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Which accounting qualification best suits your career goals?
If you’re baffled by the sheer range of accounting qualifications on offer, it’s time to find out which ones are most suitable for different career goals.
To help make everything crystal clear for aspiring accountants, senior accounting tutor Patricia Barlow will be hosting a webinar on the different qualification routes. Find out more and sign up here.
An overview of accounting qualifications
The qualifications on offer each have different entry points, distinct focuses, and result in varying levels of qualification.
The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is a common entry point, introducing you to the basics, and taking you right up to advanced concepts. It consists of three major components, meaning you can reach the level of qualification that is right for you. AAT is perfect for those who want a more general grounding in accounting knowledge and practices. Depending on your previous experience, you can begin AAT at any level, and the full qualification is equivalent to the first year of a degree.
The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is the world’s largest professional body of management accountants, and so is ideal for those looking to enter the world of management accounting. You can begin with the CIMA Certificate with no previous qualifications or experience, and it introduces you to the fundamentals of accounting before moving on to advanced knowledge. If you have completed the full AAT qualification, you will be exempt from the CIMA Certificate, and will be able to go straight onto the Professional level. The full qualification is equivalent to a Master’s degree.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is designed for those looking to go into financial accounting. While you can begin the qualification with three GCSEs and two A Levels, completing AAT first means you can move on to a further stage of ACCA. After completing the Fundamentals papers, you can go on to the Professional level, which builds on technical concepts to give you an in-depth understanding of advanced practices and values. The complete ACCA qualification is broadly equivalent to a Master’s degree.
For many accountants, the ultimate aim it to become chartered. To do this, you will need to gain a qualification from a body such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), or the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).
Your career goals
It is often a good idea to pursue more than one qualification to build up both a broad and deep repertoire of knowledge, and the combination of qualifications you choose depends on your particular aspirations.
Many people begin with AAT, which gives exemptions from the CIMA Certificate and the first three papers of ACCA.
The CIMA qualification is a great choice for those aspiring to work on the finances of one particular organisation, closely involved with day-to-day operations. Management accounting is so much more than number crunching, giving you the opportunity to use your skills and knowledge to drive forward business performance within the broader business strategy.
ACCA is designed for those looking to advance their financial accounting career. Financial accountants can also be based within the organisation whose accounts they look after, but often work for firms, working with a number of different clients. As a financial accountant, you will normally focus on tasks such as financial forecasting, auditing, managing accounting systems, and could specialise in a specific area like tax.
Many people begin their route to chartered accounting with a preliminary qualification such as AAT, which offers a fast-track onto the ICAEW qualification.
You can find out more about the webinar on this topic and sign up here. You can also choose to receive a recording instead of attending live.
By Jannike Ohsten
• Babington Group