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How to qualify as a chartered accountant, without a penny of student debt

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A County Antrim woman who completed a Higher Level Apprenticeship (HLA) in Accountancy at Northern Regional College has just qualified a s a chartered accountant. But unlike many of her peers who went to university, she is embarking on her accountancy career without a penny of student debt. Laura Todd, who is from Ballycastle and employed by Irwin Donaghey and Stockman, said she would recommend the ‘earn as you learn’ route to anyone interested in pursuing an accountancy related career.

I felt that university wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the idea of the student debt and the uncertainty of perhaps not being able to get a job at the end of it all so when a careers teacher told me about the HLA in Accountancy at the College’s Coleraine campus, I knew straight away that it was the qualification for me,” Laura explained.

She continued: “I applied to do the HLA straight from school and started in September 2015 after my A-levels. I started the course and my new job as a trainee accountant with Irwin Donaghey and Stockman the same week and have been there ever since.”

As an HLA apprentice, Laura spent four days each week with the Coleraine accountancy firm – who paid all her College fees – and the other day in College.

“The course covered basic accounting techniques and was very practical. I liked that while I was working as a trainee accountant, I could apply what I was learning in College at work. During my time at the College my lecturers went above and beyond for all of us to ensure we were following what was going on in class, as well as checking we were happy with our employment throughout the two years of the course,” Laura outlined.

When she completed the HLA in 2017, Laura set her sights on achieving her professional exams which she has now successfully completed.

“I’m a Chartered Accountant with five years’ of work experience in an accountancy environment – and all this without a penny of student debt. I’d certainly recommend this route to anyone interested in an accountancy related career,” she added.

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