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The routes into a career in accountancy are more varied than ever. Amanda Meyer, Professor of Accountancy at Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Scotland, argues that non-traditional routes are now more prevalent than ever before

A professional accountancy qualification should almost guarantee a highly lucrative and successful career. However, industries have been hit hard in the recession and young individuals wishing to join the blue-chip profession that is accountancy need to consider their options carefully.

The importance of professions to the UK’s economy and society cannot be understated and there is a strong case for government and the professions to do more to ensure fair access for all.  However, with student degree fees set to rise significantly in 2012 from £3,000 per annum, to a maximum of £9,000 in England, bright and able young people should be encouraged to consider non-traditional ways of gaining their education to minimise debt.

Wise employers will also need to cast their net wider to ensure that they do not restrict their access to an untapped population of capable students by focusing on those who can afford to pay or are willing to take the risk of incurring huge student debt.

Interestingly, unlike many other professional accounting bodies around the world, access to training for the UK based bodies such as CIMA, ACCA, ICAEW and ICAS, is not restricted to graduates.  School leaver options are available for many of the UK based professional bodies, either directly or through access programmes such as AAT.

School leavers are therefore now faced with a real choice and I suspect that the educational landscape for professional accountancy training will change quite significantly over the next few years. Should students therefore invest in their future by undertaking a traditional three of four year degree at university?  As a Professor of Accountancy at Robert Gordon University (RGU) you might expect an unequivocal yes from me.

Indeed I wrote to this effect a few years ago, whereby I argued that a university education is the perfect vehicle for developing the contemporary, non-technical skills that are the key differentiators in overall business performance. However, can these skills not be developed in the workplace?  Will a university degree provide today’s young people with the best return from their future career?

I still believe that a degree is a very important qualification to gain, as a university education has a different role to play to that of a professional accountancy body in the intellectual and ethical development of an individual wishing to pursue a career in accountancy.

I also believe that savvy students will – and should – look to the non-traditional routes that are available; and this is a particular focus of my university.  Students should consider distance or blended routes to facilitate faster entry into the workplace and should also be looking for qualifications that offer more than just a degree.

Recent educational developments have illustrated how professional accountancy bodies and universities can work in collaboration to harness the benefits of a university degree and a professional qualification.

This combined qualification can be further augmented with work experience providing the perfect foundation from which a young individual can launch a rewarding and lucrative career.

AAT is an ideal way to start a career in accountancy. Whether you are looking for an alternative to university or want to earn as you learn with an apprenticeship. You can begin your career in accountancy with AAT in five easy steps.

Amanda Meyer is Professor of Accountancy at Robert Gordon University.

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