If you’re already studying accounting at university, or are considered studying accounting at a bachelor’s or master’s level, then it’s always worth spending some time thinking about where your accounting degree could take you.

Understandably, some may think that an accounting degree will only help you if you want to become an accountant after university, but the fact is that accounting degrees, and subsequent qualifications, can really bolster your career prospects across a wide range of roles within the accounting, business, and finance world.

Below are some of the most common qualifications that someone with a degree in accounting may pursue.

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An image of two places placed next to each other with the map of the world painted on them. Accounting exams may help you to travel internationally.
Passing accounting exams may help you to travel internationally in your career. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, stokpic, Pixabay)

ACA Associated Chartered Accountant

If your aim is to become a chartered accountant, then it’s worth researching the ACA qualification, which is issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW).

The ACA is a highly regarded qualification in the UK and is often a qualification that graduates at the “Big 4” professional services firms will undertake during their first few years with that respective firm.

The Big 4 consist of:

  • PWC;
  • Deloitte;
  • KPMG; and
  • Ernst and Young.

Even outside of the Big 4, there are many mid-tier professional services firms, as well as local accounting firms, and even companies within an industry that encourage their graduates to study for the ACA.

This is because having the ACA after your name means that you’ve had to undertake the rigorous examination, study, as well as relevant work experience in order to achieve membership to the ICAEW.

Individuals that hold an ACA work in a number of different fields, as diverse as tax, accounting, auditing, and corporate finance. Therefore, you certainly won’t be limiting your career options if you did decide to pursue the ACA.

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ICAEW Chartered Accountant Qualification

The ICAEW has been around for a very long time, having been founded in 1880. As a result, there are over 150,000 members of the ICAEW worldwide today, which helps to further emphasise how internationally regarded the ACA qualification is.

However, it usually takes many years to fully complete the requirements of the ACA, so it’s worth ensuring that you’ll have sufficient time to study for the exams and ensuring that you’ll be able to balance your working life, social life, and your ACA studies.

The Exams

To meet the examination requirements of the ACA, you’ll have to pass 15 exams in total, which are split across three different levels:

  • The certificate level exams;
  • The professional level exams; and
  • The advanced level exams.

The certificate and professional levels contain six separate exams at each level, while the advanced level comprises three different exams.

For an indication of the types of topics you’ll cover during the exams, it’s worth knowing what each exam covers.

The certificate level exams are as follows:

  • Accounting;
  • Assurance;
  • Business, Technology and Finance;
  • Law;
  • Management Information; and
  • Principles of Taxation.

The professional level exams are as follows:

  • Audit and Assurance;
  • Business Planning;
  • Business Strategy and Technology;
  • Financial Accounting and Reporting;
  • Financial Management; and
  • Tax Compliance.

Finally, the advanced level exams are as follows:

  • Case Study;
  • Corporate Reporting; and
  • Strategic Business Management.

Other Membership Requirements

In addition to the examination requirements, to become ACA qualified you must also meet a number of other criteria, including having sufficient relevant professional work experience. For further details on what the ICAEW’s membership requirements are, please consult the ICAEW’s website.

An image of a tree with money growing on it. Passing accounting exams may boost your earning potential.
Successfully completing accounting exams could boost your future earning potential. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, kalhh, Pixabay)

CPA Certified Public Accountant

Although the ACA is a well-known chartered accountancy qualification in the UK, it is not the only one available.

For example, there are other qualifications out there, such as the ACCA and the CPA.

In the UK, it’s usually more common to find someone who is ACA or ACCA qualified, but that’s not to say that you can’t study to be a CPA in the UK.

The CPA qualification is much more common in America, and as such if you think your career may take you to the United States, or you would like to move over there, then it may be worth pursuing the CPA over other qualifications.

When it comes to the examination requirements of the CPA, prospective CPAs need to pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which comprises of four separate sections. If you’re resident in the UK, it may help to know that you don’t have to travel to the USA to sit the exam, as there should be international test centres in:

  • Ireland;
  • Scotland; and
  • England.

CFA Certified Financial Analyst

If you would like to work within the realm of finance, but don’t really envisage yourself taking a more traditional accountancy role, then it may be worth considering whether a career in investment management is right for you.

Roles in investment management are varied, and you could end up working for a range of organisations, including investment banks, asset managers, or even private equity firms. Some may find work as a research analyst, while others work as portfolio managers or risk managers, or perhaps even take on a different role entirely.

If you think the CFA could be the right qualification for you, then the best advice is to be prepared before undertaking the qualification.

The CFA is broken down into three different levels – Level I, Level II, and Level III. To give an idea of pass rates, the June 2018 exam sitting saw:

  • A 43% pass rate for Level I;
  • A 45% pass rate for Level II; and
  • A 56% pass rate for Level III.

The CFA has a reputation for being difficult to pass, although that’s not to say you can’t successfully complete the CFA provided you have the commitment, dedication, and the academic aptitude for the materials.

Having the CFA can really boost your career prospects in the investment management industry, and may also improve your future earning potential, so it’s certainly worth researching.

Further information on the CFA qualification can be found on the CFA Institute’s website.

An image of a library and a row of books. Accounting exams in the UK often require a lot of study time and preparation.
Most accounting exams take a lot of time to prepare for. (Image Source: CC0 1.0, StockSnap, Pixabay)

CMA Certified Management Accountant

If you were considering management accounting as a career path, then you may prefer to undertake a more specialised qualification, rather than follow an ACA, ACCA, or CPA programme of study.

If so, then a CMA qualification may be right for you.

Alike the CPA, the CMA is predominantly a US-based qualification, as the CIMA, a different qualification, tends to be more common in the UK.

However, if you foresee yourself working in the US in the future, then the CMA may be the way to go. The CMA is issued by the US-based Institute of Management Accountants, known as the IMA for short.

In terms of the exams that you need to pass to gain the CMA qualification, the CMA exam comprises two different parts:

  • Part One (which concerns itself with “financial reporting, planning, performance, and control”); and
  • Part Two (which concerns itself with financial decision making).

It’s estimated that students should take 12 to 18 months to pass both parts of the exam, but you have up to three years to complete both parts if you need more time.

When it comes to future career opportunities, the CMA can help management accountants get ahead in a wide variety of roles. For example, a CMA may work as a financial controller, treasurer, cost accountant, and perhaps as a chief financial officer.

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CFE Certified Fraud Examiner

One specialised area that accounting graduates may consider entering is that of fraud examination.

A certified fraud examiner is specifically trained to detect, and if possible, prevent, fraud in companies and businesses. They do this through a variety of techniques and skills, including being able to review a company’s financial and accounting records to see whether instances of fraud can be detected.

A certified fraud examiner can work in a variety of industries, although the most common include banking and the wider financial services, government, and the accounting industry.

Discover Your Future Career

If you want to study accounting at university, or you’re currently studying an accounting degree course, then it’s reassuring to know that there are plenty of job opportunities out there for you, both within and outside of the accounting sector.

If you know that you’d like to have a career in accounting, finance, or business, but don’t know where to start, looking through the above qualifications may give you an idea of the direction in which you’d like to take your career.

Generally speaking, however, to be successful in these kinds of industries, it’s worthwhile having solid numerical skills, communication skills, and analytical skills.

If you feel like you need to improve on any of the above areas – for example, if you feel that your general knowledge of business could be better, or you’d like to improve your mathematics knowledge – then you can also reach out to a tutor at Superprof for help.

Superprof has an array of tutors across subjects such as maths, accounting, and business, so it’s a case of finding a tutor that specialises in the field you’d like help with. This search is made easier by the fact that you can enter your postcode to find local tutors in your area and also find tutors that are happy to provide remote tuition.

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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.