You are about to start your journey in accountancy and have made the decision to study ACCA, the leading international accountancy body. This will allow you to qualify as a Chartered Certified Accountant with a qualification that is recognized in countries across the globe. If you are working and studying at the same time you will develop the theoretical knowledge and skills through the course and examinations and the practical knowledge of how the theory is applied in a working environment with your employment. This offers you the best of both worlds.
Sponsorship of the employee’s studies is not a new concept and increasingly a lot of companies in Malta are offering to pay in full the accountancy studies as part of the employee’s remuneration package. Whilst in theory this sounds like a win, win situation for all parties, the employee should consider all of the advantages and disadvantages so that a holistic decision can be made and the employee does not come to regret rushing into taking the first opportunity that comes along where the employer is offering to pay for your studies.
As with all situations there are positives and negatives and you should be aware and cautious before making a decision. Here we outline some of the considerations that need to considered before coming to a decision.
One of the main concerns when thinking about starting a new course is financing the course. When it comes to starting a career in Accountancy and studying ACCA there are plenty of opportunities for sponsorship for the course. However, although getting a qualification free of charge sounds pretty good, being sponsored is not the best option for everyone. Here are some factors you should consider.
Your Financial Situation
If you don’t have a few hundred euros saved up you may end up a bit tight in finances when you get to the point of paying lecture/exam/subscription fees. Being sponsored for the course will diminish the financial burden. Having said that, some employers tend to offer a lower salary since they are investing in your studies. Therefore, it is important to consider the industry you’re working in, and importantly also the average salary for your role before accepting a package.
On a different scenario, if you are unemployed and do not have any savings, getting a sponsorship may be your only option as otherwise you will have to postpone starting the course and automatically prolong your career progression path.
Having said this, if you choose the route to pay for the course yourself, you can benefit from the Get Qualified Scheme which will give you 70% of the exam and lecture fees back as a tax refund. It is important to check that the academy you’ll be doing your lectures with is a recognized academy for this scheme.
Duration & commitment to completing the qualification in full
The ideal scenario is that you start a course with the drive to finish it. However, realistically some individuals may wish to take the exams at their own pace, unless they have commitments with their employer when it comes to the duration of the course. This is another factor to consider before committing to a sponsorship, since some companies will stipulate the duration it should take you to get your qualification which in the positive side helps to move you along your qualification and on the negative side can put unwanted pressure on passing the exams.
Many employers would tie you down for several years after completion of the course. If you leave before, you would probably be liable to pay back all fees, making the transition more tedious. This means that the level of commitment needed for the course and the employment would be greater than if you pay for it yourself.
From another perspective, having such an agreement will give you a sense of job security for those stipulated years. Working in accounting while studying ACCA is very beneficial since you will encounter scenarios at work which you would have mentioned in the course. Different industries will give you different levels of exposure, so it’s beneficial to do some research about the company to better understand the type of work exposure you’ll be getting and make it easier for you to commit to those stipulated years.
Choosing the academy
The market for academies offering ACCA lectures is quite competitive. Therefore, it is ideal to ask for lecture prices from different academies, allowing you to compare, and even better, try to get some feedback from students.
Some of the common issues with academies giving a poor service may be having inexperienced lecturers, regularly changing policies and fees, and poor customer service overall. If unfortunately, you find yourself in a situation where you’re encountering such issues with your academy, the simple option would be to change the academy. However, sometimes this is not possible when being sponsored. Some employers have agreements with specific academies and would dictate which academy you shall be studying with in your sponsorship agreement. If you have done your research about the said academy, and you have concluded that its highly reliable, this should not be an issue to you. However, it’s good to be aware of the risk that if you happen to not be satisfied with the service being offered by that academy you would end up in a complicated situation where you may need to try and get out of the sponsorship just to change the academy.
Study Leave & support from employer
If you’re being sponsored for the course, your employer will have a bigger interest for you to pass your exams as efficiently as possible. Some employers may also offer support/ advice from their own specialists.
Some employers even give additional study leave as part of the sponsorship agreement. This will come in very handy if you plan on sitting for multiple modules per year.
In summary, sponsorship packages with the right company that is truly interested in your career development, personal development and creates an environment for you to succeed in are worth considering providing there are sensible clauses should you wish to leave. Ask yourself these questions before committing:
- How much will I have to pay back and how will this be paid back?
- Will I get incremental increases for each exam or ACCA level I achieve?
- What study leave will I get?
- How long is the commitment with the employer and how many years do I have to work with the company before I have no more commitment to pay the money back or it starts to reduce?
- How long do you intend to stay with the company?
- Who will the training be carried out by?
- What is my progression plan if I am with the company a number of years?
Equally a sponsorship package with the wrong company can leave you feeling trapped, reduce your motivation for working / studying, leave you stuck on a salary that was appropriate to market condition years ago and not current.
It would seem that employees are wising up to ACCA sponsorship packages and are carefully selecting companies that have their interests at heart over companies that are sponsoring an employee in order to keep them trapped in a job with lower than market average salaries with no opportunities for progression in line with their studies.
AIMS Malta is your go to recruitment agency in Malta for financial professionals seeking careers in financial services, accounting jobs in industry or finance jobs in accountancy / tax advisory firms. As a firm that has experience in hiring financial professionals for many years and with qualified and part qualified ACCA staff involved in the recruitment process we talk your language and as a result we are able to match yours and the clients requirements closer.
Contact us for your next career move and for a free chat about the finance and accounting opportunities that can help you grow professionally alongside your ACCA studies.