Professional Qualifications

OK, so I’ve missed my fortnightly post goal… by over a week. But thanks to setting that goal, I at least know that I need to improve! My strategy going forward will be to draft posts one week in advance so I have a bit of slack.

Anyway, onto today’s topic – Professional Qualifications (and training). This will be an introductory insight into a key part of most graduate schemes:

You do what? Revise and take exams.

Thought you’d seen the back of revision timetables, exam stress and non-existent weekends once you became a graduate? Think again! Any self-respecting graduate scheme contains an element of ongoing training, whether it’s from an accredited organisation or just an internal course. Audit, Tax and most banking graduate schemes generally have less flexible training itineraries, but I’m sure there’s another blog for that…

The myriad of training courses that management consulting graduates might get involved with is nearly endless and almost entirely based in the language of acronyms: PRINCE2, CIMA and ITIL are some of the most well known. I’ve included a short list with links below, which I will update over time.

So what do personal qualifications mean for graduates like me? Well there are pros and cons:


  • Graduate schemes pay for you to complete most training, which could otherwise be prohibitively expensive
  • Training is a key way to add credibility to any CV
  • Courses, especially when taken jointly with the graduate community, can be a lot of fun and offer a chance to network outside of the office
  • Study leave can be a great way to add more breaks into working life

  • Historically, some graduate schemes have linked exams to your employment, meaning failing an exam could lead to being let go. This is more common in Audit, where accreditation is a requirement.
  • Fitting revision into your personal time can be difficult, especially when already putting in long hours at work
  • The pressure of exams can distract from work and can be counter-productive for some
  • Certain courses may appear less relevant to your day-to-day role

Overall, I think that being on a graduate scheme is all about learning and if your company wants to way for you to improve yourself and your career prospects and bolster your CV, then this is an opportunity not to miss. Personally, CIMA is not my passion, but for anyone who thinks they might start their own business in the future – it’s a huge bonus.

Common training courses in management consulting:

  1. PRINCE2 –
    An acronym for PRojects IN Controlled Environments, PRINCE2 contains a catalogue of project management tools and courses at various levels.
  2. CIMA –
    The Chartered Institute for Management Accounting is often placed in a similar bucket to the ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) or ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) qualifications. The latter two are what Audit graduates have to complete in order to be competent at financial accounting. CIMA takes a wider view and while it contains elements of financial accounting, it also studies management accounting (budgeting and forecasting) and elements of people management and business strategy. I am currently studying CIMA, so expect to hear more about it in the blog.
  3. ITIL –
    The IT Infrastructure Library, ITIL, is a technology-focused list of rules that describe how to apply IT service management to a business.
  4. Agile methodology –
    Interestingly, the link I’ve included claims that this is not actually a methodology, but you can make your own mind up. Agile is a slightly overused term in consulting and people often use it incorrectly. At it’s core, it is essentially a new way to manage a project, that differs greatly from the traditional approach: Do thing 1 first, then thing 2, etc, and instead breaks it down into discreet chunks of work, based on the project specification or end user requirement. It is particularly popular for software development projects. Many more terms such as sprints and scrums are important to understanding Agile so I may devote an entire post to this in the future.
  5. Lean Six Sigma –
    For this one, I’m going to take the words straight from the website, as I don’t have much experience of the course: “Six Sigma at many organizations simply means a measure of quality that strives for near perfection. Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven approach and methodology for eliminating defects (driving toward six standard deviations between the mean and the nearest specification limit) in any process – from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.”

If any of the above just sounded like nonsense to you, then I haven’t done my job right! Please leave a comment, ask a question and importantly, look out for my next post – the jargon buster!

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