What should I do once I’ve completed all my AAT qualifications?

We take a look at some of the options open to you when you have completed your AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting (Level 4).

Getting a job 

There’s a wealth of opportunity open to those who’ve completed Level 4. You can now bring numbers to life – rather than just processing them – which makes you incredibly valuable to employers. There’s plenty of accounting work currently out there.

But with an AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting (Level 4), you should really be looking for jobs with the word “manager” in the title: finance manager, purchase ledger manager, sales ledger manager. Roles that include the words “clerk” or “assistant” are probably more suitable for AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting (Level 3) students. 

Pursuing extra qualifications 

Around 50-60% of Professional Diploma students pursue another qualification afterwards. There are many qualifications you could pursue: 

  • CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants): CIMA is more business-orientated. So, if you harbour plans to help a company become more profitable and expand into new markets, then CIMA is the qualification for you. It’ll also allow you to sit exams in your own home, which is great for those who need flexibility, but bad for procrastinators. 
  • ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) and ICAS (Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland): ICAEW/ICAS is for anybody interested in compliance, accuracy, financial data, tax returns and carrying out audit work. To become a chartered accountant, you’ll need to study ICAEW/ICAS. Even though CIMA and ACA have chartered in their names, it doesn’t necessarily result in you becoming a chartered accountant once you qualify. 
  • ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants): ACCA has a mixture of both CIMA and ICAEW. In fact, it’s very similar to AAT. It’s not until the final level of ACCA that you can decide whether to specialise in areas such as tax, audit or management accounting. 

University 

It’s relatively rare for Professional Diploma students to go to university. This is largely because the qualification is equivalent to having studied the first year. We see more Advanced Diploma students go to university because their qualification is equivalent to A-Levels and is awarded UCAS points. If you’re a Professional Diploma student, finding an employer that will support your qualifications may be better than university and its high tuition fees. 

Become an AAT member 

If you get AAT membership, you can put MAAT after your name, which opens up so many doors. Whenever you see an advertised role in finance, they’ll be looking for a professional qualification and AAT will be the one they’ll be asking for. Those letters after your name go a long way. 

Going freelance 

Many people have chosen to set up a small bookkeeping practice or accountancy firm after being furloughed or finding themselves out of a job. If you do this after you have completed your Professional Diploma, remember there are certain certifications you need to obtain with AAT first, such as anti-money laundering regulations. 

Take some time out 

Although it’s great to take a break for a year or so, remember that if you return to qualifications, studying will be more difficult the longer you leave it.   

How can I continue CPD once I’ve finished my studies? 

You may have finished your final assessment, but that doesn’t mean your professional development should end. Constantly flexing your learning is a sure-fire way to progress in your career, stay ahead of your peers and land the job you want 

“If you’re fresh out of studying, you probably don’t want to think about learning or professional development ever again,” says Karen Waite, director of people development firm Leap Like a Salmon. 

But in today’s competitive job market, where technical knowledge trumps experience, the ability to pick up new skills is essential. Continuing professional development (CPD) can be a great way to stay ahead of your peers, keep up to date with the latest industry news and become more employable. 

Consider these sources of CPD 

Thought that CPD mainly involved attending boring training courses, then typing a few lines into a self-assessment form afterwards about your “learnings”? Think again. “Today, any learning that makes you think could constitute CPD,” says Karen. “Webinars have taken off during the pandemic and are a great CPD source. Podcasts are also effective, while you could also write blog posts about accounting, mentoring, volunteering or discussing industry issues on LinkedIn.” 

CPD with AAT 

Head to AAT’s Lifelong Learning Portal and you’ll find a plethora of helpful CPD tools, such as articles, videos, podcasts and webinars. Or visit AAT Comment to keep abreast of the latest accounting news and opinions. Meanwhile, AAT forums and social media are great for sharing and reflecting on your development journey with others. Plus, don’t forget that reading 20 and our member magazine AT counts towards your CPD too! 

Store your CPD somewhere useful 

“Some people jot their CPD on lots of different notes and never remember where they’ve filed it,” says Karen. Fortunately, there are many ways to organise your CPD. Leap Like a Salmon (leaplikeasalmon.com) has a “Leap Hub”, which enables you to upload and store your CPD documents, evidence and notes. Other methods to organise your CPD could include creating a CPD folder on your desktop, or using project management apps such as Trello. 

CPD can encourage positive thinking 

“If you’re feeling low or concerned you can’t do a task, looking back on your CPD can give you confidence you’ll achieve something again,” says Karen. “Sometimes, I look back on the CPD I wrote five years ago and think: ‘Wow, that’s amazing! I can’t believe I did that’. CPD reinforces the idea you are – and can be – great.” 

If you find yourself struggling to read a book from start to finish, or checking your phone 150 times a day, you’re not alone. Our brains have seemingly evolved to prefer short bursts of information. That’s why teaching yourself things in small and frequent snippets can be beneficial. Karen recommends doing this in half-hour chunks.   

Further reading:

The content team are the owners of AAT Comment.

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