If you are considering a career in accountancy it can be confusing that there are various qualifications and professional bodies vying for your attention. All the accountancy qualifications cover some of the same subject matter (accountancy strangely enough!) but there are some subtle differences that can make all the difference to your longer term career path. The four main qualifications are outlined below.
The AAT Accounting Qualification
AAT stands for Association of Accounting Technicians. This is an entry level qualification ideal for those just starting out in accountancy (perhaps through an apprenticeship) or school leavers without or with low A level grades. Or you might have been working in an accountancy role for several years but don’t have any formal training and are looking to obtain the qualification to give your career prospects a boost. If you are aged 16-24 and not in full time education you might be eligible for government funding to support your studies under the Accountancy Apprenticeship scheme.
The ACCA Qualification
Globally recognised as one of the leading accountancy qualifications. Upon completion you will be able to set up in accountancy practice and become a registered auditor. As a graduate or school leaver with at least 2 A levels you can start directly with the ACCA Professional Qualification. If you are a school leaver you can start with ACCA Foundations in Accountancy before progressing to the professional qualification. You will need 3 years relevant practical work experience to become fully qualified.
This is the leading accountancy qualification in the UK and graduates are known as chartered accountants. It is best suited for those working in accountancy practice and who are looking for a longer term career either in practice or perhaps as a Finance Controller or Finance Director. Graduates should find a training agreement with an employer. School leavers should start with either the AAT qualification or the ICAEW’s own CFAB qualification.
This is aimed at those working in industry or business, rather than in accountancy practice with the “MA” bit standing for management accountant. CIMA has a greater focus on management and strategy and is ideal for those who are looking for a career in finance, management or consultancy. School leavers should start with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, whilst graduates with a relevant degree might be able to start with the CIMA Chartered Management Qualification.
To do more research you might like to read some of the financial job profiles from the National Careers Service or look at these handy resources from ACCA and ICAEW: