the nearby city of Sheffield to take her exams.

About the Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping Q2022

“The purpose of the Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping is to ensure that students have the advanced skills necessary to work in a bookkeeping role or to progress to higher level accountancy. Students will develop skills and knowledge required to complete complex bookkeeping transactions while gaining an understanding of the advanced bookkeeping principles and concepts, issues around indirect tax and how to prepare financial statements.”

Having aced both courses, she then decided to take on the conversion course to gain her level 3 accounting diploma, which she is working towards now.

About the Level 3 Diploma in Accounting Q2022

“The purpose of the AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting is to provide students with the specialist knowledge and skills required for progressing either to employment in an accounting or finance role, or to enable progression to further education. This qualification offers technical training in accounting and is ideal for anyone wishing to pursue a career in accountancy and finance.”

“I’ve really enjoyed the courses so far and have found it quite easy to manage studying alongside my jobs, which include working six days a month as a dental hygienist as well as my part-time payroll role for Right Mix Concrete Ltd,” adds Sainty, 47.

“Now, my longer-term plan is to move into accountancy full time. “I think I’d like to work in business as I’m finding management accounting really interesting so far. But I’m just seeing where it takes me at this stage.”

Here are her top tips for anyone just starting Q2022.

Choose the right learning environment

Like many AAT students, Sainty chose to study for her qualifications with an online training provider.

“I’ve done all my training online with ICS Learn,” says Sainty. “I had a look at what was available and chose an online course for convenience mainly, as it was easier to fit around my other commitments.” However, online courses require greater personal motivation than classroom-based alternatives.

“I’ve done a lot of CPD online for my job as a dental hygienist over the years, so I knew I was comfortable studying that way,” Sainty adds. “But if you lack discipline, an online course may not be the best option; you’ll probably be better off in a classroom.

“I would also say the same if you have no experience in finance whatsoever, as you’ll probably benefit from having more in-person support.”

Put the hours in

AAT courses are designed to be flexible enough to allow people from all walks of life access to a career in finance. But you still need to put the time in if you want to pass your exams.

“I don’t find studying alone a chore, especially with this because it’s something I really want to do,” Sainty says. “But if you are going to be working at the same time, you must be prepared to put the hours in working towards your AAT qualifications at weekends or in the evenings.”

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

One of the big advantages of studying with AAT is having an expert tutor you can turn to when you get stuck. “Ask for help when you need it,” Sainty says.

“If you’re struggling with something, speak to your tutor, or email him or her if you’re doing an online course. “Otherwise, you’ll keep making the same mistakes again and again.”

Get on-the-job experience where you can

Taking an AAT qualification provides you with the tools you need to start working in finance.

But there’s no substitute for on-the-job experience, which will also stand you in good stead when you’re looking for your first accounting or bookkeeping job. “I’ve been lucky in that I already work with someone who does bookkeeping and have been able to learn from them,” Sainty adds.

“Now that I’ve started studying accounting, I’m also shadowing my accountant one day a month to gain experience in that field.”

Further reading

Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.

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