Ten things nobody tells you about the Indian Chartered Accountancy Course / Profession

‘A course so fascinating, as if designed only for the nobility’

After clearing the celebrated Class X exam, a typical student in India is served a three ‘course’ meal, the courses here being somehow mutually exclusive and subdivided further.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you ‘Oh-my-f-god Science’ (the magnum opus, hereinafter called the right stream), ‘oh-so-mediocre Commerce’ and ‘yes-I-still-exist Arts’.

That you’ll get more (and also diverse) educational opportunities if you choose the right stream over Commerce and Arts is a fact based on prejudiced opinions and tampered evidence. Hence, the choice of this stream is a no-brainer for most.

Opt for Science and your dad will flaunt, mum will boast and your younger sibling who is secretly aspiring for a career in liberal arts will never forgive you.

Choose Commerce in India and you’ll go on to become a Chartered Accountant, a Company Secretary, a Cost Accountant, an MBA, a lawyer or a Bachelor. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just say that students in general are indifferent toward all the above courses and that there’s an equal i.e. 16.67 percent chance of choosing one over the other.

Now consider this: After Class X, we have (broadly) 3 choices. In the right stream, we further have, say around 10 sub-courses and 5 each in Commerce and Arts. Now, statistics show that 70 percent of the students passing Class X opt for the right stream and the remaining 30% are equally divided between Commerce and Arts. Thus the probability that an average undecided Class X student will select the Chartered Accountancy Course is 0.025 (0.15 x 0.1667).

Now that might sound like a fancy stat at first, trust me there’s more than meets the eye. And you’re about to know the reason.

If you have already taken the plunge, you’ll relate. If you’ve already chosen some other course you’ll silently distribute sweets. Needless to say, if you have just cleared Class X and are about to step into the CA course, consider this as a peek into the future.

Without further ado, here are the ten things nobody in the profession will ever tell you:

  1. Everything should reconcile, match, equate, square off, correspond, link and tally with everything.
Like yin, like yang.

Chartered Accountants are extremely proud of their knowledge and strongly believe that the onus of maintaining the balance in the universe is on them. So if after qualifying as one, you’re unable to avoid the urge to find out and eliminate that One Rupee Sixty-Eight Paise difference between the ‘Liabilities’ side and ‘Assets’ side of the Balance Sheet of a company which ceased its primary operations ten years ago and is in existence merely because the shareholders were too lethargic to undertake the entire liquidation process, blame it on the professor who taught you the double entry book-keeping system.

  1. You get paid during your articleship, but only enough to buy Green Ink pens for audit and notebooks for your classes.
Unless you are really good at managing finances, in which case you’d be able to scrape in an extra refill as well.

The above line has been inserted after the recent stipend hike by the rule-making body. Before that, we were paid just enough to buy Band Aids and Disprin, that too at subsidised prices.

You’ll often find yourself ogling at that man who works in the extremely grandiose office of that listed company and whose only job is to serve tea three times a day. He works at a better pay scale, gets to smuggle teabags home and even gets retirement benefits in the form of monthly Provident Fund deductions.

‘Sirji, aap dude hai.’

  1. The tax amount that our clients save as a result of our advice is recovered by us in the form of ‘Consultancy Fees’.
Thereby asserting the quote, ‘Money saved (by our clients) is money earned (by us).’

A lot of people do know about this. It’s an open secret. But guess who’s still got the bragging rights?

  1. A lot of which our clientele think we know, can easily be made known via Google.

I swear. The Income Tax/VAT/Service Tax rates are available online, ITR Forms can be filed online, application for PAN and TAN has to be submitted online and short, succinct explanations of most major provisions/rules/amendments are also available on the internet.

So behind our extremely pretentious ‘Uh um, let me see what I can do about that…’ and ‘But sir, proviso to Section 8 has recently been inserted which prohibits this…’ hides a whole lot of web browsing.

  1. This is probably the only professional course in the country, the fee of which won’t burn a hole in your pocket.

The course fee of the Institute is under Rs. 50,000/- including exam fee for all the three levels combined. Add a further Rs. 200,000/- for your coaching classes and you’re set.

And as stated earlier, the stipend takes care of the stationary.

  1. The degree will only take you so far. The real action happens during interviews.

Yes, I was a victim too. If you happen to come around an advert in a newspaper stating that an XYZ Commerce coaching institute is conducting a ‘Career guidance program’ or a ‘Free counselling session’, my advice would be to take the entire thing with a pinch of salt (or chaat masala, depending upon your taste). I say this because I’ve attended countless such programs myself and they have all ended with the same commandment: It’s either the CA way or the highway (that’ll also eventually take you to the CA way). This is because these are conducted by professors who are either Chartered Accountants themselves or victims of such kind of flashy adverts.

They’ll tell you how the ‘CA’ tag is enough to separate the men from the boys. What they won’t tell you however is that there’s a catch involved (See my next point). Today, the CA degree is enough only if you want to practice the profession independently. If you’re going to be scouting for jobs 5 years down the line, odds are that you’ll be pitted against some of the brightest minds coming out of Top B-Schools or even the Ivy League Universities. And you won’t be able to hold a candle in front of them if you don’t have those additional credentials in your résumé.

  1. For 1 person to become a Chartered Accountant, 417 students are required to take the Common Proficiency Test (CA-Entrance).
Ever wondered why we use ‘attempt’ instead of ‘exam’?

Honestly, this is where the course loses its popularity. Admittedly, this is also the reason the course gets its sheen.

The passing percentage is ridiculously less. On a sunny day, 25% will pass the entrance (CPT), 12% will pass the Intermediate exam (IPCC) and close to 8% will go through the final level unscathed.

On a rainy day, well…It will rain.

  1. A lot is at stake, it’s either everything or nothing.

Here’s the dark truth. It’s either CA or nothing else. There’s no in-between. The Accounting Technician Certification is just a consolation and is practically useless. So unless you graduate (which you better), you constantly walk with the risk of being left with just your HSC mark sheet.

  1. You have as much chance of getting laid by your 25th birthday as Rahul Gandhi has of becoming the Prime Minister by the time he gets into the wrong side of his sixties seventies.
Which is well, not a very bright chance.

3 years of rigorous on-the-job articleship, Audits – within or even beyond city/state limits, classes in the mornings as well as in the evenings, 8/7 subjects at the Final/IPCC level and you expect to find time for pleasure?

O’ hell no!

  1. Forbes, FT and The Economist will replace Cosmopolitan, FHM and Playboy.

Blame it on the course, curriculum, articleship or profession. You’re anyway not getting laid anytime soon, so who needs those sex secrets?

Sadly, nobody.

Here’s to some more myth busting. Cheers!

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