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Professional accountancy qualifications for graduates

An introduction to professional accountancy bodies

Who offers professional qualifications? Here's a summary of the main professional accountancy bodies in their own words.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA )

Qualification: ACCA qualification

The ACCA qualification provides multiple pathways, whether you want to get an apprenticeship, diploma, or a BSc degree in applied accounting. Whatever your path, ACCA will provide you with the skills and knowledge to become a full finance professional who can work across any sector or industry. What’s more, ACCA is the largest and fastest growing international accountancy body, with over 480,000 students, 188,000 members and 8,500 approved employers. Studying with ACCA allows you to build a future that is diverse, challenging and full of opportunities both home and abroad.

The ACCA qualification focuses on professional values, ethics and governance, essential for the modern finance professional. To qualify as an ACCA accountant you will need to complete your exams, practical experience and a professional ethics module. As you progress you also have the opportunity to specialise in different areas such as management accounting or taxation via the professional level papers. Although you do not need any prior learning to start studying with ACCA, if you have a relevant degree you may be entitled to a maximum of nine exemptions, meaning a faster route to qualification. In addition, you have to complete three years’ relevant work experience and achieve 13 performance objectives before you can qualify.

Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT)

Qualification: The Certificate in Treasury Fundamentals

Treasury management is a rewarding, exciting and varied career that helps shape the future of an organisation’s financial strategy. The Association of Corporate Treasurers (ACT) is the chartered body for treasury and our role is to support the development of trained and qualified professionals to ensure they have the skills they need to operate successfully in business today. 

In today's marketplace, ACT qualifications are an important benchmark of professional competency. They provide practical tools for skilled treasury performance. Together with ACT membership, they offer a trusted, credible and recognised standard that shows your commitment to your professional development and the highest standards.

Relevant to a variety of roles – treasury, accountancy, risk, financial management, banking, relationship management and consultancy – our courses are developed in line with the ACT competency framework, which ensures you have the right skills and knowledge demanded by employers at any stage of your career.

The Certificate in Treasury Fundamentals is the first step on our qualifications pathway, enabling you to gain professional accreditation in as little as three months. ACT qualifications are progressive, so you build on the knowledge at every stage. This means that if you have a relevant degree or qualification, such as finance or accountancy, you may be eligible for exemptions on your way to becoming an associate member with the Diploma in Treasury Management.

Association of Taxation Technicians

Qualification: Taxation Technician (ATT)

The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) is the leading professional body for those providing UK tax compliance services. Our primary objective is to promote education and the study of tax administration and practice. One of our key aims is to provide an appropriate qualification for individuals who undertake tax compliance work. We contribute to consultations on the development of the UK tax system and seek to ensure that, for the general public, it is workable and as fair as possible.

In order to sit the exams, candidates must be at least 16 years old and have a reasonable standard of English and mathematics. To become a member of the Association, and use the practising title of Taxation Technician, candidates will need to pass five examination papers and have a minimum of two years' experience, either part time or full time, working in taxation or in any other occupation that entails an element of UK taxation.

Candidates are examined on Personal Taxation, Business Taxation & Accounting Principles, Law, Professional Responsibilities & Ethics, and a specialist tax paper from a choice of four options. Credits are available for candidates who have passed the examinations of certain other professional bodies prior to sitting the ATT exams. Candidates must be registered with the association for at least six months before being allowed to enter for a written examination, which are held in May and November.

Chartered Accountants Ireland

Qualification: Chartered Accountant Qualification (ACA / FCA)

Chartered Accountants Ireland is Ireland’s largest accountancy body with over 24,500 members and 6,600 students, of whom 3,900 members and 1,000 students are in Northern Ireland. Recognised internationally as Ireland’s premier accountancy qualification, Irish chartered accountants follow successful careers both at home and in 192 countries.

The wide regard in which our members are held can be attributed to the excellent educational standards to which we adhere, and the structured, supportive nature of our training. As well as passing professional exams, every Irish chartered accountant must gain relevant work experience, and most students will gain this experience through a structured training contract in an accountancy practice.

However, since the launch in 2009 of the flexible programme, candidates can generate their experience and study up to and including the final exams, outside of a training contract. Flexible candidates can take exams in different sittings or even spread them over more than one year. A new blended learning model for flexible students means lectures can be viewed online remotely, either live or recorded, providing excellent revision opportunities.

As well as completing authorised work experience and demonstrating competence in information technology, students must pass professional examinations covering modules from taxation, finance and law to strategic finance and management accounting. The exams are broken into three sections, concluding with the final admitting exam (FAE) that tests the candidate’s overall competence.

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

Qualification: CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting; CIMA Professional Qualification

CIMA is the largest professional body of management accountants in the world, offering the most relevant accounting qualification for a career in business; something our 229,000 members and students in 176 countries are proud to be a part of. The CIMA qualification will open doors with employers all over the world; as a chartered global management accountant (CGMA) you’ll earn more and go further.

There’s more to management accounting than you might think. It’s about looking beyond numbers and spreadsheets to add real value to a company. CIMA members and students work in all areas of business, in all types of organisations, in top positions, analysing trends and behaviours to make informed business decisions.

CIMA is the natural progression for people with finance and business degrees. If you have a degree in a relevant subject, you could be entitled to exam exemptions. However, graduates in any degree discipline can study CIMA. You would start by studying the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, which will give you a solid grounding to then progress on to CIMA’s Professional Qualification.

Do you analyse situations and weigh up all your options before making a decision? Then you’re thinking like a management accountant already.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)

Qualification: CIPFA Professional Qualification

If you want a career that is diverse, challenging and gives you responsibility from day one, then becoming a CIPFA qualified accountant could be the best decision you ever make if you have aspirations of reaching the top.

Designed to equip you with essential accountancy, leadership and strategic skills to enable you to succeed in both the public and private sectors, the CIPFA Professional Qualification can take you anywhere you choose.

The CIPFA Professional Qualification is the gold standard financial qualification for government and public services organisations; you can become qualified in as little as two years and reach the top more quickly.

There are three stages of assessment to the CIPFA Professional Qualification: professional certificate, professional diploma and the strategic stage, with each stage awarding a recognised qualification.

Assessment is through exams and a log of workplace experience. There are various entry routes to the professional qualification, designed to suit graduates, AATs, fully qualified accountants and senior professionals.

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT)

Qualification: Chartered Tax Adviser Qualification (CTA)

CIOT is the leading professional body in the UK for Chartered Tax Advisers dealing with all aspects of taxation. Our primary purpose is to promote education in taxation with a key aim of achieving a more efficient and less complex tax system for all. The Institute is a member of the Confédération Fiscale Européenne, the umbrella body for taxation advisers in Europe, and deals with all aspects of direct and indirect taxation. In order to sit the exams, candidates need a ‘confirmation of eligibility’, which can be gained in a number of ways including qualifying as a solicitor, an accountant, or passing the Association of Taxation Technician (ATT) exams.

To become a Chartered Tax Adviser, candidates will need three years’ professional experience and to pass six tax papers. Candidates are examined on two specialist tax subjects and must also show an understanding of a broad range of taxes, as well as applying their knowledge to a practical case study.

Credits are available for candidates who have passed the examinations of certain other professional bodies prior to sitting the CTA exams. Candidates must be registered with the Institute for four months before the exams, which are held in May and November. For those pursuing a career in international tax, the CIOT also offers the Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (ADIT).

CPA Australia

Qualification: Certified Practising Accountant (CPA)

Founded in 1886, CPA Australia is one of the world's largest professional accounting and finance bodies, representing more than 155,000 members and business professionals in 118 countries.

Our core services to members include education, training, access to knowledge, technical support, networking and advocacy. Staff and members work together with local and international bodies to represent the views and concerns of the profession to governments, regulators, industries, academia and the general public.

The CPA designation is a mark of high professional competence. It indicates soundness in depth, breadth and quality of accountancy knowledge. It provides members with an internationally recognised qualification as well as the opportunity to complete specialist training and continuing professional development (CPD).

To use the CPA designation, a member must complete a degree or a postgraduate award recognised by CPA Australia, complete the CPA Program, including three years of professional experience in finance, accounting or business, undertake CPD activities each year and comply with a strict code of conduct set by CPA Australia.

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

Qualification: Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ACA)

ICAEW’s chartered accountancy qualification, the ACA, is a world leading international qualification and one of the most advanced learning and professional development programmes available. It gives you the knowledge and expertise to perform at the highest levels in accountancy, finance and business.

You can train for the ACA qualification in all sectors, from accountancy practice and business to the not-for-profit and charity sectors. All you need to do is apply for an ACA training agreement with one of ICAEW’s authorised training employers or authorised training principals. The training agreement details the commitment between you and your employer, and is key to your success and development.

The ACA is completed between three to five years, has four elements and is a combination of knowledge, skills, and experience. During this time you’ll gain practical work experience, develop your ethical understanding of business, enhance your professional skills and achieve a high level of academic excellence.

To apply for an ACA training agreement you don’t need to have studied a business or finance-related subject at university. Each employer has their own entry criteria which you will need to meet before you can make your application. In addition to your academic achievements, employers want you to be motivated and career driven, as well as commercially aware. Discover more about becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, search for internships, placements and ACA training agreements.

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)

Qualification: Chartered Accountant Qualification (CA)

If you want your career to be challenging, rewarding and exciting, becoming an ICAS Chartered Accountant (CA) offers all this and more.

The CA qualification is a prestigious and internationally respected qualification that will provide you with the knowledge, skills and values you need to be a highly regarded and sought-after business professiona

Becoming a CA opens doors and you'll be in demand at home and around the world. You'll have both the ability and the opportunity to explore and excel in any area of business you choose. The career opportunities are endless.

Although our roots are Scottish, ICAS is not just an institute for Scottish CAs. We were the first ever professional accountancy body, established in 1854. Since then we’ve grown into a global community of CAs. Our members work in more than 100 countries and we train CAs in 11 locations across the UK. With over 21,000 members working in the UK and internationally, we have a truly global reach.

You can study the CA qualification by securing a training contract with any of our partner employers across the UK. It takes three years to complete and combines practical, relevant work experience with professional study. From the Big Four accountancy firms to public practices and opportunities across wider industries and sectors, there’s a CA training vacancy to fit your career aspirations.