Accountancy and financial management
Road with many direction arrows

The graduate guide to qualifying as a professional accountant

Find out why qualifying as a professional accountant is so important and how to get those important letters after your name.
Qualifying usually takes about three years and comprises a number of exams and practical work experience.

Having a qualification from a recognized professional accountancy body demonstrates to employers, clients and the general public that you have the training and skills to do your job well. The high standard of accountancy qualifications means you have to work and study incredibly hard but the benefits of becoming a professional accountant far outweigh the bad.

Professional bodies: the basics

There are several professional bodies in the sector, ranging from those that cover all areas of accounting to those that offer training in a specific area such as management accounting. Obtaining membership entitles you to use the designatory letters after your name, bestowing vital prestige that could make all the difference to successful career progression.

Qualifying with a professional body usually takes about three years and comprises a number of exams and practical work experience. It is possible to study at an academic institution without working at the same time but you cannot normally gain membership with the professional body until you have a certain amount of work experience in accountancy as well. For this reason, most people opt to study and work at the same time. Most accountancy employers will pay for your exam fees and give you time off to study.

Choosing a professional qualification

More often than not your choice of employer will determine which professional qualification you work towards. However, if your employer offers you a choice or if you are choosing between employers that offer different qualifications, you should consider carefully what your future career plans are and not just focus on how many exams you’ll have to sit! It’s important to realise that no one qualification is easier than another: standards are monitored by an overseeing body to ensure parity. The differences lie in the focus of the syllabus, the sector of employment in which you train and how you obtain the training.

Read our information on professional bodies in accountancy to find out more about some of the main qualifications and make sure you research your chosen qualification thoroughly. Whichever one you choose, membership of a professional body will give you the necessary tools for a successful career.