How part qualified accountants will add value to your business

Cliodhna Lynch our consultant managing the role

Having spent two years at a Big Four firm and three years working in the part-qualified (PQ) market for Marks Sattin, I have a vast amount of market knowledge and have worked with a variety of clients within financial services. 

The part-qualified market forms a big part of our business, however, some of our clients have never recruited a PQ candidate before or are unsure of what this candidate pool looks like. 

So, we thought we would answer some typical questions/opinions regarding part-qualified recruitment.

But before we dive in, here are some basics about part-qualified accounts: 

What is a part-qualified aca? 

Part-qualified ACA refers to a person who is in the process of completing the qualifications required to become a chartered accountant through the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACA) in the UK.

A part-qualified ACA individual has likely completed some of the necessary exams or requirements but has not yet finished the entire program. They might be in the process of gaining the necessary experience or preparing for the remaining exams to obtain the full ACA qualification. 

The ACA qualification is highly regarded and involves a combination of work experience and passing a series of exams administered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). 

Now let’s tackle some questions or feedback I sometimes receive from my clients regarding PQ candidates:

‘We are a small team and cannot afford to lose a member of our team to study for weeks at college’


This misconception often arises among clients unfamiliar with study support for junior accountants. 

It's crucial to understand that candidates usually aren't enrolled in lengthy college programs. There's flexibility to provide online courses or evening/weekend classes, allowing candidates to study outside regular working hours.

A standard study support package for ACCA/CIMA typically includes:

  • Coverage of exam and membership fees
  • Provision of study materials
  • An additional day or two off for revision, plus the exam day, per exam.

‘We don’t want to invest in someone and then they leave our company’


Investing in candidates consistently yields benefits such as increased dedication and long-term commitment—attributes highly valued by prospective employers! 

When offering a study support package, clients can protect themselves with a clawback clause, meaning if an employee leaves during their studies or a short period after qualifying, they will have to pay back a percentage of the fees incurred by the employer. 

‘Why would good candidates be on the market for a new role before they have qualified?’

This aligns seamlessly with the earlier point—while study support remains crucial for candidates, so does career advancement and ongoing professional growth.

I'm certain that as you're reading this, you can relate, particularly when reflecting on your own decisions and the paths you've taken to reach your current position!

Drawing from my experience in a Big 4 environment, leaving an ACA training program before qualification is quite rare and sometimes even frowned upon. There exists a distinct cultural difference between accountants who undergo training and those who qualify within industry settings.

It's important to note that being in the job market as a part-qualified accountant doesn't imply they're underperformers. On the contrary, it indicates their commitment to self-improvement and continual progress!

‘We are looking for a smart and ambitious graduate, but we don’t provide study support’

In short, you’re saying you want the best of the best without giving them anything in return. Smart and high-achieving graduates will be sought after by many businesses. From my experience, these types of candidates can usually end up with more than one job offer on the table. 

For example, one of my candidates recently graduated from a top university (University College London), and within a week had three offers! In this scenario, more often than not, money is not a key motivator. 

By contrast, these candidates will favour career progression opportunities, study support as well as the culture of the business. You need to make yourself competitive to win over ambitious candidates, unfortunately, a good salary isn't enough.

‘We would prefer a newly qualified accountant’

Part-qualified candidates inherently demonstrate cost-effectiveness. 

With 2-3 years of experience, a part-qualified accountant possesses the practical skills required for the job, including tasks such as processing invoices, managing journal entries, reconciling bank statements, and preparing financial or management accounts.

Their salary expectations typically range from £33k to £44k. Contrasting this, a newly qualified accountant from an audit background might lack direct experience in hands-on accounting roles, expecting salaries around £55k in the Big 4 or approximately £50k outside of it.

Opting for part-qualified accountants could yield cost savings, as they are often more inclined to handle transactional duties that qualified accountants seek to transition away from.

‘We prefer to hire directly for junior roles’

With everyone looking to cut costs now more than ever, it also means there is an abundance of candidates and more people applying for jobs. One of my adverts received over 2,000 applications! 

This may seem like the ideal situation with plenty of options to choose from but the reality is that the majority of applications are candidates who are not suitable for the role. A lot of job seekers have the ‘throw everything against the wall and see what sticks’ kind of approach. And the reality of finding the right CV becomes ever more daunting.

By using a recruiter who specialises in this industry, and who spends their days building relationships with these candidates, you can cut this down to receiving a few top-quality profiles tailored to your business. 

Not only will this save you time, but you will also receive an extra level to the interview process. Speeding up the entire hiring process (especially if you are looking to replace a team member who is leaving, this notice period window can be crucial). 

As everyone in business likes to say; time equals money! Long hiring processes can mean losing candidates to other offers, or losing their interest if you make them wait too long - it doesn't reflect well on the business. At that point, you may find yourself starting the whole search process again, not ideal or cost-effective. 

Searching for part-qualified accountants? Marks Sattin is here to support you 

In the quest for skilled and dedicated part-qualified ACA candidates, Marks Sattin stands as a reliable partner in recruitment endeavours

Leveraging our extensive network and expertise in the finance and accounting sector, we specialise in identifying and connecting businesses with top-tier talent.

 Our tailored approach and in-depth understanding of the evolving demands of the industry enable us to source candidates who not only possess the requisite technical skills but also showcase a commitment to professional growth. 

Learn more about how Marks Sattin can support you in finding part-qualified accountants or unlock our report on the part-qualified and junior community and: 

  • People's current and preferred working structures 
  • What would encourage people to work in the office full-time 
  • Reasons why people do not want to attend the office full-time 
  • What is next?

The ultimate goal for aspiring accountants is to become qualified and have steady career progression, and without investment by their current business, they may be more likely to seek investment from a competitor who will provide study support. "

02/01/24
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