Professional development

Five steps to become a professional accountant.

In this post I describe how to become a professional accountant in 5 easy steps. The story is my own journey. A journey that you too can make.

Planting the seeds for a new life

Have you ever wanted to do fulfilling and interesting work with your life but not sure how?

I felt that way after ten years of drifting from job to job in the construction industry.

At the age of 28 I decided that I wanted to do something meaningful. I wanted it to be a long lasting working life with a ton of satisfaction. The question was how to do it.

Next I identified accountancy as the most attractive profession as it suited my personality best. I then started on the moves toward getting there.

I succeeded and was able to become a professional accountant by broadly doing the following five steps:

  1. Start studying
  2. Get into an office
  3. Progress positively through new jobs
  4. Pass the necessary exams
  5. Develop professionally

Since then I’ve enjoyed 23 years of satisfying work. I have an accounting practice, lecture on tax and accounting at the University of Northampton. I hold a trusted position as a board member of the Northamptonshire Credit Union. And finally I participate in research in the highly interesting medium of open data.

Here goes, I hope you enjoy the story.

Start studying

It seemed at first that one couldn’t join a professional accountancy body as a student without having a degree or be an “articled” trainee. Both of these routes seemed effectively beyond the grasp of a non-experienced building site worker like me.

But then I discovered something offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) called the “Mature Student Entry Route”. This was where the entry conditions enable anyone, even with no formal qualifications, to get onto the main student register by passing the first two exams on the syllabus within an 18 month time limit.

And to ACCA’s great credit, they continue this inclusive merit based tradition to this day.

After joining the provisional student register I studied and passed the first two ACCA exams. I did a part time college course for these two papers but found that self study worked better for me. I struggled a bit with these two exams because I didn’t understand exam technique. After about four exams I began to concentrate on this which boosted my performance dramatically.

Get into an office

If you’re not already in the office environment, this is the next step. Do what you need to do to get into a professional setting.

The way I transitioned into an office job was via employment agency. I got a job archiving banking paperwork for sending to a long term storage facility.

The situation was quite memorable because the canteen looked directly out onto a building site upon which I was working on a few months previous. By now it was winter. I was eating my sandwiches in the warm looking out at the hard sleet battering my old workplace.

Things were changing for me. And things can change for you.

Generally in those days I took a pay cut of more than 50%, but was now studying towards a better life, and it was the happiest I’d been so far in the whole of my working life.

If you need to


Progress positively through new jobs


Pass the necessary exams

Develop professionally

About the author

Paul Connolly

Paul is a tax practitioner in the UK. He holds a practising certificate from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

He also lectures accountancy and tax at the University of Northampton.

Paul volunteers as a board member of the Northamptonshire Credit Union.

He is also an open data researcher, producing datasets and programming open data driven applications.