Career benefits of an AAT qualification have been highlighted in a recent salary survey of AAT students and members. Here are the findings…
In finance departments and the wider financial industry, AAT qualifications and membership are held to be beneficial to accountants in all walks of life. But how? That’s what the organisation set out to determine in its recent salary survey of students and members. The answers provide a fascinating insight into how AAT qualifications and professional membership are influencing pay, prospects, work-life balance and job security at a challenging time for the economy.
The survey shows the vast majority are satisfied with their jobs and that they intend to stay with the same employer – more than half in the same role. The survey, which is sponsored by specialist financial recruitment firm Page Personnel, shows that, as one would expect, average salaries rise progressively as members progress through the different stages of AAT membership, ranging from £17,673 for a level 2 student to £35,997 for a fellow member. There are also only minor gender variances: the average across the country for men is £21,500 compared to £20,000 for women.
But salary levels are less important than long-term career prospects, says Gareth Davage, managing director of Page Personnel Finance. ‘The qualification is more in demand now than it was two or three years ago,’ he says. ‘It is seen as more practical and so makes people more employable. The value for money that AAT-qualified people give is far superior in a recession than someone who needs to spend a lot of time studying.’
Work-life balancing act
So, AAT may help secure posts and provide a long-term advantage. But what about the here and now? Apart from a company pension (which 58% of respondents receive), other benefits are rather more scarce and tend to be offered to those in larger businesses. The survey did highlight that, while private-sector staff are more likely to benefit from private health insurance, life assurance or car allowances, public-sector and voluntary staff are more likely to benefit from family-friendly policies, such as part-time working.
That work-life balance, though, has been skewed by the economic climate. Even though the number of hours worked by full-time staff remains in line with national averages – with 36 to 40 hours a week notched up by 67% of males and 61% of females – those in larger organisations are more likely to be putting in longer hours. Some 22% of those in the smallest firms are now working longer compared to 33% in the largest. As a consequence, the majority of respondents feel overworked.
But does working harder lead to a greater feeling of job security? Again, despite the impact of the global economic downturn, the survey shows that most AAT members feel fairly safe in their jobs, with 74% feeling very or quite secure. The most secure were directors and senior managers (85%), while administrators felt most at risk. Those in large companies feel least secure: 66% by comparison with 81% of those in mid-sized companies with 11-50 employees. Unsurprisingly, confidence in the public sector is lower than outside it. Only 59% of public servants feel confident about their job security compared to 79% of workers in the commercial sphere.
So are accounting technicians more content than others? According to a recent survey by Michael Page – the parent company of Page Personnel – 63% of those in the wider financial sector also feel secure or very secure in their jobs. And that many – 45% – are not planning on changing jobs. Nonetheless, some 73% say a pay rise would seal their loyalties, while half say a promotion would stop them moving on. Although more training was cited by 34%, the good news for employers is that 67% of respondents are happy with the training their companies provide.
Investment in training
On a similar theme, AAT membership – and the continuous development it implies – is seen as a vital stepping-stone to gaining membership of other professional bodies. Some 21% of AAT members and fellows, and 17% of affiliates, are also with ACCA. For CIMA, those figures are 11% and 10%.
This has been crucial in the economic downturn. Few accountancy technicians have escaped unscathed, yet those who are affected the most – student members and those in the lower tiers of their careers – can take heart from the views of senior practitioners: 78% of both FMAATs and MAATs agree that studying for, or completing, AAT qualifications does help improve earning potential.
But there is an added – and very timely – benefit, according to Davage. He believes that those with, or working towards, AAT qualifications are better placed during a recession to pick up employment and gain career progression. Jackie Switzer, a learning and development expert at consultancy Penna agrees: ‘In a highly competitive job market,’ she says, ‘people who invest in their training and qualifications are providing potential employers with a quick and reliable way of selecting them from hundreds of unsolicited CVs. Also, by being able to show a history of training and qualifications, you demonstrate that you are interested in your field and motivated to develop your career.’
That message is already filtering through, with 67% of AAT affiliate members (AAT qualified) and 75% of students agreeing that the qualification does
increase earning capacity. It’s just one of many positive notes from the 2011 AAT salary survey. While nearly half of all respondents saw no salary rise this year – 3% even reported a pay cut – it has not had a major impact on morale.
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