ACA, ACCA or CIMA: How do I decide which accountancy qualification to choose?
Deciding what accountancy qualification you should take is a decision that is likely to have important implications for the future of your career. Being fully informed about the options available to you is the best way to ensure you are on the right path to fulfil your ambitions. This article covers the ACCA qualification. It explains the requirements and pros and cons, providing advice on which one will be best suited to you.
ACCA is a professional qualification given by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, which takes a minimum of two years to complete. It offers considerable flexibility, including full-time, part-time, distance learning and online courses. While the ACCA has sometimes been unfavourably compared to the ACA, it is growing in stature; ACCA is the fastest-growing professional qualification in the UK.
What are the requirements for becoming an ACCA-qualified accountant?
Those seeking ACCA are required to progress through four levels across 13 exams: applied knowledge, applied skills, essentials and options.
Students will sit 3 ‘applied knowledge’ exams, 6 ‘applied skills’ exams, 2 ‘essentials’ exams and 2 out of 4 ‘options’ exams.
It also requires professional experience and the completion of ethics modules.
What are the pros and cons of ACCA qualification for your career?
The ACCA’s main selling point is its flexibility. As detailed, it has an extensive offering of learning options, and provides more availability of exam sittings than the ACA. The ACCA is well suited to those who are seeking a career change or to fit their studies around other responsibilities. It is also useful for those who are seeking to work in finance functions of small companies, as it provides a strong foundation in bookkeeping. For those seeking to work overseas, it is perhaps more suitable than the ACA, as it is better-known internationally. Additionally, the ability to complete it within two years is useful if you are looking to become an accountant as quickly as possible, a prospect made more feasible by its higher pass rates compared with ACA.
Nevertheless, if you are seeking to work in practice rather than industry, the ACCA is undeniably secondary in stature to the ACA. Additionally, its status as an international qualification is useful if you plan to work abroad, but does mean you may not have as complete an understanding of the specifics of UK accounting rules compared with the ACA. ACCA’s focus on financial accounting means it does not offer as much education on commercial finance as CIMA, so ACCA candidates may find it harder to pursue opportunities in this area.
ACCA is a high-calibre qualification that will provide a solid foundation for your career. However, you may find that the alternatives, ACA and CIMA, may be better suited to your goals. Detailed breakdowns of these qualifications can be found here:
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