The determination and dedication of CIPFA students

Recently qualified Sarah Wallace, Assistant Finance Business Partner at Northern Ireland Water, shares her experience of gaining her PQ qualification after a journey of ups and downs.

“I knew it would be worth it in the end...”

Headshot photo of Sarah Wallace of NI Water

I began my CIPFA journey in August 2016 when I joined a CIPFA trainee scheme. I attended classes one day a week and worked in the public sector the other four.

I intended to complete the course in three years, but I realised this was not going to be possible. Through a combination of life events and a few failed exams, I accepted it was going to take me slightly longer. It was tempting to leave, and many times I seriously considered it, but I was determined to complete the course. I recognised that it was going to take a change to succeed.

I had previously worked in the early years sector, and I found some of the CIPFA modules difficult to understand, especially those that referenced things I was not exposed to in my current post. It was a difficult decision to make, but I knew that to increase my knowledge, I was going to have to change jobs. I looked at the modules I was finding difficult and decided the best sector to temporarily move into was the private one.

My new post was in a technology firm. This change of role gave me the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and sit more CIPFA exams. While I acknowledge the positive experience this change of post gave me, I always knew that I wanted to return to the public sector. I secured a business partnering role with two exams left to complete. This June, I passed my final exam, and I have just completed my portfolio.

Over the past few years, I’ve often wondered why I was still trying to complete the CIPFA PQ qualification, but I knew it would be worth it in the end. I found one key advantage of the CIPFA qualification was the different learning pathways it offers to its students. I experienced face-to-face and online classes and also opted to complete some modules through self-study.

CIPFA recognises the diversity of its students and supports everyone’s individual needs through the range of learning options provided. The CIPFA PQ qualification provided me with the knowledge, skills and confidence to work in an accountancy role in the public sector. It can be daunting to embark on a new qualification, but do not let that discourage you from applying and finding out more. I was not a typical accountancy student, and I did suffer some setbacks along the way, but with hard work and determination, I made it to the end, and so can you!

Further reading and resources

Sarah’s story is reminiscent of Lucy Glister-Byers’, who shared her student experience back in April. Revisit her story.

Find out more about CIPFA’s refreshed syllabus, the new Professional Accountancy Qualification, and also remind yourself of what the new syllabus means for you if you’re still studying the PQ.

Additional support

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