The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Accountancy Certifications in the UK

With the overlap in duties it’s easy to confuse the different Accounting Certifications. But the differences between them aren’t as complicated as it first seems. Basically, the certifications indicate the accrediting body, the area of accounting expertise and where the accountants usually practice. Here is a handy guide to help you understand what the different certifications mean.

Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA), Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA)

Associate Chartered Accountants (ACAs) typically work in public practice and are qualified to conduct audits and perform financial and management accounting and reporting. With expertise in financial accounting, management accounting, auditing, taxation, and company law, ACAs often work in accounting firms providing services and advice to clients, particularly early in their careers. However, ACAs work in all business sectors

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) awards the highly respected ACA certification and an ACA becomes a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCA) after ten years of membership. The first step to becoming an ACA is to secure a training agreement with an ICAEW approved organisation. Most training contracts are with accounting firms (public practice) and most trainees are university graduates. The ACA training usually takes 3-5 years to complete and includes 15 accounting, finance, and business exams, and 450 days of relevant work experience.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) offers the Chartered Accountant (CA) designation in Scotland, which is similar to ACA/FCA.

Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCAs) usually train and work in industry and typically perform accounting and financial reporting work for an organization.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, one of the largest Accounting bodies in the world, awards the certification of ACCA. Entry to ACCA training can be after A-levels or with a degree. Depending on the undergraduate degree subject, trainees can claim exemptions on some exams. ACCA training is usually undertaken while working as an accountant in the private sector. The ACCA certification is awarded after completing 14 professional exams, and requires a minimum of three years of relevant accountancy experience.

Chartered Management Accountants (CIMA)

Charted Management Accountants (CMAs) mostly train in Industry and focus on a business’ operations (management information and control) rather than financial reporting.

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, the world’s largest professional body of management accountants, awards the CIMA certification. CIMA trainees can start after A-levels or with a degree and depending on the degree subject exam exemptions are available. Students must take three levels of examinations and complete three years of practical experience as an accountant.

CIMA’s focus on management functions makes it unique. CIMA qualified accountants work on identifying trends and opportunities for improvement, analyzing and managing risk, arranging the funding and financing of operations, and monitoring and enforcing compliance.

Chartered Public Finance Accountants (CIPFA)

CIPFA certified accountants specialize in public service and work in the public sector. They work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, accountancy firms, and other organisations where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, the professional body for people in public finance, awards the CIPFA certificate. School leavers, university graduates and qualified accountants can train for CIPFA certification. Depending on qualifications, certain exemptions are available. There are three stages and twelve modules to the qualification and it takes three years to complete. Assessment is through exams for each module and a final log of work place experience.

With hundreds of accounting and finance jobs available, whatever your accounting certification, Randstad has the perfect position for you.

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