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Accountancy Qualifications Explained

If you’re a candidate looking to study an accountancy qualification or a client looking for the best qualification for your staff this article is designed to give you the facts to help you decide.

There are 5 main recognised professional accountancy qualifications the syllabus for each I have listed below.Studies can be taken via distance learning or by attending one of a select number training provider.

There is no set time that it takes to gain a qualification average is 2-4 years.

AAT – Association of Accounting Technicians

This is allows candidates to become part qualified giving a good knowledge platform to undertake one of the 4 professional qualifications.

The qualification is made up of 3 sub qualification with their own modules

AAT Certificate in Accounting

1 Modules is:

  • Introduction to accounting

AAT Advanced Certificate in Accounting

6 Modules are:

  • Accounts preparation
  • Prepare accounts for sole traders and partnerships
  • Cost and revenue
  • Professional ethics
  • Indirect tax
  • Spreadsheet software

AAT Diploma in Accounting

4 Modules are :

  • Budgeting
  • Financial Performance
  • Internal control and accounting systems
  • Specialist learning units

Your are assessed by exams, case studies and on-line assessments

Entry Requirements – None Specified

CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Favored but not exclusive to management accountants or commercial accountants due to the wider commercial context to the syllabus.

The CIMA syllabus consists of 3 pillars the enterprise pillar, the performance pillar and the financial pillar each pillar has three levels with final qualification involving an assessment of practical experience.  At each level you will gain and award.

Operational Level – CIMA Dipoloma in management Accounting 

3 Pillars at  are :

  • E1 – Organisation management
  • P1 – Management accounting
  • F1 – Financial reporting and taxation

Management Level – CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting

  • E2 – Project and relationship management
  • P2 – Advanced management accounting
  • F2 – Advanced financial reporting

Strategic Level – Member of CIMA and the CGMA

  • E3 – Strategic management
  • P3 – Risk management
  • F3 – Financial strategy

Assessments are exam based and then final assessment of practical experience

Entry requirements – you have passed level 4 AAT Diploma in Accounting. Some degrees also allow exemptions please check with the institute

 Website –

ACCA – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

Favored by but not exclusive to candidates with an interested in Financial Accounting.

The ACCA syllabus consists of 2 levels consisting of 4 parts divided into 14 papers

Fundamental level


  • F1 – Accountant in business
  • F2 – Management accounting
  • F3 – Financial accounting


  • F4 – Corporate and business law
  • F5 – Performance management
  • F6- Taxation
  • F7 – Financial reporting
  • F8 – Audit and assurance
  • F9 – Financial management

Professional Level


  • P1 – Governance, risk and ethics
  • P2 – Corporate reporting
  • P3 – Business analysis

Options – Any two from below

  • P4 – Advanced financial management
  • P5 – Advanced performance management
  • P6 – Advanced taxation
  • P7 – Advanced audit and assurance

Entry level – A levels or matriculation

Website –

ACA – Association of Chartered Accountants or ICAEW Association of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Studied by candidates undertaking a training contract within the Practice industry.

There are 3 levels the third also containing a case study

Certificate level

  • Accounting
  • Assurance
  • Business and finance
  • Law
  • Management information
  • Principles of taxation

Professional Level

  • Business planning and taxation
  • Business strategy
  • Audit and assurance
  • Financial accounting and reporting
  • Financial management
  • Tax compliance

 Advanced Level

  • Corporate reporting
  • Strategic business management
  • Case study 

Entry requirements – GCSE A Level / Cambridge Overseas Higher School Certificate [grades A-E] PLUS GCE O Level / Cambridge Overseas School, Certificate [grades 1-6] (in 5 separate subjects, including English and Mathematics), Vocational / Technical Baccalauria


CIPFA – Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

Favored by candidate working in the public or not for profit sectors.

The syllabus consists of 3 stages

Certificate Level

  • Financial accounting
  • management accounting
  • Financial reporting
  • Financial management systems and techniques

Diploma Level

  • Audit and assurance
  • leadership management
  • Accounting for decision making
  • Governance and public policy
  • Financial and performance reporting
  • Public finance
  • Taxation

 Final Test of Strategic business management of Professional Competence

  •  Finance and management case study
  • Initial professional development scheme

Work based experience assessment

Entry requirements – Three GCSEs, grades A–C, and two A-Levels, grades A–C, or equivalent. Scottish, Northern and Southern Ireland equivalents also accepted. Subjects must include Maths and English at either level.

BTEC and SCOTVEC national certificates are also accepted.

The minimum vocational requirement is NVQ/GNVQ level 3, or Scottish equivalent.

Website –