If you’re looking at a career in accountancy, tax, business, or finance, then you may want to consider whether it’s worth studying for the ACA qualification.
Being known as an ACA qualified accountant can bring a huge range of benefits when it comes to advancing your career prospects, as you’ll have the relevant experience and professional knowledge to help you succeed within your chosen career.
While it can take a long time to get the ACA qualification, and there’s certainly a lot of hard work that goes into getting the qualification, the advantages of having those letters after your name are often found to be worth it.
So whether you work for one of the “Big Four,” a top-20 professional services firm, a small accounting practice, or you work in an industry, there are plenty of reasons why the ACA qualification might be right for you.
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Getting Through The ACA Exams
Becoming ACA qualified takes time, and part of the reason for this is the fact that there are a lot of exams that you need to pass as part of the qualification. Generally, the exams are broken down into three separate levels, which are explained briefly below.
Certificate Level Exams
There are six different exams that you need to pass at the certificate level:
- Management Information;
- Business, Technology and Finance;
- Principles of Taxation; and
Professional Level Exams
There are a further six exams at the professional level stage:
- Financial Accounting and Reporting;
- Audit and Assurance;
- Business Planning;
- Tax Compliance;
- Business Strategy and Technology; and
- Financial Management.
At the advanced level, there are only three final exams to pass:
- Corporate Reporting;
- Strategic Business Management; and
- The Case Study.
The ACA exams are difficult, there’s no getting around that fact. But there is plenty of support available throughout your studies. Whether you prefer to learn the modules in the ACA via distance learning or group study, the ICAEW offers a number of flexible study options to suit most preferences.
Equally, if you think that you’d like to study the ACA in the future, but you’re not sure whether your knowledge of basic maths is up to scratch, then you could also reach out to a maths or accounting tutor London at Superprof for advice. They could provide some additional support, advice, and study tips to help you on your way.
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Where Can An ACA Qualification Take You?
Having the letters “ACA” after your name can offer huge benefits if you’re looking at having a career in the accounting or professional services industry.
Being ACA qualified means that you’ve successfully completed the extensive examination process that comes with obtaining the award. As a result, an ACA accountant will be well-versed across a number of different technical areas, for example:
- IFRS accounting standards;
- The taxation of individuals and companies within the UK; and
- The different ways of evaluating the value of businesses, and how to assess how a business is performing based on its financial position and performance.
In addition, anyone with an ACA qualification will have to have completed a rigorous amount of practical work experience, meaning that an ACA accountant has had a good amount of time in industry or in practice and will have gained experience working with a wide variety of clients.
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This experience and knowledge are often highly sought by employers. Indeed, many ACA qualified accountants that work in practice find that they are approached by recruiters more frequently once they are qualified to see whether they would like to change jobs and take up a position in an industry.
Often, such moves also entail a pay rise and promotion, although many ACA qualified accountants also decide to remain in practice and rise through the ranks of professional services firms such as Deloitte, Ernst and Young, PWC, KPMG, and many others.
The other benefit of having the ACA is that it’s an accountancy qualification that is recognised internationally. According to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), who issues the ACA award, there are “membership recognition agreements in place with CAANZ in Australia and New Zealand, HKICPA in Hong Kong, SAICA in South Africa.”
So, whether you’re looking to stay within your current position within an accounting firm, are looking to start your career in accountancy and taxation, if you would like to have a highly-respected and internationally mobile qualification, then the ACA can be a great choice.
Even if you stay in the UK for the full duration of your career, the skills that you learn while gaining the ACA qualification can set you up for success, even within the wider business world, as many board members of top companies in the UK have an ACA qualification or equivalent.
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How Do I Start Studying Towards The ACA?
There are a number of different entry routes into the ACA, but typically you would find an employer that is willing to pay for you to study towards your ACA exams, while you work for them and gain the relevant practical work experience that you need.
There is no typical ACA candidate, as no university degree is required to study for the qualification. Even if you have been to university, the background of candidates varies widely. For instance, many ACA students may have studied finance, accounting, or business studies while at university, whereas others may have studied unrelated subjects, as diverse as:
- Modern languages;
- Engineering; or
While an accounting graduate may have an initial upper hand over other candidates when it comes to modules such as accounting, ultimately you’re at no major advantage or disadvantage when it comes to completing the ACA exams, as everything in each module is taught from scratch, and many of the ACA course covers topics that aren’t likely to be taught in an accounting degree course at university.
However, if you’d like to combine your degree studies with the potential to study for the ACA, there are university courses out there that offer modules that are accredited by the ICAEW.
This means that, if you pass these modules during your degree, you may be entitled to a credit for prior learning in respect of a relevant module within the ACA course. Note that such credits only apply to certain exams within the ACA qualification, so you will still need to sit some exams to complete your ACA.
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ACA And CTA Joint Qualification
If you’re looking to work within the area of taxation or have a particular interest in tax, then one potential option is to study for the combined ACA/CTA joint programme, which has only been available as a programme for the past few years.Certified
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Previously, tax professionals, particularly at larger professional services firms such as Deloitte, would generally complete their ACA qualification first, before separately studying for the Chartered Tax Adviser (CTA) qualification, which is its own qualification awarded by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT).
While you can still choose to obtain both qualifications separately, students can now choose to study for the ACA and CTA qualifications at the same time. Joint programme students generally will study the same modules as a pure ACA pathway student, although there will be some differences in the number and type of exams you take. Further information on the joint qualification can be found here.
Passing the ACA exams can be tough, but once you’re ACA qualified, a lot of career opportunities open, and all the effort becomes worth it. Often, people working through the ACA find it difficult, and understandably so, but then once they have the letters after their name, they often feel that all their hard work has paid off, and they now have a qualification that they can be proud of that should help them advance in their career.
If you feel like you need to improve your understanding of accounting concepts or want some additional support to improve your accounting knowledge, then you could consider hiring a personal accounting teacher to help you. A tutor can be especially helpful if you’re currently studying accounting at school or university and would like some extra help when it comes to preparing for your end of year exams.
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