Bringing New Perspectives to Accounting Careers
Trinity College’s intense Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting can fast-track students towards a career in accounting.
Barry McCall, Accountancy Ireland
Now in its second year, Trinity College Dublin’s Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting is specifically designed for non-accounting graduates. This full-time eight-month conversion programme fast tracks students towards a career in accounting and focuses on financial accounting, management accounting, corporate finance, audit, taxation and related areas. The programme is fully accredited by Chartered Accountants Ireland and offers exemption from the CAP 1 exams, enabling graduates to proceed directly to CAP 2.
“The ethos of the programme is to give students with non-accounting undergraduate degrees the skills either to pursue a wide range of employment opportunities or go on to further studies in professional accounting,” says Neil Dunne, Programme Director for the Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (pictured). “It is a Level 9 qualification on the National Framework of
Qualifications, the same as a Masters. It is Trinity’s first accounting programme and is a response to demand from a number of sources.” This demand arose in particular from professional accounting bodies such as Chartered Accountants Ireland.
“We were often asked why Trinity didn’t have a postgraduate award in accounting,” Dunne adds. “We also had demand from Trinity students who said they would be interested in pursuing a postgraduate programme in accounting here if it existed. We track these things and Trinity graduates have always tended to do well in the Chartered Accountants Ireland exams, so it was a natural development for us to respond to this demand.”
Students on the programme are required to have at least a 2.1 or better honours degree in a non-accounting area. The programme is made up of 12 taught modules with students assessed through a mixture of written exams and continuous assessment. Unlike some other postgraduate programmes, a dissertation is not required.
“Students learn all the fundamentals of accounting during the eight-month programme”, Dunne adds.
“They learn everything they need to set them up in a career in accounting. Many of the modules are taught by practitioners who help the students gain the commercial know-how and business acumen that employers are looking for. We emphasise that link between academic learning and practical application.” That practical focus is a key feature of the programme. “All faculty members are qualified accountants, with the exception of our law lecturer who is a practising barrister,” Dunne adds.
“It’s all about connections with the profession. Partners from leading firms come in and give guest lectures and a number of firms also offer internships and prizes to leading students. The programme is very attuned to the profession and its requirements.”
Students from a vast range of subject areas have been attracted to the programme. “Students come from all sorts of areas – science, law, literature, even music. This gives the programme an energy all of its own. When you have students coming from these different disciplines and different geographical locations as well, it creates a special dynamic.
“The students have all made a conscious decision to pivot into accounting and this is important as well,” Dunne continues. “It used to be that you went straight from your B.Comm or other business degree into accounting. But nowadays, students from a wide range of disciplines are coming into the profession and accounting firms are very interested in recruiting them.”
He points out that a current student from the course is a concert standard musician. “He brings a particular perspective to different subjects on the course as do the other students. We can see this by the type of questions being asked. They are quite fundamental questions, such as why debit and credit go on one side of the line and not the other. As lecturers, we don’t usually get asked questions like this and it is quite refreshing to have to think about the answers. You can’t just say it’s because ‘that’s the way it is’. The students bring a different style of thinking with them and that is very good for the programme and for our faculty – it adds something special to the programme and makes it unique.”
The great majority of graduates from 2016-17 went on to Chartered Accountancy. “I’m an FCA myself so I am quite pleased about this. The exemptions from the CAP 1 exams and from other professional exams are particularly useful to graduates. They have fewer exams during their training contract, and this means that they make the most of the fantastic experience that a training contract offers. We keep in touch with our graduates and track them as they go through their careers. I am very confident that they will all maximise their potential in their professional exams.” This confidence is based on the quality of the graduates themselves as well as on the nature of the profession itself.
“There is something about accounting,” he says. “It is not a closed shop and it’s very receptive to people from different backgrounds. Firms are now looking beyond the traditional business degrees when they are recruiting graduates. The profession is interested in wider skills and that’s what makes this programme particularly relevant. A professional accounting career is no longer just about being technically competent or about number crunching, you need wider business and other skills as well. That’s one of the reasons I am so confident in the future of our graduates.”
Dunne adds: “We have an open evening coming up on 8th February and again later in the spring. I will be there to speak with students and will be joined by some of the current class and the admissions team. These types of events really help prospective students understand what a career in accountancy looks like and gives them the opportunity to talk to students who are already taking the programme”.
Graduates interested in applying for the Trinity Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting should submit their application and supporting documentation online at www.tcd.ie/ business. Offers are issued on a rolling basis, so it is important to apply early.