A university education isn’t for everyone – some people simply want to get out there and start earning straight away. Our School Leaver Programme lets you do just that. You’ll be supported throughout your training as you earn while you learn.

With BDO you can pick up highly-regarded professional qualifications, while enjoying a permanent salaried career – all without the expense of funding higher education yourself. At the same time, you’ll be gaining invaluable experience in a commercial environment, working on real business projects alongside leading industry professionals.

Take the BDO route to qualification

Our School Leaver Programme combines work experience with getting your professional qualifications. For the first two years you’ll study towards the Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) qualification.

If successful in these, you’ll work towards gaining an appropriate professional qualification for your chosen specialism. This will usually be the ACA, but may be the CA (in Scotland) or the ATT or CTA if you intend to specialise in tax.

If you pass all of your exams, then within four years you’ll be a qualified accountant. Scottish and BS&A candidates will remain on five-year programmes.

Always there to support you

From day one you can count on an extensive network of support, including mentors, partners and your individual counselling manager.  The counselling manager will monitor your progress, act as an information source and make sure you’ve been set appropriate work and clear objectives. They’ll help you settle in, find the best ways to meet the challenges you face and realise your full potential. You’ll also be assigned a buddy (a more experienced colleague) and a student qualification manager, to support you through your professional exams.

Your training

We pay for every aspect of your professional training. This is conducted by external tutor firms, except for the CTA training part, which we offer in-house. We’ll make sure you have all the study time you need, along with support and extra tuition if you want it. Our excellent results speak for themselves – often up to 10% above the national average.

Training includes not only the specialist knowledge and practical tools you’ll need for your business area, but also a range of personal, management, client service and client-winning skills. Together, they’ll help you to become a fully rounded BDO adviser.

Which qualification?

Deciding on a particular business area and qualification may seem daunting at this stage. To make it easier, we’ll give you as much information as possible about the options available, so you can see how well they fit in with your strengths and interests. Most of our school leavers trust their instincts to which particular area ‘feels right’ for them.

Please take the time to read about each area to help you make the right choice. You can also watch videos of recent BDO trainees talking about their journey so far.


To be considered for our school leaver programme, you need to have at least:

  • 3 A levels at grades A*-C, excluding General Studies and Extended Projects
  • A*-C at GCSE in Maths & English Language

Career timeline

The plan is to get you successfully through your exams and qualified within three years. During this period, you’ll build up a huge range of practical experience. You’ll work directly with clients, exercise real responsibility, and get lots of opportunity to put your studies into practice. We provide mentoring and on-the-job coaching, as well as plenty of time for you to study and prepare for your exams. We’ll also help you decide which area you want to specialise in.

Of course, passing your exams is just the start. A career with BDO is a continual journey of development, with constant support from us along the way. Thanks to training and feedback at every stage, you’ll always know exactly where you stand – and what you’re aiming to achieve next.

After you’ve qualified, as you become more senior, you take on more responsibility. Opportunities include international secondments, or working in other business areas outside your core specialism. In addition to your regular training, you’ll be able to access our Development Hub online.

Here is where you can choose from over 1,600 development options such as: workshops and e-learning on areas as diverse as presentation, report writing and project management. We also offer a Personal Effectiveness workshop to improve the way you communicate both with colleagues and clients. You’ll receive an annual appraisal, a twice-yearly performance review, and individual feedback on all your major projects to help keep your career on course.

If you are promoted to manager or assistant manager, our Management Essentials workshop will introduce you to your new role and responsibilities. Broadly speaking, you’ll be running more teams, and working with a wider portfolio of clients and sectors. You’ll also take charge of the development and coaching of the people you manage. Your input will also be needed in various other areas, such as our internal training programmes and sector focus groups to refine our business practices.

If you excel in how you perform and show great management potential, we’ll consider you for our fast-track Management Development Programme. This nine-month process runs alongside your daily duties, and will make it clear to everybody if you’re ready for a managerial role. Your sponsoring partner and learning & development manager will help you create a plan to lift your career to the next level.

Directors take charge of broader teams – providing solid leadership in their business area and ensuring the delivery of exceptional client service. If you achieve a director’s role, your responsibilities will expand to include developing long-term relationships with clients, widening your professional networks both internally and externally, and securing new work for the firm.

But the support doesn’t end just because you’ve reached a senior grade. To smooth your transition into the director role and help you develop your knowledge and expertise as you become more established, we offer a programme of workshop modules. These are focused on communication, leadership and commercial skills. Then, as you start to win work, we’ll monitor your progress to see if you show potential to be a BDO partner.

We identify prospective partners up to three years in advance. So if you’re selected, a senior partner sponsor (as well as your learning & development manager) will devise a tailored plan towards achieving this goal. This might include a secondment outside your business area, being part of a firm-wide leadership initiative, working on pitches, or shadowing senior partners.

Congratulations – you’ve reached the top of the BDO tree. You may be a full partner, in which case, you are one of the owners of the business, or you may be a salaried partner. Either way, you’ll keep receiving support and development to ease you into the role. The induction process includes working with your sponsor, mentor and learning & development manager to produce a ‘first 90 days plan, as well as a longer-term development plan.

As a partner, you’re expected to be a true leader: winning new work, creating deeper client relationships and contributing to the overall development of the firm. This includes being a mentor to others, and helping to formulate the strategy that will carry our business forward.

We pay for every aspect of your professional training


Summer school

Our Summer School programme is something we’re particularly proud of.

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Graduate programme

BDO offers graduate programmes in a range of exciting business areas.

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Internship programme

For high-calibre undergraduates in their penultimate year of study.

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Meet our people

The simplest way to really get to know BDO is to meet us.

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