As a matriculant, entering the world of university is not only the next phase of your life, it’s everything you have been working towards in school. Waiting in anticipation for the matric results to be released is both stressful and exciting − it’s the moment you find out if you can start on your journey towards becoming a CA(SA)

It does not matter whether you will be a full-time student at a university like Tuks, Potch and Stellies or whether you will be a part-time student at Unisa, the thrill is being able to say: ‘I am a student.’ There is a certain label that comes with being an accounting student; we have all felt it, it is that moment someone asks you what your major is and you respond, ‘Accounting’ with the little satisfied smile you cannot keep off your face. The immediate look of surprise and admiration that fills a person’s eyes is addictive, which is enhanced when they say, ‘You must be so smart’ or ‘Wow, that is a very difficult course, good luck!’ But it is what they don’t say that matters.

Some things go unsaid or just are not true. Let us look as some of the untruths that I discovered during my training contract at an audit firm:


Your marks don’t matter, only your qualification does

If this was true, then why do potential bursary providers, study loan applications and employers always want your qualifications accompanied by your academic record? The truth of the matter is that even with your qualification they want to know what your risk factor is − did this person come through with the minimum requirements, how many supplementary exams or re-admissions did it take to pass the subject? So, yes, ladies and gentlemen don’t be fooled, because your marks DO matter!


You will make a lot of money

Graduates often walk out of university expecting the salaries of fully qualified CAs(SA) because that is what was promised to them. Recounting the number of times the line ‘study accounting, you will make lots of money’ was repeated by members in the community and even lectures in class make a person think − did they ever complete a SAICA training contract?

Starting as a SAICA trainee you need to remember that this is still part of your journey to becoming a CA =(SA); your training received from the training office forms part of your competence towards the qualification. The training office puts significant investment into your training and receiving remuneration is an added benefit to the deal.

Yes, you can make a lot of money, but do not expect this during your training − the financial reward for all the stress and tears will come after you have qualified.


You need CTA to start your SAICA training contract

Although this is preferred it is not a requirement; in fact, having your degree is not even a requirement to start with your SAICA training contract. There are three training contract ‘plans’:

  • The three-year plan where you have finished your accredited qualification as defined by SAICA
  • The four-year plan where you have finished a non-accredited qualification and you are required to complete a bridging course in order to study CTA, and
  • The five-year plan, which means you are still studying towards your accredited qualification. The good news is that once you have your accredited qualification you can get a 12-month academic remission. And yes, getting the academic remission feels like an achievement.

So, the good news is, you do not need to be a ‘full-time’ part-time student, you can already start with your training contract. Here is a tip: the sooner you start with the training contract (even while studying) the faster all those words on the pages of IFRS and SAICA handbooks are going to start making sense!


Your seniors and managers don’t care about you; you are just a number

This is the statement that is furthest from the truth. Seniors and managers are there to teach you, to lead you; they are there to answer your questions, help you resolve problems, challenge you and develop your skills. Often when new trainees are advised to ask as many questions as they want to, they seem shocked, also frequently responding with ‘that is not what they have heard’ and ‘they don’t want to bother their seniors’. Let’s set the record straight: this is not seen as ‘bothering’ them but rather as a willingness and enthusiasm by a trainee to learn, and it is exciting to see the interest shown.

So, don’t believe the untruths which you are told, take initiative to do research, ask a friend, or as modern technology has provided us with enhanced communication abilities, ask your community. Learn to ask questions early on in this journey whether it is during your studies or while you are gaining your competences as a trainee.

Again, here are the truths: your marks do matter; yes, you will make a lot of money but only later in life; you can start with your training without CTA; and you can ask as many questions as your heart desires. This is your future, this is your life, so make sure you know when you are being fed untruths.

AUTHOR │ Chantal Potgieter AGSA, Registered Tax Practitioner, BComp Acc Science, Audit Supervisor at Diastoleus Professio Incorporated