ACCA - The global body for professional accountants
Incomplete careers advice means that students are unable to make informed choices about their futures
—Andrew Leck, head, ACCA UK

Over half unaware of alternatives in careers advice confusion

Nearly half of 16–18 year olds want to go to university because it’s 'just the logical next step', with less than half receiving careers advice about alternative routes into the professions, according to a survey commissioned by ACCA UK.

A third of all respondents agree that university is positioned by their careers adviser as ‘the only way to get ahead and have a professional career’, with 32 per cent convinced that they would be less attractive to potential employers without a degree.

Alarmingly, 56 per cent of respondents answered that they had not been informed about a professional qualification as an alternative to a degree, yet when this option was explained, 54 per cent would consider it as an alternative to going to university. Nationally, 60% of UK 16 – 18 year olds feel that the careers advice they receive at school is average or below.

Andrew Leck, Head of ACCA UK, said: 'Incomplete careers advice means that students are unable to make informed choices about their futures. Our research revealed widespread confusion about the education requirements for some professions, with many students unsure whether or not a degree is a prerequisite to become an accountant, teacher, doctor or lawyer. We are at serious risk of stifling new talent in these fields, simply by not providing young people with sufficient information.'

Other highlights of the survey results include:

  • Girls are 11 per cent more likely than boys to agree that a university qualification will be advantageous in having a successful professional career 
  • Boys are 15 per cent more likely to have been spoken to about a professional qualification as a university alternative 
  • Careers advice in Northern Ireland was rated best in the UK, with 52 per cent declaring it good or better, compared with only 26 per cent of 16–18 years who considered this the case in Yorkshire.

Leck continued: 'The need for good careers advice has been rightly thrust to the top of the Government agenda. Subject to the passage of the Education Bill, from September 2012 schools will have a legal duty to provide students with independent careers advice, which must come from a source other than an employee of the school. Professional bodies across all industries must recognise the important part they play in this guidance and education, not only by educating students directly, but by assisting careers advisers when explaining the range of choices in their field.'


The research for the ACCA was carried out online by Opinion Matters between 07/09/2011 and 19/09/2011 amongst a panel resulting in 1,021 16-18 year olds in full time education. All research conducted adheres to the MRS Codes of Conduct (2010) in the UK and ICC/ESOMAR World Research Guidelines. Opinion Matters is registered with the Information Commissioner's Office and is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act (1998).

For further information, please contact

Helen Thompson / Felicity Hudson, ACCA Newsroom 

+44 (0)20 7462 8961

Notes to Editors 

  1. ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants. We aim to offer business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 
  2. We support our 140,000 members and 404,000 students in 170 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. We work through a network of over 80 offices and centres and more than 8,000 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through our public interest remit, we promote appropriate regulation of accounting and conduct relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence. 
  3. Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability. We believe that accountants bring value to economies in all stages of development and seek to develop capacity in the profession and encourage the adoption of global standards. Our values are aligned to the needs of employers in all sectors and we ensure that through our qualifications, we prepare accountants for business. We seek to open up the profession to people of all backgrounds and remove artificial barriers, innovating our qualifications and delivery to meet the diverse needs of trainee professionals and their employers.