In the United Kingdom, only a few regulatory bodies issue certified accounting qualifications. None of them requires specific GSCEs, BTECs or A-levels to be taken.

Within accounting exists specialities such as management accounting (focusing on budget forecasting and cost reports and statistics), financial accounting (focusing on producing financial statements based on market trend and companies results) or tax accounting (that focuses on advising companies on how to complete their tax form and maybe claim some taxes back along the way).

Though you don't need a specific degree to become an accountant, a good analytical mind and a knack for numbers will definitely go a long way as you will probably spend a fair amount of time reading accounting reports.

From accountant to finance manager and maybe one day Chief Financial Officer of a listed company, the road may be long but not impossible.

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how to become an accountant
You will have to learn how to analyse financial reports if you hope to be a certified accountant.

Why Should You Consider Becoming An Accountant?

If you love maths, have good organisational skills and love to solve problems this career is probably for you.

With software getting more and more advanced, most people think that accounting will soon be a job of the past. They could not be more wrong. In the UK it seems that getting an accounting qualification has never been easier, with unemployment rates for the industry being lower than the national average.

Even if software has taken over a huge chunk of accountants work, the job description also evolved to be more consultancy based that a simple bookkeeping profession.

With an average UK salary ranging from £45,000 to £64,000 a year, you can expect to earn 2 to 3 times the national median yearly wage.

You can also work in any industry you want. Accountants are all-rounders and your accountancy skills will be needed by most if not all companies in the world.

Crunch the numbers right and you might be working for one of the Big Four: Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Combined those four accounting firms audit most of the 350 biggest British companies and employ more than one million people around the world.

High salaries, recognised and sought after skill and the possibility to work anywhere in the world is what an accountant career could have to offer.

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The AAT or Association of Accounting Technicians

The Association of Accounting Technicians was created following the merger of the Institute of Accounting Staff and the Association of Technicians in Finance and Accounting in 1989.

Today it counts more than 140,000 members worldwide, and it provides the minimum qualification for anyone wanting to start their accounting career.

The AAT is also a member of the International Federation of Accountants, giving its provided certification recognition everywhere on the planet.

The AAT qualifications are divided into four different modules:

  • A Foundation Certificate in Accounting
  • A Foundation Diploma in Accounting and Business
  • An Advanced Diploma in Accounting
  • A Professional Diploma in Accounting

The Foundation Certificate in Accounting will prepare you for an entry-level accountant position. You will learn the basic accounting principles, how finance administration works and rudiment of bookkeeping and costing. You will also be taught how to use accounting software. It takes one semester to a year to complete.

The Foundation Diploma in Accounting and Business is reserved for 16 to 19 years old. It will deliver the same teachings as the Foundation Certificate in Accounting along with business communication skills. It takes six to twelve months to complete.

The Advanced Diploma in Accounting approaches more complex accounting specialities such as final accounts, ethical practices and intricate bookkeeping. Again this qualification can be achieved in six to twelve months.

The Professional Diploma in Accounting is the highest qualification the AAT provides. It takes up to 18 months to get and covers highly specialise accounting skills such as managing budgets and evaluating the financial performance of a company or performing internal and external audits related to business or personal tax. You will also learn how to manage cash flow and treasury.

This qualification is the equivalent of a High Education Diploma in the UK.

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Budgeting is an important part of management accounting.

The ACCA or  Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountant has been training accountant since 1904, but it only obtained its royal charter in 1974.

It has more than 208,000 members across the world and is currently training more than 500,000 students in 179 countries (out of 195 countries in the world).

To follow an ACCA training you will need at least three GCSEs and two A-levels in five separate subjects, with Maths and English being mandatory.

During the three to four years it takes to complete, at least three years of work experience will be needed to validate the qualification.

The ACCA's Ethics and Professional Skills module is the first set of exams usually taken by ACCA students. It covers the complete range of the basics accounting skill needed by employers.

After that students will have to take Applied Knowledge exams (including Accountant in Business, Management Accounting, Financial Accounting), followed by a set of Applied Skills exams (which includes Corporate and Business Law, Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Audit and Assurance and Financial Management).

Finally, to complete your training you will have to take some Strategic Professional exams (Business Leader and Business Reporting) and you can also choose to take some optional specialities.

Make sure to check the ACCA's exemption pages if you hold a university degree have you may be able to skip some exams.

In total, if you work and study at the same time, you could complete this accounting certification in three to four years.

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The ICAEW or Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

Most likely the oldest Accountant Charter in the UK still operating, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales was born from the merger of different accounting institutes and societies in 1880.

It counts more than 150,000 members including 15,000 living and working outside the UK. 80 of the 100 biggest UK listed companies have an ICAEW Chartered Accountant sitting on the board of Directors.

The ICAEW chartered accountancy qualification, or simply put the ACA requires at least 450 hours of work experience and you will have to pass a series of exams.

However, the ICAEW is very flexible and offers different options to reach the status of Certified Chartered Accountant.

If you do not have a university degree but have successfully passed your A-levels, you could the ACA training right after school. You will have to find an ICAEW authorised training employer willing to oversee your education and take the ACA exams along your work placement.

This three to four-year placement lets you learn while gaining valuable work experience and getting a competitive starting range (between £12,000 and £30,000 a year depending on your university degree).

You can also join the AAT-ACA Fast Track course that is a joint training program that will give those already training for the AAT to get some credits towards the ACA. If you start this program, you will have to pass the Level 3 and Level 4 AAT Diploma in Accounting before starting taking the ACA exams.

The CIMA or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Almost as old as the ICAEW, the CIMA was founded in 1919 as the Institute of Cost and Works Accountant. It reflected a change in the needs of the business industry.

Victorian industrialisation had led to the creation of more complex companies, large-scale businesses and intricated bookkeeping requirements. The need for a new form of accounting that delves more into the analysis of the performance of a company was filled by a new kind of accounting, one that merged management and accounting.

This is in this context that the CIMA was created and it counted nearly 300,000 students in 2017.

In 2012, the British Chartered Institute and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants founded the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which recognises more than 100,000 highly skilled management accountant through the world.

The Professional Qualification provided by the CIMA is one of the most recognised global finance qualifications for a career in the business industry.

To undergo the CIMA qualification, you will need to hold a relevant degree from a CIMA-accredited institute or complete the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting.

The different levels of qualification offered by the CIMA revolve around four main subjects; Technical Skills, Business Skills, Leadership Skills and People Skills.

In total, the 12 professional qualification exams will take you four years to complete including the three years of work experience needed to validate the certification.

Most students have gained enough work experience before registering as a CIMA student.

Hard Work, High Rewards

The journey to becoming a chartered accountant can be long and daunting. You will most certainly have to juggle between working a 9 to 5 job and studying at the same time. However, the reward of obtaining such certification is almost always worth the effort.

Following qualification, a chartered accountant in the UK can expect to earn around £56,000. Once a chartered accountant has five or more years of experience, the average salary raises to £90,000, and most of the chartered accountants will also receive a yearly bonus (around £20,000).

Besides the salary rewards, this certification is also a guarantee of finding a job in pretty much any industry you wish to join.

Certified accountants often offers private tuition.
If you are struggling with your accounting studies, hire a tutor to mentor you.

Find An Accounting Tutor

If you need tutoring accounting or help to study for any of these qualifications, our tutoring platform has over 4,000 Accounting tutors registered and based all around the world. They can help you pass any of the exams you wish to take and some of them have success rates as high as 98%.

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A student by trade, Daniel spends most of his time working on that essay that's due in a couple of days' time. When he's not working, he can be found working on his salsa steps, or in bed.