One of my key tips, is to apply for a graduate scheme
After a three-year stint in the industry, Ben decided to pursue a degree, and was drawn to the BSc Accountancy course at Edge Hill.
“I chose Edge Hill because I wanted somewhere that had a small number of students on the course. The fact that the course was mostly seminar-based instead of lectures of 150-250 people really appealed to me.”
Having studied an AAT accountancy course – equivalent to first year degree level – while working, Ben could enter directly into second year. As well as helping speed up the process, his previous experience enabled Ben to come to university with a more targeted approach.
“I’d had a good taste of the industry, and knew that tax practice was the direction I wanted to go in, working for a mix of clients in a varied role as opposed to just being at one company in a more singular role.”
Ben used the accountancy course to equip himself with the toolkit of skills he would need to land his dream job. The mixture of industry-specific course content and practical exercises prepared him well for his current role.
“We did a tax consultation exercise in our third year, involving a role-play client meeting as an assignment, which helped me acquire the confidence needed to meet and speak to clients regarding their tax affairs, which is something I now do on a day to day basis. It was also really useful to learn how a tax meeting operates and how you prepare for it, follow up on it, which for me, as a tax advisor, is a key tool.”
Ben praised the way the accountancy course uses the exam period to give students a dry-run.
“I do professional tax exams now, and the way the exams are structured on the course at Edge Hill really sets you up for the way they work.”
After finishing his course, Ben landed a job at EY. Now he spends his days assisting private clients with their tax affairs, which includes a wide array of clients and a broad spectrum of differing tax affairs including complex tax advice, completing tax returns and general project management for clients.
Settled in his new role and keen to spread his knowledge, Ben returned to Edge Hill to represent EY at the Graduate Recruitment Fair in October 2018. After setting up stall, he spent the day explaining the EY graduate scheme to students, as well as giving out advice about the working world. Based on his own experience of recruitment fairs, Ben wanted to give students a more personal perspective on the transition from education to employment.
“For me, I really wanted to have a proper conversation with them and tell them what I had to do and the route I took to get the job. Some students were clearly interested and had done their own research first and seemed keen to learn more about applying. I saw a lot of positivity with the way they were informed, and they were genuinely interested rather than just coming over for a free pen.
“On top of that, I’ve had a few follow up emails from students about how to apply and asking questions or updating me on how they had applied, which I don’t think they would have done if they hadn’t come to speak to me at the fair.”
Many students worry that their chosen degree will not translate into a good job at the end of it, as Ben found out.
“An English tutor came up to me when I was at the graduate fair and said that his students were concerned that a lot of big companies won’t accept them, based on their course. What a lot of people don’t know is that the firm actually accepts any degree – when I got there I assumed everybody else would have an accountancy degree.”
Instead, entrants to the EY graduate scheme get guided through a top-level chartered accountancy qualification to learn the relevant skills.
“They don’t expect you to come with accountancy knowledge,” says Ben. “You do a degree to prove that you can learn, but being successful on the graduate scheme is more a case how you learn more than what you have learned ahead of joining the firm.”
Ben advises current students considering a career in accountancy to aim high and not undersell themselves.
“One of my key tips, as daft as it sounds, is to actually apply! Many people assume that big firms only want students from the so-called ‘prestigious’ universities, but that’s simply not the case. It’s more important to them that you are prepared to work hard, have a committed and positive attitude and are willing to embrace learning and the philosophy of career and personal development.”