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Director 5 UK Accounting Qualifications That Will Supercharge Your Career – Which Is The Best Accounting Qualification

Tony Dhanjal

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A career in accountancy & tax can be very rewarding. With roles at all possible levels of the corporate structure it’s a career that could literally take you anywhere but if you really want to climb the ladder and “supercharge” your progress then you will need suitable UK accounting qualifications to support your work experience. Knowing which accounting qualification is best can be a challenge.

In this article we are looking at 5 of the best UK accounting qualifications to hold if you want to stand out from the crowd.

Are UK Accounting Qualifications Essential?

Although a recognised UK accounting qualification can really increase your employability, your accounting knowledge and your earning power, they are not essential to work in the accounting industry. There are plenty of roles that will not require you to hold an accounting qualification and plenty of individuals who enjoy successful careers without holding a qualification. 
Having said that a relevant UK accounting qualification is evidence that you have a certain level of knowledge whereas someone without a relevant qualification can not demonstrate their knowledge in this way (even where they are qualified by experience). This is the main reason potential employers like applicants to hold certain qualifications as it takes away a lot of the risk for them.
As someone who has spent close to 15 years working in the industry I would always recommend those looking to start a career in accountancy and tax to obtain relevant qualifications where possible but which accounting qualification is best? You can learn more about UK accounting qualifications and supercharging your career with our in depth course via The Accounting & Tax Academy.

1. Association Of Accounting Technicians (AAT)

The AAT qualification is considered to be an entry level qualification which is often undertook by those entering the industry via an apprenticeship. The course will typically take 2-3 years to complete and covers a broad range of accounting subjects from double entry accounting and basic bookkeeping through to budgeting and the financial statements.
The AAT is one of the most popular UK accounting qualifications and provides a brilliant understanding of accounting fundamentals and will act as the foundation for a successful career. Many AAT students progress onto additional qualifications such as ACA, ACCA & CIMA and in most cases they also receive a number of exemptions from the lower level exams.
Some roles that an AAT qualified accountant might undertake include Accounts Assistant, Accounts Payable Clerk, Payroll Administrator, Assistant Accountant, Bookkeeper, Financial Accountant.
The average salary for a student working towards their AAT qualification is £22,000. Once qualified a full member earns on average £30,000 and those that have been qualified for more than 5 years average £40,000.

2. Association Of Taxation Technicians (ATT)

The ATT qualification is an entry/mid level qualification but with a focus on taxation. It will often therefore feel like a step up from the AAT qualification because it is more focused to a sub sector of the industry. The AAT qualification usually takes 12-18 months to complete and will set students up well for a career specialising in taxation.
The ATT qualification will cover personal tax, business tax, business compliance, corporate tax, and inheritance tax amongst other subjects. Many students who complete the ATT qualification will later progress onto the CTA qualification which a extremely advanced tax qualification (not covered today) and is known for being the most challenging of all accountancy and tax related qualifications.
Some roles that an ATT qualified accountant might undertake include Tax Assistant, Tax Senior and Tax Manager across a range of different tax specialisms such as corporate tax, personal tax and VAT.
An ATT qualified accountant or tax specialist will usually earn at least £26,000 a year.


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3. Association Of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA)

The ACCA qualification is an advanced level qualification which is often undertaken by graduates entering the profession from university but equally by those already working within the accounting industry. Many will progress from the AAT qualification (covered previously) onto the advanced qualifications such as the ACCA. The ACCA qualification will usually take 3-4 years to complete and will set students up for a great career in accountancy.
The ACCA qualification covers a broad spectrum of subjects across accountancy and tax including financial management, corporate and business law and Audit & Assurance.
Some roles that an ACCA qualified accountant might undertake include Management Accountant, Financial Accountant, Financial Controller, Finance Director and Chief Financial Officer.
According to a study by glassdoor, the average UK salary for an ACCA qualified accountant is £35k – £58k.

4. Institute Of Chartered Accountants In England & Wales (ICAEW/ACA)

The ACA qualification is an advanced level qualification which again is popular with graduates and experienced accountants. The ACA also offers certain exemptions to students who have previously completed the AAT qualification. The ACA qualification typically takes 3-4 years to complete and is considered by most to be similar to the ACCA qualification. Which qualification you end up studying for will often depend on the employers preference.

The ACA qualification covers subjects such as audit & assurance, financial accounting & reporting, business planning and tax compliance.

Some roles that an ACA qualified accountant might undertake include Management Accountant, Financial Accountant, Financial Controller, Finance Director and Chief Financial Officer.

According to totaljobs the average salary of an ACA qualified accountant ranges between £37.5k – £62.5k.

5. Chartered Institute Of Management Accountants (CIMA)

The CIMA qualification is an advanced level qualification with a focus on management accounting which usually takes 3-4 years to complete. Students that already hold an entry level qualification will usually receive exemptions for some lower level exams. The CIMA qualification is perfect for those looking to specialise in management accounting or work within industry rather than being practice based.
As the CIMA qualification is tilted towards management accounting some of the subjects that will be covered include advanced management accounting, advanced financial reporting, risk management and financial strategy.
Some roles that a CIMA qualified accountant might undertake include Management Accountant, Business Analyst, Finance Manager, Chief Financial Officer.
According to the average salary for UK based CIMA qualified accountants is £63,000 a year.

So, Which Is The Best Accounting Qualification?

 As a qualified accountant I am often asked which is the best accounting qualification by junior members of staff and those looking to start a career in accountancy. Unfortunately it’s an impossible question to answer as the level of the student and their preferences for career direction will determine which is the best accounting qualification for them.
For those without a degree who are looking to get started in accountancy I would highly recommend the AAT qualification as it offers a brilliant foundation to build on and opens the door to further study.
For graduates who hold a degree or individuals who have spent some time working within accountancy previously the ACCA and ACA qualifications will both position you well for almost any role even at the highest level. The door remains open to almost any specialism to holders of these qualifications and both are respected around the world.
If you are looking to take a more acute approach and dive straight into a specialism then both ATT and CIMA would be good options. Carving out a specialism will often result in achieving a higher salary.
 The ATT qualification will usually lead to a career specialising in tax whereas the CIMA qualification will direct students to a career specialising in management accounting and often leads to a job working in industry.

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