ACA from outside big4

University of Manchester

Hello there! I’m waiting on A-level results but hoping to go to the University of Manchester. Over the past couple of years during A-levels, I’ve been thinking about what I want to do. I’ve heard being a chartered accountant in practice can get boring, but what struck me was the opportunities I’ve been reading about that are available in industry.

What I want to know is if I got an ACA training contract with a firm outside the big4 - as I know it’s extremely competitive, how would it affect my opportunities once qualified? I have been doing some research into jobs, and it seems a fair few of the larger MNCs express a desire for ‘big4’ experience/training.

How easy is it to get a good job in industry if I trained at my local firm in Guildford? Or am I completely undermining the respectability of the ACA qualification.

Finally, could someone tell me about the different roles available in industry? Some specific areas would be great, and again, would I be limited if I got non-big4 training?

Many thanks!



My Father is an accountant, and he constantly tells me this. He did his training contract in a small/medium firm, and then went on into industry afterward.

The only difference he suggested to me between training in the Big 4 and in a smaller firm is the speed at which you can progress into the jobs with more responsibility (and therefore, higher pay) in Industry. It may take you a few more years in practice, or starting in a more junior position in Industry (or starting with a smaller firm).

The contacts you make in the Big4 will be invaluable to possibly securing a job in a particular industry within their accounts department; but don’t get any ideas that you’ll leave the Big4 and become an FC within a few years… it never happens.

The contacts and clients you will meet in a medium sized firm (top 20) will be of similar calibre to those in the Big4, and I daresay you will get to know the industry and your clients in a more close personal level than with the Big4.

But I say again, ACA is ACA, and while the Big4 look good on your CV, my dad keeps telling me it’s the same qualification, same work, same accounts; just with more 0’s on the end…


Due to my GCSEs (CC in Maths/English) I can only apply to PwC - I’m also prevented from applying to a few of the top 10, BDO, Baker Tilly, Smith&Williamson all because of some qualification I did 5 years ago- although I think I’ll probably spend quite a while on my application to them. It’s good to know it’s not make or break. I wanna get the ACA but I certainly don’t want to be doing audits in a practice all my life, certainly not for someone else.

So you’re saying I could still get into finance departments of FTSE 100 companies but it’ll take a bit longer. Do you think most FTSE100 firms want ACA qualified accountants trained by Big4 only? Do you know where I can get info? I know if I do a google search for ‘ACA NQ jobs’, some jobs require big4 training but the name of the firm is always protected :confused:


I would think (and I’ve heard) that lots of these companies want newly qualified ACAs which have been trained in the Big4, but the word to stress there is “newly”.

With the ACA qualification, you will easily be able to go into industry in a sector which interests you, learn the ins-and-outs of how that sector/business works, and work your way up gaining experience all the way.

It’s all about experience, and once you have that under your belt, you can apply to the FTSE100 firms. ACA+experience is more valuable to larger firms than just the ACA itself. The reason lots of these firms want their newly qualified ACAs trained in the Big4 is because of the type of client they would have worked with (i.e. themselves…), so those trained with the Big4 are likely to have some form of working knowledge of how they work/operate already.

Hope that helps a little.


It helps a lot, and clarifies many things. I probably want to join telecoms/technology or energy sector rather than something like banking. your explanation helps me understand the ‘big4’ thing as well. But hey ho, there are many more firms out there than just the FTSE 100 firms :stuck_out_tongue: If I go into clearing, (currently waiting for A-level results and hoping to go to Manchester), I will most probably find a university which offers finance-related placements in one of those sectors.

Thanks for the help :smiley:



If I go to an ex-poly like Nottingham Trent but get a 2:1 in Economics and have BBC at A-level (280Points) could I still find somewhere to do ACA or will employers not give me a contract? I’m not sure how competitive it is to get an agreement from an employer outside the top10?

I really want to be a chartered accountant. Not sure if it’s worth going to uni if I get BBC, would you suggest I do the AAT-ACA fast track? Would not having a degree come back to haunt me later on in life when I try for roles such as internal audit in industry? I was just casually browsing and many firms have it as a requirement that applicants are educated to degree level AND have ACCA/ICAS/ACA qualifications.

Many thanks for your help.