Interesting question, it's fair to say that articleship is the most important phase in the journey of the CA course. The chartered accountancy course requires the students to complete 3 years of practical training which is actually only 2.5 years because of the exam leaves that you get. Now, I can't emphasize enough on the importance of those 2.5 years because those years are going to shape you up to be the professional that you are going to become in the real world. You'll learn a ton of new work and make a lot of contacts in your professional field. You'll definitely make new friends and most probably they are going to be your friends for life. Also, the CA community is huge, and post-qualification you get to meet a lot of peers and professional/ experts depending of your articleship experience and area of work.
Now coming to your main query,
What work is done in CA articleship?
This my friend, squarely depends on 2 factors:
1. Tier of the CA firm where you work i.e. Top 50 CA firms, Mid-sized firms, or Small/ Proprietary firms.
2. Year of your training period i.e. whether you are in the first year or second year or third year of your articleship training.
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Top 50 CA firms have almost all kinds of assignments under their bag. Be it statutory audits, central statutory audits of banks, tax representations, tax consultancy, ROC compliances, due diligence, investigation or forensic audits, etc. and the list is endless.
However, even though they do have this much variety of work with them, articled assistants are involved only in auditing and tax advisory matters. Other assignments are always handled by the professionals and other experts within the firm. Also, there is very little scope for switching departments as you have to choose between auditing and taxation right when you join your articleship and you need to continue in that field for the next 3 years. The advantage in joining the top 50s is that you get the feel for corporate culture and advanced level of work experience in that field since the top 500 listed companies are clients of these CA firms.
The mid-sized firms are places where you learn almost everything that you have in the CA curriculum.
Audits- Check; Taxation matters- Check; ROC compliances- Check; Preparation of Financial Statements- Check; if you are lucky enough, you may also get to work on due diligence assignments.
Most of the students who want to start their own practice post qualification try to join mid-sized or small CA firms since the exposure and the clientele is vast and covers almost all the areas where a CA can provide professional services.
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The next thing, is the year of your practical training, so in the first year of your articleship you get basic work (which is quite obvious since you've just landed in the arena of beasts :p) like vouching, testing journal entries, compiling audit files and documentation, filling ITR forms, visiting tax departments for submission of documents, GST returns, etc. For the second year, it's a level up and you start getting technical jobs like tax audits, bank audit assistants, stock audit assignments, walk-through and risk assessments, filing income tax returns, and other miscellaneous work. In the third year, you are considered at par with a CA fresher (in terms of work skill) and now you'll get assigned to top-notch professional work areas like finalization of financial statements, due diligence assistant, assisting in tax representation matters, assisting in central statutory audits of banks and financial institutions, consultancy assignments, etc. No need to mention the importance of responsibility that comes with such assignments and the expertise you acquire during the 3rd year of training.
I dare not make any comparison among the 3 years since every year is equally important but in my personal experience, I enjoyed the 2nd and the 3rd year because of the thrill and the big assignments.
Apart from all that, you also get to attend a lot of seminars and training programs organized by various professional bodies and the ICAI, there is a lot to learn during such courses as well. I went for seminars and training courses for GST, IND AS, and other need-based training. Your seniors and your principal are also going to be a great source of learning, especially your seniors, they give you a lot of articleship hacks, be it MS excel, time management, and sometimes even stock trading tips XD.
I mean, if I start sharing my personal experience, this answer is going to run into pages, so I need to leave some element of surprise and not spoil your actual experience.
Articleship is nothing to be nervous about, it's fun in its own way and at the same time, it makes you a responsible and versatile professional that is needed in the modern-day world. Don't stress about your stipend too much because post qualification you will be paid decently well and it'll be all worth it.
"Don't forget to enjoy the journey towards your destination"