This question is asked by newly qualified AAT studiers, postgraduate students who are AAT exempt and also accountants who want to pursue their qualifications later on in their career, and as market experts in Accountancy & Finance recruitment we thought we’d shed a bit of light on the situation.

The most recognisable general accounting qualifications for both industry and practice employers are that of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). There are of course a number of more specialised qualification, such as the ATT or CTA for Tax specialists, or the CIPP for Payrollers, however in this article we’re going to be focusing on just the general accounting qualifications above and will be visiting the more specialist qualifications at a later date.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

The ACCA qualification is commonly accepted to recognise a wider variety of accountancy skills and focuses on the technical financial aspects of accountancy. The ACCA tends to be the most diverse of the 3 qualifications, being highly valued both for a career in Accountancy Practice, whilst many Finance Directors and Financial Managers will also possess this qualification.

In order to complete this qualification currently, studiers are required to complete 14 examinations, however, any individual with an Accounting or Finance related university degree will be exempt from some modules.

Please note that there are significant changes being made to the Professional Level of the ACCA in 2018, most notably P1 & P3 being replaced with a Strategic Business Leader case study, and P2 being swapped for a new exam entitled Strategic Business Reporting, with both of these changes being in effect form September 2018. We will be exploring these changes in depth as part of a future blog.

Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

The ACA is prescribed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and is only offered to individuals employed by an ACA approved institute for training. An accountant who wishes to pursue the ACA will usually look to a career within the world of Accountancy Practice, and as such the ACA is generally considered to be a far more practice focused qualification. An ACA qualification has many similarities to that of the ACCA qualification however with more of an external focus. The ACA qualification is considered prestigious within the accountancy world and is a highly sought after qualification from the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms.

In order to complete this qualification, studiers will have to be employed by an approved institute. The qualification consists of 15 examinations in addition to 450 days practical work experience, and tends to take between 3-5 years.

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

The CIMA qualification is a specialist management accounting qualification which is primarily focused at individuals who want to pursue a career within a senior management position. The CIMA qualification will focus on the strategic side of accounting as opposed to the technical side.

In order to complete this qualification, studiers will also be required to complete 14 examinations and university degree exemptions will also be taken into consideration.

The CIMA qualification is generally more geared towards a career in Industry as a lot of Accountancy Practices would look for the more all-round exposure of the ACCA or ACA, however it does have it’s benefits when it comes to the world of Outsourcing departments, and so is not to be completely written off. 

In conclusion all three qualifications are highly reputable within the world of accounting, and senior managerial positions will often require a professional qualification in order for you to be considered for the position. However, as each option follows a slightly different path, it is essential that you fully assess your career aspirations before selecting and undertaking the most appropriate qualification.

If you wish to seek the expert advice of a specialist Accountancy & Finance Consultant in making this decision, then get in touch with us today for a quick, confidential discussion.