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?

The success rate for the Nov 2017 CA Final exams was a mere 22.76% for candidates who passed both the groups, it was 8.26% for May 2015, so we can say that the pass percentage has shown a slight rise.

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:
Chartered Accountant (CA) vs MBA: Differences & career prospects
Company Secretary and CA with 580 GMAT gets scholarship from 3 top MBA programs
Chartered Accountant gets into ISB with full scholarship (100% tuition waiver)
How this chartered accountant got into ISB with a low GMAT score of 600
MBA in Germany for Indian Chartered Accountant after 30

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
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

8 thoughts on “Does Chartered Accountant (CA) articleship count as experience?”

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  2. @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.

    Reply
  3. 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?

    Reply
    • Hi,
      Thanks for that link!

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

      Thanks.

      Reply
      • 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.

        Reply
  4. 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.

    Reply

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