Accredited qualifications from professional bodies can really help to make your CV stand out and give you the edge in an increasingly competitive accountancy and bookkeeping industry.
But there’s no getting away from the honest fact that balancing professional development with the demands of a full-time job, your children and your social life can feel like a challenge sometimes.
One of the biggest concerns that a lot of potential students have is worries about how long a professional qualification might take to complete. People don’t want to feel tied into a never-ending, eternal course if they’ve already got lots of commitments to worry about, after all.
Should that concern really stop you from studying a professional qualification though?
We decided to have a closer look at how long AAT qualifications in the accountancy and bookkeeping industry take to complete to try and give you some answers!
Why study AAT qualifications in the first place?
AAT courses provide an internationally recognised accountancy and bookkeeping qualification, respected by employers from across the world.
That makes them a particularly useful qualification to have under your belt.
Short for the Association of Accounting Technicians, AAT is a professional body with over 125,000 members across the world. Their prestigious qualifications are designed to equip you with the relevant skills to develop a successful career in the industry – whether you want to start your own accountancy practice or join a fast-track to become a Chartered Accountant in the future.
As a result, studying one can prove to employers and clients that you have the relevant professional skills, knowledge and experience to perform well in your role.
AAT qualifications are recognised by employers across the world, allowing you to apply for jobs worldwide and not be disadvantaged because of having the ‘wrong’ qualification.
How are AAT qualifications structured?
Unlike a lot of other accountancy qualifications, the AAT qualifications follow a simple progression. There are three types of AAT qualification: AAT Level 2, AAT Level 3, and AAT Level 4.
AAT’s Level 2 Certificate in Accounting is designed for those at the beginning of their career who don’t have much (or any) knowledge or practical experience. You’ll need to study this qualification first if you’re new to the sector, before you’ll be able to progress to other levels of AAT study.
You might also need to start with the AAT Foundation qualification if you have some finance experience but have still to master essential practical accounting techniques like double-entry bookkeeping.
The AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting is an intermediate qualification for those who have some knowledge and experience of accounting. In particular, you’ll normally need knowledge of double-entry bookkeeping before you’re able to take this qualification.
The AAT Diploma in Professional Accounting is an advanced qualification. It’s the highest level of AAT qualification that you can study, and you’ll need to have significant knowledge of accounting to take it – whether that’s through practical experience or by studying the AAT Foundation and Advanced qualifications.
So, how long does an AAT qualification actually take to complete? The simple answer is that it depends entirely on the type and level of qualification, along with how much time you have to devote to study.
Bear in mind that the average times given are based on how long it takes the majority of our online AAT students to complete their course. Most students are completing the course part-time while working full-time or looking after family.
If you’re studying in a classroom, the pace of the class will dictate how long it takes to complete your course.
How long does an AAT qualification take to complete?
It takes most students around 6 to 8 months to complete an AAT accountancy qualification. If you’re studying bookkeeping, it takes most students around 3 to 9 months to complete an AAT bookkeeping qualification.
To learn how long it takes to complete each AAT level, keep reading.
How long does AAT Level 2 take?
It takes most students around 9 to 12 months to complete the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting while working full-time.
It takes most students around 6 months to complete the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Bookkeeping.
How long does AAT Level 3 take?
It takes most students around 12 to 18 months to complete the AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting while working full-time.
It takes most students around 6 to 9 months to complete the AAT Level 3 Certificate in Bookkeeping.
How long does AAT Level 4 take?
It takes most students around 15 to 18 months to complete the AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting while working full-time.
There’s no Level 4 AAT bookkeeping qualification.
What do you learn by studying AAT?
AAT qualifications cover the wide range of topics you’ll need to master in order to launch your accountancy or bookkeeping career.
AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting
As the saying goes, “From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow”. And like a humble acorn, the AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting is the starting point for most people developing a career in accountancy without any prior knowledge or experience.
In this qualification, you’ll study basic accounting concepts like double entry bookkeeping, costing and using accounting software. It will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills for entry-level and junior roles in the accounting industry.
There are five units, and you’ll sit five exams overall.
AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting
The Advanced Diploma in Accounting is the next step up from the Level 2 qualification.
Similar to the Foundation Certificate, the AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting has 5 units. Throughout the course, you’ll study advanced bookkeeping, how to prepare final accounts, indirect tax, management accounting and costing, and ethics for accountants.
As an intermediate level qualification, the Advanced Diploma should prepare you for more senior roles in the accountancy and bookkeeping world. If you manage to complete it successfully, you can apply to join the AAT as associate bookkeeper and you can use the professional status of AATQB after your name!
AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting
The AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting is the most challenging of the AAT qualifications and is designed for people looking to learn more complex accounting skills, like how to draft financial statements, manage budgets, and evaluate financial performance. You’ll also have the choice of looking at specialist areas of accounting, like business tax, personal tax, credit management, external auditing and cash and treasury management.
In this qualification, you will cover higher accounting tasks including drafting financial statements, managing budgets and evaluating financial performance, as well as optional specialist units including business tax, personal tax, external auditing, credit management, and cash and treasury management.
If you pass this qualification, and you’ve got enough work experience, you can apply for full AAT membership and you can achieve professional MAAT status.
Should you study AAT online or in a classroom?
You’ve actually got a surprising amount of choice about where to complete an AAT qualification. And the option that you choose will have a direct bearing on how quickly you can complete the qualification.
Classroom learning is still a popular way to learn a new skill for a lot of people – particularly if you learn better with others and you don’t think you’re motivated enough to study independently.
When you study a course through classroom study, you’ll attend a physical class (usually) once a week, with other students.
You might need time off from work to go to it, and there’s no guarantee that the venue will be close to your home or job – and that’s a problem for a lot of people.
Online study is fast becoming one of the most popular ways to complete AAT qualifications. Able to be completed anywhere with an internet connection, AAT qualifications are perfectly suited to the demands of lockdown, furlough and social distancing thanks to their innate flexibility. Basically, if you can get the internet, you can study the qualification whenever you’d like, fitting it around your life!
Most online courses have a mixture of video lectures, interactive activities and assignments, giving you almost the same experience as you’d have in a classroom – with the added benefit of letting you stay in your pyjamas and study from bed.
Is it faster to study AAT online or in a classroom?
In general, studying AAT online will be faster than studying in a classroom, as it gives you the most flexibility in how quickly you complete the qualification.
Online study generally allows you to work at your own pace, rather than that set by your lecturer or other students. You’ll usually be able to tackle projects whenever you want and there’s less pressure on you as a student when you’re sat behind a computer screen, rather than in a physical learning environment.
This will usually let you complete the AAT qualification faster than if you were in a classroom. Of course, everyone learns at their own specific pace, so that might not be the case for everyone.
As you can see, AAT qualifications don’t take that long to complete in the grand scheme of things. That’s especially the case for online AAT courses, which you can often complete as quickly (or as slowly) as you want!
Kickstart your career from home today and study a fully online AAT qualification. Get in touch with our friendly team to find out more.