The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a much-coveted professional qualification, known to enhance the careers of many in the accounting and financial fields. Globally, the ACCA is the leading body for professional accountants, boasting in the region of 190,000 members in 178 countries.
Despite several other qualifications to choose from, as the most popular qualification, the ACCA unlocks multiple career advantages; compared with other courses, ACCA graduates are better prepared for independent or private practice, with the course focusing more on advanced taxation and external auditing. However, the pass rates for some papers are as low as 30%. Therefore, the decision to study the ACCA course is not one that should be made lightly, as it will demand several years of study, and prior professional experience to begin.
In order to pass the ACCA, you will be required to complete 14 exams, alongside a professional ethics module, and at least three years’ experience in a professional environment.
The exams are broken into four sections: fundamentals – knowledge; fundamentals- skills; professional – essentials; professional – options. However, depending on your previous qualifications you may be exempt from any, or all, of the Fundamentals papers, able then to begin at Professional level.
Applicants are afforded ten years to complete the qualification, however most do so in three to four, with full-time or part-time options available. Those who begin the course with more experience and familiarity with the subject matter may find it easier to pass, though there is the possibility you may need to ‘unlearn’ particular aspects, and those joining with no experience often receive a stronger foundation as a result.
Studying whilst working has some advantages, in that you can apply your learning actively, and employers will often cover the cost of the course. The disadvantage here is the added pressure; as an average, students need 150 hours study for each paper, which amounts to approximately 900 hours study time. You’ll also need to factor in time for re-sits, as 100% pass rates are extremely rare. These conditions will challenge even those familiar with accounting.
Comparison: The difference between ACCA and CIMA
As one of the closest competitors to ACCA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is often mentioned at the same time. Both are highly sought-after, and much revered in the financial world. Whilst both qualifications can vary in content, they each cover similar topics, commonly take three to four years to complete, and share the requirement of relevant work experience – typically three years.
When it comes to preferred career routes, graduates of the ACCA qualification often continue into roles as financial consultants, auditors, and tax advisors. Meanwhile, common future positions for those holding a CIMA include roles as business managers, financial analysts, financial directors and more. If the business side of accounting is more appealing to you, CIMA will help you gain key management expertise. On the other hand, ACCA graduates are better prepared for independent or private practice, with the course focusing more on advanced taxation and external auditing.
One stipulation of the CIMA qualification is that you cannot progress until each set of exams are passed separately. In comparison, however, the ACCA qualification allows you to study simultaneously towards multiple exam sets. For this reason the ACCA is highly respected by employers as it is more challenging overall. In order to begin studying ACCA, you must have at least two A-levels and three GCSEs in different subjects to start at the Fundamentals level – though, if you have a degree from an ACCA-accredited university, you may be able to start directly at Professional level, whilst any previous education may exempt you from some exams. Entry requirements for the CIMA qualification are more easy-going: in order to start at Certificate level, no previous qualifications are required; any existing credentials may allow you to advance to the CIMA Professional qualification and to claim exemption from some exam papers.
Regardless of their differences, both accredited accounting qualifications are globally recognised, and will convey to future employers your dedication to the highest professional standards. Both the ACCA and CIMA are available to be studied online, meaning that you can enhance your credentials at your convenience, without needing to sacrifice your other commitments.
About Author: David Mike -Higher Educational Consultant, Researcher and writer with wide range of experience in professional career development. Aimed at educating the students, job aspirants & professionals about higher education, study abroad and online education.