What accountancy qualifications are available?
- ICAEW (offering the ACA qualification)
There are other accountancy bodies – such as AIA, EAA, IFA and CIPFA – but these are more specialist organisations and a far less common route into accounting for trainees. So, what’s the difference?
The ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales) is the largest accountancy body in Europe and offers members the ACA qualification. You’ll be required to sit 15 exams and log 450 days of relevant work experience to qualify, and you have a maximum of five years to do so. In addition, you’ll need to sign a training contract with an authorised employer.
ACA is a prestigious qualification – once you hold it, you can work at any accountancy firm, including in audit, or move to the public and private sectors, through to contractor accountants. It’s also the route taken by the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms – more on them later.
The ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is a globally-recognised organisation and the largest accountancy body in the world.
To qualify as a member, you’ll take 14 exams and log three years of relevant work experience – although you have up to ten years to do so. Unlike the ACA, you don’t need to sign a training contract and can more easily move between employers while training.
ACCA members have similarly broad prospects to ICAEW members – whether you see a career within an accountancy practice or in industry, you’ll have the knowledge and skills to go down any route you choose.
The CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) is an organisation geared towards skills valued in commercial business settings. Students will sit 12 exams – 9 tests and 3 case studies – and have no time limit within which to complete them.
As with ACCA, you don’t need to sign a training contract – but unlike the other two qualifications, you’re very likely to be studying in a business environment, rather than at an accountancy firm.
CIMA members will usually find themselves working as management accountants in the private sector – the qualification focuses heavily on skills valuable in the real-world running of a business.
The AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) isn’t a full chartered accountancy qualification like the other three, but is a very common route into finance and accounting for trainees. It’s commonly offered by small accountancy firms and within business finance teams and gives a solid grounding in the principles of finance and accounting.
Holding an AAT qualification provides exemptions to some exams for students of the above organisations, which is a major reason it’s seen as a stepping stone to a chartered qualification.
AAT members are found in a broad spectrum of roles and are valued within industry and accountancy firms alike.