My Unconventional Journey from a Mechanical Engineer to a Chartered Accountant

  • Can an Engineer Become a Chartered Accountant or CPA? How can you pursue CA after engineering?
  • For those who are seeking the fastest path to a CA / CPA qualification, the quickest route is to pursue the same after class 12. However, if you intend to pursue Chartered Accountancy or CPA even after becoming an Engineer, Actuary or MBA you can do so. After all, everything is possible for those who believe.
  • In this article, Sujay Ajgaonkar is sharing his story on how he started studying to be a Chartered Accountant after completing his Mechanical Engineering.
  • Sujay is now a qualified Chartered Accountant from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) and a Mechanical Engineer. He is also a trained Hindustani Classical singer.

CA after Engineering

In school, I was decent in studies, not really a topper or anything. I was more into sports and athletics, was a national-level athlete, and ran for Maharashtra (India) in my 10th grade.

In fact, I opted for Science after class 10 because I could have my options open if I changed my mind in the future. (In India, one can switch from the Science stream to Commerce or Arts). However, in my knowledge, the other way around is not allowed. You could say, I was a confused kid. 

Luckily I did not change my mind, gave my MH CET (engineering entrance in India), got a decent score, and went ahead with Mechanical Engineering. Again I chose mechanical engineering as it is the most basic form of engineering, hence that kept my option open as an engineer too.

My parents were very happy and encouraged me to pursue engineering instead of a normal Bachelors's in Accounting or a Bachelors's in Science.

My dad is a Chartered Accountant and has his own CA practice in Mumbai (India) and always wanted me to pursue CA (every CA parent wishes the same I guess). But he was very happy when I went in for engineering and encouraged me greatly even though it was a totally different profession from his expectation!

In engineering college, I was very active in all college activities like college festivals, college committees, etc. In short, I was exploring everything before taking a set direction. Somewhere inside of me, I knew that I would not want to work as an engineer but I still continued my studies and tried making the most of all the opportunities that came my way.

Now though I was pursuing my engineering, my dad casually mentioned to me that an Engineer and a Chartered Accountant would be a great combination. I found that crazy and laughed. But since my dad has most of his clients in the manufacturing field and he felt I could be a great CA as I would be able to understand both the Finance and the Engineering part of the clients.

I found the idea good as well, but studying CA after engineering was too much to digest. I somehow gave my dad a very positive vibe on this (which I realized later!), making him feel that maybe I would pursue CA after engineering and I left it at that!

Now during my last year of engineering, my dad again brought up the topic of pursuing CA. He was really excited to know when I would be registering for CA. It was then that I realized that my dad really believed that I could be both – an Engineer and a Chartered Accountant (CA).

I thought about it and the entire concept of CA with engineering was a good idea but pursuing CA after my engineering would be too time-consuming. I had to start studying all over again for another 3-4 years (and that is if I cleared in one shot, else even more). It was something I was not ready for.

A few days later, I decided to tell my dad that CA would be too much for me and I would not want to invest a min of 3 years (in CA you could never tell, it could be more) to pursue CA after studying for four years to be an engineer. However, that very same week my elder brother (who was pursuing CA and Law) decided to take a break from CA and pursue LLM (Masters in Law) from abroad.

My parents always supported our decisions and were happy that my brother was pursuing his passion Law, however, I always knew my dad wanted at least one of us to become a Chartered Accountant. And that’s when I decided to pursue CA and become a qualified Chartered Accountant from ICAI.

When I told my Dad that I wanted to pursue CA, he was really happy and encouraged me. He told me again that why a CA and an Engineer would be a great combination!

My Journey Studying to be a Chartered Accountant

When I took up CA after engineering, many people thought I was digging my own grave and making my life a mess. Nobody explicitly told me I couldn’t do it, but not many were encouraging either. And, to be honest, a lot of people could not digest this career path – An engineer studying to be a CA.

In fact, when I finished my engineering most of my engineering friends left the country for their Masters, some started working but the only thing that kept me going was the goal – To fulfill my dad’s dream. I took it as :

  • A challenge in front of me
  • A mountain I had decided to climb and reach the top because I knew the view from up there would be beautiful
  • And that’s exactly what I did and focussed on my end goal and my dad’s dream.

To be a Chartered Accountant from ICAI, one needs to clear 3 levels of exams:

  • CPT: First level. You have to give this exam if you register for the CA course before graduating. I did not have to give this as I pursued CA after engineering.
  • IPCC: Second level exam. This consists of 2 groups - Group 1 & 2.
  • CA Final: Last level of CA exam and has again 2 groups - Group 1 & 2.
  • 3 years of articles training: This usually starts after you clear IPCC. However, since I started my CA after engineering so I could register for articleship even before clearing IPCC. 

Since I was pursuing CA from ICAI after my engineering, I could opt for the direct route. This meant I could skip CPT and had to give only two levels: IPCC and CA Final. 

My CA IPCC And Articleship Experience. The biggest battle was giving CA IPCC exams.  Well, it was an uphill task of coping with Accounts coming from a science background. I also started with my articles. Below I have shared my exam attempts.

May’13 attempt. I just had 5 months to prepare for CA IPCC (as I had to complete my engineering internship as well). I decided to give only CA IPCC Group 1.

Being a science student, I struggled with the IPCC curriculum. Everyone around me used to think I am crazy but I kept pushing.

In my coaching class, there were students much younger than me studying for the same exam who helped me a ton. Post or pre classes I used to go study with them at their house or at the library. They have played a huge role in my IPCC journey. They made sure of clearing all my doubts and helped me understand the basic concepts.

In May 2013 attempt I cleared CA IPCC Group 1. I still remember that day, it felt so amazing. Anyways understanding Accounts was a real nightmare but it all felt so worth it!

Nov’13 Attempt. I had IPCC Group 2 pending. Again I worked hard for this but lost out on aggregate. The reason being I started with my articles as well and found it difficult to manage studies and work.

May’14 Attempt. I cleared IPCC Group 2 in my 2nd attempt. The practical knowledge which I got while doing my articles helped me so much in understanding exam concepts.

In Dec’14. I gave CFA level 1 because I started gaining interest in the Financial Markets (thanks to FM in CA) and cleared that as well.

So by now, you could say I was settled into the Finance world and was enjoying it.

"How I Cleared My CA Final Exams?"

In CA Final, there was no set game plan. When I was just about to start studying during my preparation leave, all I thought looking at the size of my books was – 'Come what may, I will do all in my means to make sure I do NOT have to go through these books again'. With that in mind, I gave it my all. I kept a very Positive Attitude, which helped a lot.

Everyone has their own way of studying, if one would pace their studies over a long-time period there could be a chance of fatigue towards the end, given the portion. Hence, I made sure I had enough on my plate and my concepts were fresh before appearing for the exams.

May’15 Attempt. Now it was time for CA Final (CA Final has 2 groups – Group 1 and Group 2). I chose to give individual groups as that seemed more doable in my case. In this attempt, I cleared CA Final Group 1.

Nov’15 Attempt. I cleared CA Final Group 2 in this attempt.

Woohoo! I was now a qualified Chartered Accountant.

Dealing With The Entire Situation of CA After Engineering

My family was the reason behind me taking it up as I mentioned above and they were the ones that got me going. During exam preparations when I would be in my room studying, after office my Dad would come and see me studying, that look on his face finding me studying so hard, was just priceless. I wouldn’t mind taking it up again, just to relive those moments.

When I started with CA it was tough, very tough in fact. The way I tackled it was by making sure I worked on my strengths and got an exemption (60 plus) in my favorite subjects.

I also made it a point to cross that 40 marks in the subjects I dreaded (you need a min of 40/100 to clear individual subjects). Taking this up worked wonders for me. And it assured me that I never went below the 40 marks in any subject be it IPCC or CA Final.

So my advice to all – Do not just aim to get a 40, aim higher.

Benefits of Having an Engineering Degree with a CA Qualification

  • While taking a call on one of our client’s strategies, it definitely helped give inputs on costing, as I knew what went into production and could picturise the same. So yes, being an Engineer and a CA does help in certain situations!
  • An engineering experience did boost my logical thinking ability and a CA qualification gave me the Finance/Tax/ Audit/Law knowledge – which helps me to serve clients better.
  • Well, there were times when I myself thought of giving up, especially while dealing with the CA curriculum with the exams on my head. But I think being from a different background does help sometimes as you bring something new to the table. It may be better logic or even creativity.
  • Chartered Accountancy does not focus on one specific subject. It is a nice mix of everything and tests you on how good you can be at grasping different types of information.
  • I always thought of starting my own business at some point in life and if I do, I think I would be in a better place to do business, understanding most aspects of Engineering and Finance.
  • In fact, some engineers make better-Chartered Accountants than B.Com graduates because of their investigative nature, sound judgment, and good analytical skills.

Are you an engineer wanting to pursue CA? Here is my advice.

  • Know your Why: Not to scare you but CA from ICAI needs a min of 3.5 years of investment if you clear all the exams in the first attempt else it can also take you 4- 6 years or more. So if you are thinking of pursuing CA after any other qualification, have a strong why because the CA journey can be a tough one and a long one.
  • Never too late in life: For the people who are confused, to take up something new or to study something they always wanted, all I could say is  – It is never too late in life.
  • Follow your heart – When it came to my CA story, I just wanted to fulfill my Dad’s dream. You could have another goal just keep that goal in mind when you feel like giving up. It is okay to be confused but it is not okay to have a negative attitude. Stay optimistic always. 
  • When it comes to friends – You always have some supporting you, some who say it is going to be tough, and also some who make fun of you for taking it up. But well I took all of it and tried making it work my way. For some, I couldn’t let them down, and then for the others, I had a point to prove. It all depends on perspective, how you look at things and make them work your way matters.
  • Also even in the future if I intend to get back to engineering (which I do not intend to!) or for that matter start something of my own, my CA qualification would be of great help as CA is one of the most exhaustive courses in the Accounts and Finance space. It gives one an overall perspective, it is one qualification that can NEVER be a waste.
  • Also, my advice would be to take private tutoring for Accounts, Taxation, and maybe Costing to get your basics right.
  • Quoting Coldplay here – If you never try you will never know just what you’re worth.
  • So yes, don’t waste too much time thinking. Dive in, at least it is worth the experience so do give it a shot.

Now It’s Your Turn...

Do you intend to pursue CA or CPA after your engineering? Or are you someone who did CA after engineering? Or Do you have any questions for me?

Just drop your views here. I’d love to hear from you.

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