Our highly successful ACA professional training scheme for graduates and apprentices will equip you with the Chartered Accountancy qualification and membership of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

You will have the opportunity to make a real difference to our huge range of clients and to the nation and its citizens. You will develop the skills to equip you for a fantastic career.

Be part of a much bigger picture at the NAO.


Our position is unique, and our work is extraordinarily influential. Independent of government, we scrutinise public spending for Parliament and investigate major government projects and programmes. This means we work for, and for the good of, all citizens in our country. We help our economy and society work better – supporting and enabling improvements in financial management and the way vital public services are delivered right across the public sector to millions of people every day.  For you, this means challenging and varied work that has real benefit for the nation.

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Our ACA professional training scheme supports you right through to qualify as a Chartered Accountant with the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). You can join the scheme through one of two entry routes:

As a Graduate: with a 2:1 undergraduate degree or better in any subject (achieved or expected). This route takes 3 years through to ICAEW membership.

As an Apprentice: with 120 UCAS points from 3 A’ Levels (or equivalent) in any subjects and no degree. This route takes up to 5 years through to ICAEW membership.

More details of the entry requirements are given under the ‘Apply’ section, along with helpful hints and tips on each stage of the process.

Our graduates and apprentices come from a range of backgrounds and have studied the full spectrum of subjects including arts, social sciences, sciences and engineering – not just maths! Our work benefits from different perspectives that people from different backgrounds bring. Whether you join us as a graduate or as an apprentice, you will benefit from a highly successful and well supported scheme designed to help you succeed all the way.

We will provide you with:

First-class tuition with a high quality external professional training provider

  • 25 weeks’ paid study leave in block release to maximise your success
  • Exam pass rates that are well above the national average
  • A fully funded accountancy qualification and professional membership subscriptions (ICAEW)
  • Opportunities to develop a wide range of technical and professional as well as management and leadership skills to equip you for a fantastic career
  • Work in teams with other colleagues committed to collaboration, quality, and success
  • An excellent system of support from NAO colleagues all the way through
  • An NAO ‘buddy’ from our more experienced trainees, who will be on hand to answer any questions you have during those first few months
  • Relevant and varied work experience with challenges you can rise to and learn from
  • Opportunities to take responsibility early in your career
  • First-class

  • 25 weeks'
    study leave

  • Above-average
    pass rates

  • Relevant, varied
    work experience

    What you’ll do

    Alongside your qualification you’ll work with clients from across government. You’ll start out working as a team member supporting our core financial audits, building up over time to work on bigger audits and more complex work, taking more of a lead role as you develop your skills and confidence. While working mainly on financial audits you’ll also have the opportunity to be involved in a range of our other work – including support for Parliament, investigations and our larger value for money studies of major government projects and programmes, which result in high profile reports to Parliament that often make the headlines.

    Where you’ll go

    Don’t expect to spend a lot of your time at your desk. Our trainees get involved in all kinds of projects that get them out in the field to all kinds of places across the UK, and sometime even further afield. You’ll get to work out on clients’ premises where you can see how businesses really work and how they can improve.

    The impact you’ll make

    Right from the start, you’ll contribute to work that matters. Whatever you work on it all serves to help hold government to account for the way it uses public money and helps to promote improvements in public service delivery. The scope of our impact is huge – from health to education to justice to overseas development to the BBC and Bank of England – and much more.

    In 2022 we certified 406 financial statements and completed 62 VFM and wider assurance reports. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to:

    We made a financial impact totalling £572 million so for every £1 spent we made a return of £7..

    You can find out a lot more about us and our work from our website but here are some examples of recent work:-

Reducing fraud in Universal Credit advances

DWP accepted the need to measure advances fraud, and in line with our wider work on fraud and error has since introduced a number of measures to reduce the level of fraud.  This included enhancing its identity verification and trialling a machine learning model to identify suspected fraud before the payments are made.

As a result of these changes, DWP has confirmed that it has saved £142 million in two years.

EU Exit

Since 2016 we have produced 30 reports examining the government’s preparations for the UK leaving the EU. We continue to highlight key risks around systems development, infrastructure and resourcing, and industry and trader readiness.

Our international work and insights

In April 2021 we were appointed to the Governing Board of Supreme Audit Institutions (EUROSAI). Our role will be to lead EUROSAI’s consideration of emerging issues such as the impact of digitalisation, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and population and demographics on public services. 

Improving the management of NHS property

In 2021, DHSC confirmed it had implemented all of the NAO’s recommendations.  Actions taken included: improving the timeliness of billing, more engagement with customers, and closer working with NHS England and NHS Improvement regional teams to resolve issues.

DHSC has confirmed that the actions taken resulting from NAO recommendations have already saved the NHS more than £180 million

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic

To support transparency and accountability, we launched a COVID-19 cost tracker, which we update regularly to show the spending commitments and cost to date of all government pandemic spending.

Reducing the cost of electricity networks

We recommended that Ofgem ensures that it sets more stretching targets for network companies in the next regulatory period, while building enough flexibility into the price controls to respond to unexpected developments.

Ofgem and the government agreed to these recommendations, and as a result Ofgem has reduced the cost of capital allowed for electricity network companies for its new price control period, which commenced in 2021.

Ofgem has confirmed that so far this has saved the taxpayer more than £150 million.

Your development and career

We’ll give you everything you need to rise to challenges and be at your best, including the time and support you need to get your ACA qualification, with generous paid study leave and support.

Our learning and development offering is excellent, combining: formal training courses on aspects of accounting and auditing as well as management and leadership skills; learning through our work; and learning from other colleagues.

Looking further ahead we run talent programmes which identify, support and develop those with the potential to reach our most senior levels.

The more you develop, the more options will open up for you in terms of career development and progression. All across the NAO you’ll find people in leadership positions who started with us as trainees.

All this is within the context of a friendly, supportive and highly professional organisation with clear values which are:

  • We act with courage and integrity
  • We are inclusive and respectful
  • We are curious and seek to learn
  • We strive for excellence

To hear first hand accounts of what it’s like to be a trainee at the NAO, please refer to our trainee blog.


Along with work that just means more, you’ll benefit from a sociable, collaborative working culture, with support from others who have been there before you.

    Very competitive pay and benefits.

    Starting salary for graduates is over £33,000 (London) and over £27,000 (Newcastle).

    Starting salary for Apprentices is over £27,000 (London) and over £21,000 (Newcastle). Annual pay increases plus increases for passing key stages of the qualification.

    35 days of annual leave (including bank holidays), flexible working, and generous family leave.

    Fully funded ACA qualification and ICAEW membership subscriptions.

    Access to the excellent civil service pension scheme.

    Along with work that just means more, you’ll benefit from a sociable, collaborative working culture, with support from others who have been there before you.

    Modern open plan offices, centrally located in London and Newcastle and equipped with a range of excellent on-site facilities. Access to a wide variety of social activities, from quizzes to sporting events, coordinated by the NAO Sports and Social Association.

    Excellent on-site gym at our London Office and subsidised gym membership in Newcastle. Free Employee Assistance Program for confidential, wellbeing support and advice.


What we’re looking for

Both our Graduate and Apprenticeship Trainees need to meet the following common criteria:

  • a minimum of 120 UCAS points (or 300 based on the pre-September 2017 UCAS tariff point system) or equivalent from your top 3 A ‘Levels.  General Studies does not count.
  • If you have 104 UCAS points (or 260 based on the former UCAS tariff point system), you may still be eligible to apply as your application will be reviewed in the context of your socio-economic background.  Please email for further details.
  • You must be a UK National, National of Commonwealth countries who have the right to work in the UK or Nationals from the EU, EEA or Switzerland with (or eligible for) status under the European Union Settlement Scheme (EUSS).
  • We are not able to sponsor work visas.  Please email should you have any questions on your nationality eligibility.

For our Graduate scheme only:

  • To join the Graduate scheme you will also have, or expect to have, a 2:1 degree or better in any subject
  • You should not be on a current training contract with another accountancy firm, or be part-qualified
  • We do consider accredited degrees such as Accountancy & Finance, but you will follow our training pathway.

For our Apprenticeship scheme only:

  • You must not hold a degree
  • You should not be on a current training contract with another accountancy firm, or be part-qualified

Extenuating Circumstances

If you do not meet the requirements but have extenuating circumstances, please contact our team at to discuss before submitting an application.  We do review on a case-by-case basis.

Alongside your academic credentials, we’ll assess some of the key competencies that you’ll need to demonstrate in order to be a successful Graduate or Apprenticeship Trainee at the NAO.

These competencies are assessed throughout the application process, so it’s a good idea to start familiarising yourself with them. Think about how you may have demonstrated the desired behaviours in your previous experience, such as part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, or school/college/university assignments.

The competencies, and a short description of each, are listed below. Click on the headings to read the full description.

Analyses Data to Draw Sound Conclusions

This competency is about being able to gather and quickly absorb large amounts of information from a variety of sources as well as identifying patterns and trends in data and information. You will need to demonstrate that not only will you be able ask clients the right questions in order to get the relevant information, but that you can present conclusions in a way that is clear and easy to understand.

Demonstrates Sound Judgement

A successful auditor at the NAO does not take things at face value and needs to maintain objectivity and professional skepticism when making decisions. You will need to demonstrate that you can distinguish between the important and minor issues. It is also important to be able to demonstrate sound judgement by comparing what you would logically expect to the actual evidence. This competency is also about being able to identify risk areas in a client’s organisation and take steps to mitigate them.

Communicates Effectively With Others

To be a successful auditor your communication skills will be as important as your ability to analyse the data. You will need to demonstrate that you can communicate confidently at all levels, using clear and appropriate language both orally and in writing, backing up your ideas with evidence. Communicating effectively is about active listening; you will need to demonstrate the potential to actively listen to clients’ and team members’ opinions and needs and respond accordingly.

Demonstrates Enthusiasm, Initiative and Drive

Studying for your accountancy qualification whilst working full time will, at times, be very challenging. We are a supportive organisation but you will need to show the drive and commitment to meet this challenge.  As a trainee, you will be involved in delivering all aspects of our work from the very start, albeit with the appropriate levels of support and guidance. We are therefore looking for people who are able to work without close supervision and are able to present potential solutions as well as problems. You will be adaptable, resourceful and resilient. You’ll also be passionate about your own development and will be pro-active in taking ownership for it

Builds and Maintains Effective Team Relationships

We’re looking for team players who will support peers and team members by offering help and encouraging participation and contribution. At the same time you’ll be pro-active in seeking support from others when necessary. Self-aware, you’ll effectively manage your impact on other team members and will be adaptable to change in working with different teams, in different environments.

Builds and Maintain Effective Client Relationships

Building and maintaining effective client relationships are vital if we are to deliver lasting improvements in public service delivery. You’ll therefore need to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and openly with clients. You also need to be able to build rapport quickly by demonstrating a friendly and professional approach being assertive and confident in a non confrontational way when the situation demands it. Building and maintaining effective client relationships are vital if we are to deliver lasting improvements in public service delivery.

Delivering high quality work to deadline by planning and organising your work

We must deliver high quality work. To do this you will need to prioritise work sensibly and logically by understanding how long tasks will take, how tasks fit together and what information is required.  In forming your approach to tasks you will apply your learning from previous experience. Not easily distracted from the task at hand, you deal with issues promptly so that they do not impact on the deadline. When changes,  set backs and obstacles  arise, you will be able to maintain your focus and pace.

Understands the Bigger Picture

This competency is all about your understanding of how wider issues affect the NAO’s work. We are looking for people who want to understand our client organisations and how they work, and have a genuine motivation to contribute to the work of the NAO in adding value to our clients and achieving ambitious goals. You will also be able to show understanding of wider issues (e.g. economic, political and social trends) and how they are relevant context for the work of the NAO.


Follow our 4-stage application process for Graduates and Apprentices.

Please note:  Only one application per recruitment campaign is permitted.  Any duplicate applications will be withdrawn.

If you accidentally withdraw your application, please contact as we can reactivate your application.


Upon submitting your online application and provided you have met all of our minimum requirements; you’ll be invited to complete an online numerical reasoning test.

You don’t need to be a mathematician to succeed in this, its purpose is to show us how you work with data and make decisions using the kind of numerical information you might use when working here.

We recommend you do at least one practice numerical reasoning test first before completing the test. This will give you a feel for the types of questions asked and how long they will take you to answer. It’s a great way to prepare, helping you relax and perform to the best of your ability.

If you require any reasonable adjustments to support you with this stage of the process, please contact so we can discuss how best to support you.

Please note: In order to maintain fairness, we reserve the right to re-test candidates who reach the assessment centre stage of the process when they visit our offices.

Upon successful completion of the online numerical test, you’ll be invited to complete 4 competency based questions. These questions will assess you against our 8 competencies (set out above) and we’ll be looking for specific examples of when you have demonstrated them.

Examples could be from (but are not limited to) your time at university/school, work experience such as part-time jobs at school or university, or any extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in.

TIP: Each question has a 250-word limit, allowing you to provide detailed examples. We don’t have a minimum word limit, but answers which are very short are unlikely to demonstrate the behaviour we are looking for in sufficient detail, so be sure to write a reasonable amount.

You should submit your answers without help from other sources e.g. ChatGPT/AI software.  Any applications whereby external AI support has been provided will be withdrawn.

Please note: all 4 competency based questions carry equal marks. We are always impressed by people who are enthusiastic about the work of the NAO and how they feel they can contribute to it, so we would encourage you to do some research and think about how you picture yourself working with us.

Once completed, your answers are marked by our trained screeners. If you meet the minimum mark required, you will be progressed to Stage 2.

We aim to contact you within three weeks of your competency submission to tell you if you’re proceeding to Stage 2. We will let you know if your application has been unsuccessful, however due to the large number of applications we receive, we’re unable to provide specific feedback on applications that are not put through to the next stage.


Those who successfully complete the on-line application form and numerical reasoning test and have met our initial criteria, will be invited to a Stage 2 assessment. This involves a 45-60 minute telephone interview, and the opportunity to ask your questions about the scheme.

If you require any reasonable adjustments to support you with this stage of the process, please contact so we can discuss how best to support you.


Schedule your interview for a day/time that suits you.  If no slots are showing on the portal, check back as these are updated regularly.

Try to relax and be yourself and speak clearly and confidently.

A telephone interview is just as important as a face-to-face interview, so it needs the same level of preparation and involvement.

Review your application and have a copy with you if necessary.  This can help you think about your answers.  However, avoid scripting your answers because you will sound unnatural when you say them.

You will not be able to provide the visual cues that you would in a face-to-face interview such as eye contact and body language.  This means your listening and verbal communication skills will be extremely important.

The interview is a blend of competency and scenario based questions and we are looking for you to demonstrate evidence of the NAO competencies.  As the interviewer has a time limit and needs to get as much information from you as possible, you may find the interview somewhat structured.

TIP: You may find it helpful to review some tips on preparing for telephone interviews.


If you’re successful at Stage 2 then you’ll be invited to the final stage of the process, which will include a number of individual and group exercises, as well as an interview, all assessed against the NAO’s 8 competencies (listed above). The assessment centre will last a day, and is run in-person and virtually.  You’ll also have the opportunity to speak to some of our current trainees and to ask any questions you might have.

If you require any reasonable adjustments to support you with this stage of the process, please contact so we can discuss how best to support you.

TIP: Our Graduate Blog has plenty of valuable insights which will help you throughout the application process, but by clicking here you will be able to get hints and tips on our assessment centre from people who were successful in it so be sure to take a look!


Offers are conditional on a number of pre-employment checks including security vetting and verification of your academic grades entered on your application. You will be notified shortly after the assessment centre as to whether or not you have been successful.

Diversity and Inclusion

We’re continuing to build a diverse organisation which is representative of the people we serve.  We want to harness the skills and expertise of our people and attract the best talent, to enable a safe and accessible route for everyone.  To learn why inclusion is important to us, please click here.

About our people and the recruitment process – we’re an inclusive employer of choice and we welcome applications from everyone!

We encourage our colleagues to work flexibly, as we know traditional working patterns don’t always fit.  If you want to consider working flexibly, just let us know and we’ll do our best to help and invest in your career with us, whilst you have a healthy work life balance.

We’re also a Disability Confident Leader employer and we’ll try our best to adapt the process and offer a reasonable alternative to help support people with disabilities access, apply and interview for roles.