Does Chartered Accountant (CA) articleship count as experience?

Though IT software engineers still dominate the Indian MBA applicant pool, chartered accountants (CA) seem to have developed a fancy for the international MBA degree. We’ve been getting an increasing number of admission assistance requests and general queries from chartered accountants.

With their quantitative background and client focussed roles (financial audit, tax advisory, due diligence, corporate finance exposure), many already have a good understanding of how businesses work. However, many of them are curious and concerned to know whether their 3-year CA articleship with be considered as pre-MBA experience by Admission Committee officers.

We look at why this is a relevant question with a non-intuitive answer.

In order to get our non-CA friends on the same wavelength and to sort out the modalities (which will form the foundation to understand how Adcoms will perceive it), let’s quickly cover what happens in a CA articleship.

What is Chartered Accountant articleship?

Articleship is a 3-year practical training phase that allows students to work on real assignments for real employers (mostly Chartered Accountant firms). There are a few pre-requisites (exams, orientation programme, training) that a CA student should meet before starting the articleship.

During the articleship period, the ‘article’ receives a stipend. There are norms defined by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India (ICAI) based on which the stipend ranges from Rs 750 to Rs 15,000 per month.
Why Chartered Accountant articleship is different from regular internships?

There are two things that make the articleship different from regular internships in other fields (such as engineering and management degrees) – Tenure and Responsibilities.

Unlike the 3-month summer internships that engineering and management students are used to, the 3-year mandatory period for articleship is far more tedious, intense and phaadu. Ask anyone who’s gone through the experience and set aside a few hours to hear the stories roll.

They take on more responsibilities than (short-term) interns in most other fields. They may pick up specialised insights and experience in complex topics (indirect tax is one such convoluted area) that may make them more knowledgeable than the Partner (owner of the CA firm) that they work for.

Chartered Accountants, specially those who complete their articleship with the smaller CA firms, tend to get paid peanuts and yet slog their butt off more than regular employees. Why? Because their future is at stake here, and the interning organisation knows this. Unless they get the nod from their interning organisation, they aren’t eligible to get the degree.

Add to it the fact that the passing percentage rate for the CA exam hovers at a ridiculous.

What’s the passing percentage for Chartered Accountants?

In the Chartered Accountants Intermediate (IPC) examination conducted this year, under 12% of the 63,871 candidates cleared the exam.

Among the pool of 1.24 lakh candidates who tackled the Group 1 test, 19.44% cleared it.

The pass rate in the Group 2 test (with 1.12 lakh candidates) was 14.83%.

Most CA students clear it in multiple attempts.

So all ye non-CA folks, when you hear a friend or colleague tell you that she has cleared the CA exams in the first attempt, give her a bow and a huge helping of respect.

Now, let’s move to the part of how MBA programs view this experience.

Does Chartered Accountant (CA) articleship count as experience?

For most bschools, the pre-MBA experience that gets counted starts from the day you join a firm after getting your gradation degree till matriculation (i.e. start of the MBA program). So when you see the average work experience being mentioned (as 5 years), that’s how it needs to be interpreted. Of course, you’d be applying a year before joining, so you’d have around 4 years at the time of applying. But all of that would be after you’ve got your earlier degree.

Technically, an intern is still a student working towards a degree. So, apart from working full-time in the articleship there are also academic obligations and exams to take care of.

Some schools like ISB are pretty clear about the fact that articleship experience is not counted as work experience.

But in most cases, bschools don’t clearly mention about their stand on this, probably because it isn’t a global FAQ that deserves air-time (unless an Indian applicant brings this up during a chat session or MBA event).

In some forum responses, you’ll find (confusing?) responses saying the articleship experience may be considered if you apply as a BCom grad, but not if you apply as a CA.

So if you are a Chartered Accountant, the general assumption to go by is that articleship experience is not likely to be considered as pre-MBA experience. However, if you’ve gone beyond the call of duty and gained skills and accomplishments that put you in a different league, you may get brownie points for it to differentiate yourself from the mass of desi applicants.

Considering that most international bschools are tight-lipeed about it, if you are uncertain about how specific schools will evaluate your MBA application, send across a note to the admissions team and explain your specific situation (CA completed? BCom completed, CA in progress/given up etc). Understand what’s applicable to your specific case and then take a call rather than make a blanket assumption and lose out on the opportunity.

Irrespective of the articleship, if you are keen to go abroad for an MBA, you’d be better off finishing the CA degree, working with an organisation for 2-3 years and then applying. The profile would hopefully look significantly better. If you are worried about time running out, you could still target 1 year MBA programs where the overall age and experience standards are different.

Any CA’s out there who’ve done more specific groundwork on this topic and willing to share their gyan about specific schools? Please post your views in the comments section below.

Read this related post:
Chartered Accountant (CA) vs MBA: Differences & career prospects

Source: http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-31/news/40914452_1_pass-percentage-india-topper-test
http://blogs.isb.edu/admissionsdirector/2011/07/04/what-do-we-look-for-in-a-prospective-isb-student


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Sameer Kamat //
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook | Linkedin

30 Comments

  1. Yogesh says:

    I had written to a few b schools about this and received a variety of responses. While all the Indian schools (incliuding isb & a couple of iims) replied with a blunt no, foreign b schools gave considerate responses. Most said YES, but with a cache. The cache being 1) no. of hours worked should be full time (most common response) 2) roles & responsibilities handled during articleship are more important than the hours or length of work experience 3) internships are generally not considered as full time work experience, but if you can justify why it should be in your application, it could be.

    Stanford replied “if you consider it as work experience, we consider it as work experience” :D

    A couple of them just said – yes it will be

    Note – I had mentioned in my mail that I was undergoing article ship with one of the Big4s, not sure if this played a role in their decision.

    • Karina says:

      Hey Yogesh! I am currently pursuing CA and I aim to get an MBA. What schools did you write to? And what do you think of an articleship in Transfer Pricing to move into something a little more finance related?

      I have a long way to go through, my final exam is in november 2015.

      Thank you in advance!

    • sunny says:

      hey ! thanks for sharing. just let us know when is your attempt ? and finally to which us bschool you make through ?

    • Virat Maheshwari says:

      Hey yogesh!!

      Thanks for the insights. Can you elaborate, which schools in particular gave an optimistic response, because when i contacted them, some of them said we would consider 3 years of articleship as 1.5 years work experience. The others were not ready for it, etc.

    • Siddhartha Swroop says:

      I do not understand why guys having completed CA would like to join MBA. CA is itself a creme De LA creme thing. They may want to persue US CPA or CIMA London etc, but why an MBA.

  2. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Yogesh: Thanks for sharing your experiences here. It’ll help other Chartered Accountants who are reading this.
    It’ll be great if you can come back and share more once you get into a bschool.

  3. Amit says:

    Hey Sameer,
    Thanks for the articles. They have been a huge help in planning my career and education.
    Ive done bcom and ca.
    After having few years of work ex i plan to get an MBA degree from the top universities in USA .
    Would i qualify for 12 +4 = 16 years of education considering that i have done CA?
    Because doing bcom has given me only 15 years of education.
    and Would doing an external MCOM degree help?

  4. Manoj Srivastava says:

    thank you. very useful. I’m among the few CAs who is trying for internatinoal mba program. but I need scholarship otherwise I cant afford. any suggestipn what I can do?

  5. aarushi` says:

    I completed my CA in first attempt and did industrial training (last yr of articleship that can be served in an industry) from GE India in finance dept.
    The first 2 yrs. in CA firms, but not big 4.
    Can anyone help me on how much weightage will this gain for MBA work experience?

  6. angel says:

    well,thanks a lot for the great posts.

    just one thing i was wondering that how to manage time for preparing for MBA entrance exams like GRE etc..because when you are in CA finals you already have office , classes ,bcom , etc and thus no extra time left for other things.
    So, should preparation be started after giving CA final exams and apply after getting little job ex or what ?
    i would really appreciate if somebody would take time replying this. means a lot.
    Thanks in advance :)

  7. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Aarushi: You’ll find several articles and stories about Indian students who’ve got MBA scholarships

    • aarushi says:

      Hi,
      Thanks for that link!

      Just 1 more question – Can CA be counted as 4 years of regular study in lieu of graduation?

      Thanks.

      • MAYANK AHUJA says:

        Hello aarushi, answer for your question is strict NO because ICAI is not a university under UGC, but you can always go for top indian B-school who has MOU with ICAI, IIM A/B/C/L have it.
        If you are planning for abroad then many of top B-school do consider 3 year grad as equivalant. I am sure about harvard.

  8. Naidu says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Myself Hari,

    In my graduation I have scored 49%, which is not sufficient for me to meet the eligibility criteria i.e. 50% minimum marks for CAT/MAT and the professional degree like Chartered Accountancy & either to appear for CAT/MAT to pursue executive education in B-Schools/IIM which has remained a dream for me till date.

    In my peer group in all the companies I worked with are CA’s & ICWA’s, I’m finding it difficult to raise my educational bars and reach the management roles and stand up with market pay scales in my line of job (E.g. Current scenario – MBA making 9Lakhs PA with 8 years of experience equaling to 2-4 years of post qualifying experienced Chartered Accountant/ Company Secretary).

    Educational qualifications/experience summary
    MBA – 2006 passed – First grade (Sri Venkateswara University) – Finance with Marketing
    BCOM – 2003 – 49% 2006 passed (Sri Venkateswara University)
    Experience till date – 8 years
    Current Designation/Company – Finance Controller in US MNC
    Age – 32
    Marital status – Married

    Please advise me the best possible way to gain IIM degree (One year program or two), which can help me establish myself with a good career prospects along with continuing current job and pursue education.

    Sincerely,
    Hari

  9. Rao says:

    How will count CA/ICWA duration of course

  10. Mohit says:

    Hi,
    I have just cleared my CA final exams. I am planning to give GMAT exam.
    I understand that most of the B-schools require 2-3 years of work experience. During my CA course i have done 3 years of internship. My concern is would this be considered by the Institutes?

  11. Mohan says:

    Hello,

    I have done Engineering in Information Technology, i have work exp of 3+ years in IT company .

    I want to become CA can anyone guide me .

  12. Aarushi says:

    1. I am a Chartered Accountant from India (equivalent to CPA in USA) and passed all the exams in first attempt. Does the Chartered Accountancy qualification hold good for applying to top B-schools or is it necessary to have an under graduation degree? In some top tier Indian colleges, Chartered Accountancy qualification is considered equivalent to an under graduation degree.

    2. If the answer to above question is ‘yes’, will the three year internship experience add any value to my profile? In India, it is mandatory to complete three years of training before appearing for the final examination of Chartered Accountancy.
    Apart from the three year internship experience, I will have approximately 2 years of work experience by the time I apply for MBA. Generally, MBA students have 5 – 6 years of prior work experience, will my 2 years as a professional be given due weightage?

    3. If all students are required to have an under graduation degree, irrespective of whether or not they have any professional qualifications, how much importance is placed upon graduation scores? I have done my graduation alongside C.A., so I dont have a very good score in it.

  13. Abhishek says:

    hi sameer !
    I’m 22, completed my CA internship. My CA final exam is due in a few months. However, i’m not keen on appearing for it as i dont see myself working as an accountant/staying in the india specific profession. i have already started preparing for the CAT. Have cleared my first 2 CA exams with good marks & school & college grades are also presentable.
    the reason i want to do MBA is, to have a dynamic profile in an organisation i.e, not restricted to a skill set like I.T or Accounts. i want to help a business grow & have a decision making role
    I’m curious to know that if i have my CAT scores in my favour, would a profile like mine (on paper at least) be selected in the admission process ? hope the fact that i have my CA final pending doesn’t go against me
    i know it will, but hope it doesn’t b the reason for me not being selected
    personally i found chartered accountancy to be a very boring profession. i have 3 yrs of articleship experience in CA. Worked at a reputed CA firm in mumbai, where i did the audits of multinationals like L&T
    the results of CA final exams are very very low (abt 5-8% of people who reached this stage clear) which is also why I’ve taken the plunge
    i wish to work in the business consultancy sector
    with a firm like BCG/McKinsey
    please advice

    • Navya Pegatraju says:

      Hi Abhishek.
      I am also in the same exact situation as yours. I am giving my CA final attempt in November. I am in a fix whether to join for CAT preparation or not since I have my final CA exams in November too.
      Please, if anyone could suggest as to can I take on as my next move , it will help me loads.. :)

      • Abhishek Parulekar says:

        Hi Navya, i took a long break to figure out what i’d like to do and how to get there (things most people do after 10th).

        i realised CA degree is worth it, since we have come SO close. it will still be worth it as long as u’re done with it before the age of 25 (irrespective of number of attempts that is).

        getting a job at a reputed multinational firm after CA and simultaneously preparing for GMAT/CAT would be a wise path. that way you could apply to colleges by the time u’re 28-29, being a graduate as well as a CA with good post qualification experience coupled with 3 years of articleship.

        try getting the audits of a sector you wish to work in. that way u’ll be able to develop an understanding of how the business works. so your post qualification work experience would be very much relevant and take u closer to where you want to work.

        Don’t quit ! i havent ! ;)

    • Manisha says:

      Hey..
      I just wanted to ask you
      How did you manage to prepare for CAT alongwith hectic CA schedule?

  14. Smit Ruparel says:

    CFA VS CA, which of them in s better

    • Abhishek Parulekar says:

      better is a vague term, as they only converge on certain common topics like accountancy and financial mgmt.
      a chartered accountant’s core competencies are accounting audit & taxation, that too country specific. a major drawback.
      cfa, on the other hand, is a global qualification. the core competencies are financial analysis. most of the cfa’s work as investment bankers or in other profiles in the banking & finance sector.

      so no one degree is ‘better’ than the other. choose the one who’s job u like the most. that will b the “better” degree for u

  15. Hussain says:

    Is a professional course like CWA plus three year graduation program recognized as a fourth year criteria for pursuing MBA in USA??

  16. Gagan says:

    Can i continue my job while doing CA articleship?

    • Abhishek Parulekar says:

      definitely NOT !
      the institute of chartered accountants of india, which is the governing body for CAs, prohibits its students from employment in course of articleship. you even sign a form declaring so.

      practially its not even possible since u’ll be working from about 11 am to 7 pm 6 days a week on an average.

  17. Aishwarya says:

    Am planning to do CMA USA course..i hav completed my articleship..i wanted to enquire whether the articleship experience can be counted as the two yrs work experience required for CMA USA course??

  18. Mukta says:

    I am a CA Final student …
    And currently undergoing articleship in a middle sized good firm…
    I really wish to pursue MBA from a good University in the States..
    Also I have decided that I shall work for 1.5 years after being CA at the age of 21.
    I have the following questions:
    1. Which Universities are best when it comes to Stategic Management ?
    2. M.S. or MBA ?
    3. When should I start my GMAT preparation ?

  19. KABIR says:

    Dear Sameer,

    I just want to know which particular colleges or universities(India or abroad) are targeted by Indian CA’s after getting a decent score in Gmat also what score in Gmat is required for getting into these colleges and universities .. and scholarships if any please provide the details of that also

    Waiting for your reply

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