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What is the best accountancy qualification for me? ACA

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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 ACA qualification. It explains the requirements and pros and cons, providing advice on which one will be best suited to you.

​For information on other accountancy qualifications, see our articles on ACCA and CIMA

ACA is a professional qualification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW). Taking a minimum of three years to complete, it can only be attained through working for an ACA-approved institution, meaning most people taking it will be working for on a training contract for a public practice accounting company. It is generally considered both the hardest and most prestigious accounting qualification in the UK, giving those who complete it a strong grounding across all areas of accounting.

What are the requirements for becoming an ACA-qualified accountant?

  • ACA is split into three levels: certificate, professional and advanced.

  • There are 15 total exams: the certificate and professional levels have six each, while the advanced level has 3.

  • It also requires 450 days of work experience and the passing of professional development and ethics modules.

  • Employers usually provide study leave for exams, including up to three months for the Final Admitting Exam (FAE) which, over two days, examines six modules and an elective. 

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What are the pros and cons of ACA qualification for your career?

This is the most difficult and respected accountancy qualification in the UK for good reason.

Those who successfully pass it will have strong auditing skills, which are consistently in demand both in practice and in industry, commanding high salaries. Many large companies seek to hire ACA-qualified accountants from large accountancy practices due to the experience they will have gained in practice of auditing similar businesses. However, the scope of skills that can be used in industry provided by an ACA qualification goes beyond internal audit. They are highly sought after in financial control, financial planning and analysis, and financial and management accountant roles. The most technical roles, such as financial reporting, are usually best filled by ACA professionals due to their detail orientation and experience with large data sets.

While it is an excellent qualification to have under your belt, it should be noted that successfully completing the ACA is not easy. The exam failure rate is high, and the limitation of entrance to those working in practice means that you are likely to be stretched by the dual responsibilities of working and studying over the minimum of three years it takes to complete, in contrast to ACCA, which can be completed in two years. Additionally, the ACA’s prestige means that those seeking careers in management accounting and commercial finance can certainly find roles, but if this is your long-term goal you may find the more specific focus of CIMA better suited to your goals.

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​ACA is a high-calibre qualification that will provide a solid foundation for your career. However, you may find that the alternatives, ACCA and CIMA, may be better suited to your goals. Detailed breakdowns of these qualifications can be found here:

ACCA

CIMA

Camino Partners frequently partners with industry-leading firms who place strong value on the career development of their employees, and offer study support in order to achieve this.

Check out the great roles on our website or get in touch with Oliver Dunne, our specialist consultant, to explore your options and take a step towards realising your career goals.