Finding the right supervisor for you

Your practical experience supervisor will play an instrumental role in helping you complete the practical experience requirement

ACCA's practical experience requirement (PER) is a great opportunity to apply in real-life situations all of the knowledge you learn from studying for the exams.

An essential part of making the most of this experience is finding a good practical experience supervisor. This is someone who not only can sign off your performance objectives (POs) and smoothen your path to membership, but they can also be a source of motivation and inspiration – like a mentor.

The following are five key points to help you establish a healthy and rewarding practical experience supervisor relationship.

1. Suitability

To complete your PER, you need to complete your POs. So if you work in an accountancy firm or in the finance department of a business, you may be lucky to have several qualified accountants working above you who could take on the role of being your practical experience supervisor. You could seek the one who you get along with best, or whose career path or way of working most inspires you.

Working for an Approved Employer helped Yani Shi ACCA, a senior data analyst in China. While doing her PER, she was working for a platinum ACCA Approved Employer, which meant she could apply for PO exemptions

‘Check to see if your employer is approved by ACCA or look at applying to companies that are,’ she recommends. (Access ACCA's Approved Employer directory)

2. Availability

An important aspect of a good supervisor is that they’re available for you. They can be a mentor more than merely someone to sign off the POs. A good supervisor will sit down with you and help you plan your PER, map out your POs and talk to you about identifying and achieving targets in a timeframe.

‘The choice of a supervisor helps a lot in having an easy ride through the PER process,’ says Apollo Ekelot FCCA, who works in oversight and compliance at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Switzerland. ‘Someone who is not readily available may not be very helpful.’ 

3. Your boss isn’t ACCA qualified? Not a problem!

If you don’t work under a qualified accountant, you can ask your manager to sign off your time in the role and then get a second ‘qualified’ supervisor – perhaps a contact at another company who is familiar with your work, for example – to sign off the POs. This may seem a bit more complicated, but it means you can still achieve the PER if access to a qualified supervisor is not there through your experience route.

It’s also important to remember that if you do voluntary work or an internship, this can work towards your PER if you can match the work you do to the POs, log them and get them signed off by a qualified supervisor.

4. Collaborate, support and respect

Your supervisor can be a mentor. If possible, try to choose a supervisor who you think you will get along with and who will be supportive and respectful towards you. Why not find someone you can develop a working relationship with, who will be there for you and motivate you?  

‘They should help you to identify which POs you should be aiming to achieve and the date by which you need to achieve them,’ says Shi. ‘A mentor helps you identify personal development, training, research or practice needed to achieve the POs.’

5. Two-way relationship

Rudy Chen FCCA, owner of Yes Accountants, says: ‘Most supervisors/mentors are very willing to pass on their knowledge and experience – ie the more the student knows about the job, then the easier the job of the supervisor. But if a student is less than enthusiastic and lacks perseverance, then even the greatest teacher will lose patience.

‘I always believe that the attitude/mindset of the new member is key. This will drive you into making the most of your relationship with your supervisor. Always ask questions, ask if there are any additional courses/guidance as suggestions for improvement, be proactive and, most importantly, persevere and don't give up easily when coming up against challenges.’