In this article, we are going to understand more about articleship, whether you should take it seriously or not, and if you do, then how to make the best use of it and how to choose the right firm for you.
The path for CA starts with the foundation level exam. After clearing the same the student enters the intermediate level. After taking coaching for about 10-12 months and passing at least one group of Intermediate level exam, the student then becomes eligible for articleship. On the other hand, students who are in their final year of a degree or beyond, are exempted from foundation level examination and are directly eligible for articleship. What about intermediate exams? They can prepare and appear for those exams parallel to articleship.
Articleship is a 3 year training period for CA students. CA students are called 'Articles' for that period:
o Ideally in those 3 years, articles are made part of audit teams and they perform audit activities reporting to the partner of the firm or the team manager. This enhances their team working skills and also teaches the importance of being humble. As they move up in experience, they are made managers of certain audit teams.
o As a part of the audit process, they visit various client companies, so as to collect data and perform audits. Generally, Client companies of a CA firm include companies from various different industries. This enables articles to learn more about the companies from different industries.
o The process of auditing involves understanding the accounting of the company, tax requirements of the company and related tax laws, corporate and other laws applicable to the company and of course understanding the process of auditing itself depending on the type of audit performed. Hence, every client company offers various learning objectives.
o While they report to their partner or manager, they also interact with company employees at all levels - clerical staff, accounts employees, managers, CFO, and sometimes even key personnel of the company. The purpose of such communications would either be to obtain client information or to convince them to bring about a change in their accounting and financial activities as there is an issue observed. This improves communication skills and negotiation skills.
o They may also perform tax filing and tax audits. So they gain practical experience in the technical fields of auditing, accounting, direct taxation, and indirect taxation. Not to forget the soft skills they gain in the process.
So, as the very purpose of articleship suggests, it is indeed a period to gain practical experience, improve confidence, and improve soft skills so as to create complete professionals.
But all this can be obtained only when the student knows ways to make the best use of the articleship period:
• Students should go with an open mind, let go of the 'ego' irrespective of the fact that they may have passed one or both groups of Intermediate or they may have completed graduation/post-graduation even including some work experience. Articleship then offers a platter of skills and subjects to learn.
• Articleship period is going to be tough, agreed. The reason for the same is obvious - the amount of workload and the orders from partner/manager. The key here is, articles should not get negatively affected by this as it is solely for their benefit and their learning process. Be prepared to work your sweat out.
• As a continuation for the above point, to prepare yourself to be able to give all your time towards articleship, it is suggested to clear both groups of intermediate and then join articleship. This allows you to concentrate fully on work and not get disturbed by the need for exam leaves and results. (This is only a personal suggestion, if you are confident to handle both parallel, nothing stops you)
• Look for every opportunity to learn, it could be from your direct senior, audit manager, partner, or sometimes even your client. Do mistakes and learn, it is all in the process.
• Be humble to not just learn but also teach, when in your 2nd and 3rd year you will have juniors to be guided and waiting to learn from you.
Next, to choose the 'right firm' for you, you first need to answer the following questions:
I. Are you already clear of the specific field you want to specialize in and take your career in? (Fields namely - statutory audit, internal audit, direct tax and tax audit, indirect tax)
II. Are you aiming to join the Big4 (soon Big6) post qualification and build your career there? (E&Y, Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, PKF, Grant Thornton)
III. Are you comfortable with tight working hours in a corporate work culture?
IV. Do you find it essential for you to build communication and negotiation skills by being able to address the partner of the firm/key personnel of the client company?
If the answer to I, II and III is a yes, then joining the Big4 is your best bet. It allows you to take up an articleship in a specific department and specialize in the field you want to build on, it paves the way to start your career in the Big4 (or Big6) post articleship itself.
If the answer to I, II, and III is a no and the answer to IV is a yes, then hunt for mid-size CA firms in cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, and the like. Midsize CA firms provide exposure to articles joining in, in all areas as they generally follow flexible departmentalization/No strict departmentalization. This allows one to be a part of assignments of all nature or at least more than 1 nature. In mid-size firms the hierarchy levels limit to 2/3, allowing the 2nd year and 3rd year articles to communicate and understand from the partner directly and if needed communicate with the key personnel of the client company, with guidance from the partner of course.
After you have worked in a mid-size firm for 3 years, you can then choose your field of expertise and move on to build your career there. Nothing stops you from joining the Big4/6 post qualification.
Finally, to answer the question - articleship is definitely useful and necessary but at its best under the above circumstances.
After having said all this, there is definitely no question of skipping articleship, if it were even a choice. Instead find ways to obtain the full objective of articleship, because this will make you a complete professional, not just the marks/results.