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AAT vs. ACCA: Which Accountancy Qualification is Better?

When you’re looking into becoming an accountant, it can seem like quite a big task to research and decide on the best accountancy qualification when there are so many options available to you.

To help you make up your mind, however, below we compare two of the most popular accountancy qualification providers, AAT and ACCA, to help you narrow down your choices and assist you in kickstarting or advancing your finance career. 

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AAT Qualification

The Association for Accounting Technicians (AAT) is the UK’s leading professional accountancy body, offering practical, skill-based finance qualifications to both aspiring and practicing finance professionals.

With more than 125,000 members worldwide, AAT is recognised and respected for its qualifications in over 90 countries, as they demonstrate the benchmark of professional competence and ethical conduct in the finance realm. 

Their accountancy courses are available at three levels, including:

Each of these qualifications offers you the opportunity for progression, eventually leading you down the path to become a fully certified Accounting Technician upon completion of the Level 4 qualification if you so choose.

AAT qualifications can even help put you on the fast-track to becoming a Chartered Accountant (but more on that below).

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ACCA Qualification

With more than 233,000 qualified members and over 530,000 future members, The Association for Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is yet another one of the leading global accountancy bodies, recognised in over 50 countries worldwide.

The ACCA qualification trains learners to become Chartered accounting professionals, teaching them the knowledge and skills they need to gain a comprehensive understanding of the most up-to-date accounting practices, standards, and tools.

If you're starting from square one, ACCA requires you to have two A Levels & 3 GCSEs (or equivalent) in five subjects, including English and Maths.

Alternatively, if you're AAT qualified, the qualification will consist of 9 papers (instead of 14 for non AAT qualified individuals). However, if you've completed up to and including the AAT Level 4 Diploma, you can skip the first 3 at no extra charge.

If you choose to enrol on the ACCA course, you can expect to study the following modules

The ACCA Applied Knowledge Level is considered the introductory Level for ACCA and is equivalent to AAT’s Level 4 Diploma. 

The ACCA Applied Skills Level builds on the introductory level and covers the essential topics required of a professional accountant (i.e. tax, law, audit and accounting).

The ACCA Essentials Level is the beginning of the professional level, preparing learners for leadership positions and covering topics such as strategy and corporate reporting. 

And finally, the ACCA Options focuses on your choice of two papers that build on the knowledge learned at the skills level.

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Which is Better?

While both AAT and ACCA are incredibly reputable organisations that can offer you the flexibility, affordability, and support to study at your own pace, on your own time - from anywhere in the world - the important thing to remember when comparing them is that the qualification that’s best for you really comes down to your own personal goals for your budding finance career.

If you’re just starting out and have little to no accountancy experience, for instance, then an AAT qualification might be the best option for you, enabling you to set a solid foundation for your financial knowledge and applied skills. You won’t become a Chartered Accountant, but you can take on a huge range of finance roles such as:

  • Finance Officer
  • Senior Fund Accountant
  • Commercial Analyst
  • Cost Accountant
  • Fixed Asset Accountant
  • Indirect Tax Manager
  • Payments and Billing Manager
  • Payroll Manager
  • Senior Bookkeeper

ACCA qualifications, on the other hand, may be a better choice if you have a higher level of accountancy experience already, or are looking to study a more advanced qualification to become a Chartered Accountant. ACCA does offer entry-level qualifications regardless of your existing qualifications or work experience, but keep in mind that their courses typically require more study time due to the level of content.

Many people study AAT to launch their career as an accountant, and then move onto ACCA (or one of the other Chartered accountancy bodies such as CIMA) to become a Chartered Accountant. Every major UK Chartered accountancy body offers a fast-track for AAT graduates, so it’s a great choice if you’re not sure where to begin.

We recommend looking into available providers depending on whether you plan to study online, in-person, or via hybrid learning to make sure you’ll be able to progress your career on your own terms.

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Final Thoughts

You may simply be looking to gain a basic understanding of accounting to, for example, work within an entry to mid-level accounting role or even run your own business. If that is the case, we’d have to say that the AAT qualification is likely the best bet for your career as it gives you the fundamental skills you need and is highly sought after by employers.

If you wish to move into senior management or become a Chartered Accountant, however, you’ll likely need to qualify with a higher, more professional level of qualification such as the one you’d gain with ACCA.

So, in conclusion, whether you choose to enrol on an AAT or ACCA qualification, you really can’t go wrong! It’s all about where you see yourself heading on your career journey.

We hope this blog has helped you understand whether an AAT or an ACCA qualification is best for you. If you’re still not sure, we have plenty of Course Advisors on hand to help you along.

Good luck!

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