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The journey to becoming a fully qualified CA really starts to get interesting after varsity and the CTA, when the decision on where to complete your training contract arises. It can be a tough choice as there are a variety of different environments, each with their own set of benefits. When it comes down to it, though, the main choices are between public practice, commerce and industry or the public sector.


Public practice is typically considered the more conventional path as it involves training at a firm of registered auditors and accountants. Companies such as PwC, Deloitte, EY (Ernst and Young) and KPMG – which are in fact often called ‘the Big Four’ – fall into this category. Commerce & Industry, on the other hand, offers opportunities at companies such the banks, large retail organisations and investment companies. The Public Sector options include the AGSA, Eskom, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) and SARS, among many others.


So what is the real difference between the various training environments and what do they mean for your future as a CA? And what are you more suited to as an individual?


Public practice trainees do audit work and therefore verify the accuracy of the financial affairs of their training office’s clients. According to public practice firm, PwC, trainees can expect to work in a challenging and fast-paced business environment travelling to clients most days. “You will interact with people on various levels: some will be experts with wide experience,” the company says. “Expect to work hard during your traineeship, but also to gain valuable experience. You will learn best business practices, managing people and financial reporting.” Most public practice firms also offer study support programmes and assistance with career development through exposure to broad client bases to help you gain the necessary experience.


Trainees who choose the commerce and industry route will get the opportunity to do varied work such as budgeting, strategy and compiling financial statements at companies in commerce and industry. SAICA actively encourages trainees to consider commerce and industry, as it encourages greater entry into and upward mobility within the accountancy profession, increases the supply of scare skills by creating more professional training opportunities in commerce and industry, and promotes the education and training of accounting professionals in large organisations. CAs who take the commerce and industry option have a wide and diverse range of financial duties and multi-disciplinary skills, meaning that they need to have an in-depth understanding and knowledge of their company’s financial management.


Both options provide a plethora of opportunities for career development and success – it is up to you to consider the benefits of each, taking into consideration your individual goals and plans, and make the decision based on that. Working hard in your chosen field and taking the most from each opportunity presented to you will ultimately guarantee your success as a CA.

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