How do I get work experience?

It’s not going to be easy, but an Accounting qualification will help…

For those of you who left school ages ago, it is not an easy process to obtain practical work experience in bookkeeping or accountancy. It is always frustrating to see job ads looking for people who are e.g. “AAT qualified with 2 to 3 years’ experience” – very much a “catch 22” situation. This is made even harder when you are competing with school leavers and graduates.

Acquiring an accounting qualification will give you a better chance though.

However, whilst you can study hard and pass your exams through you own graft, how do you get that elusive 2 to 3 year’s experience?

You are best taking a stepped approach to it.

Firstly, map out the knowledge and skills that you will obtain throughout your AAT training.

Then link these with the qualifications you can achieve along the journey:

  • Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping
  • Foundation Award in Computerised Accounting
  • Foundation Certificate in Accounting
  • Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping
    (At this stage, consider applying for AATQB status)
  • Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • Professional Diploma in Accounting
    (At this stage apply for full AAT membership (MAAT))
  1. If you get the Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping under your belt, this will provide you with some evidence of your knowledge of bookkeeping.

    Contact local charitable organisations to see if they want a treasurer or if their existing treasurer would like some help? You should obviously be applying for ‘paid jobs’ at this point too, as you will already have gained a very useful and well recognised AAT qualification.

  2. Perhaps then complete the next stage i.e. a qualification in computerised accounting – go online to find out more  about computerised accounting and obtain some training in cloud software, e.g. Sage One, Xero, Quickbooks on-line.

    These skills might make it easier to get some of this voluntary work. A charity may appreciate someone helping them put their books onto the Cloud so their Committee members can keep a closer eye on the finances.

  3. If you are not in work, contact a local recruitment agency to see if they can find you some temporary accountancy/bookkeeping work, e.g. maternity cover.
  4. If you are in work then this isn’t going to be practical. In this case you probably need to persevere until you have completed the AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting and/or the AAT Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping. You have something more to “sell” at this stage. You have some very useful skills on your CV.
  5. You should have been sending your CV to potential employers from the end of Stage 1, re-sending your CV each time you achieve the next qualification.
  6. One of our apprentices, had a job in a finance department of a small business. He had completed his AAT Level 2 but was frustrated and not going anywhere. His journey to work involved riding his bike past a firm of Chartered Accountants and he thought “That’s the sort of place I would like to work”. So one day, he plucked up the courage, smartened himself up (and got his hair cut) and popped his head in the door and asked if they were recruiting new staff. They said yes! He went for an interview and got the job.

Look at to find all the firms of Chartered Accountants near you. Ask them!

If you are part qualified or qualified, you could volunteer your services to aid organisations like AfID – Accounting for International Development: but they would probably want someone with at least some practical bookkeeping experience.


P.S. We have written a separate knowledge centre article for those who are still at school – you can read this here