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How to Accelerate Your Accountancy Career

For many people, accelerating an accountancy career means one thing – achieving chartered status. But what is it, why do so many people want to get it, and how do you actually achieve it – quickly? We took a deeper dive into the issue here.

What is a Chartered Accountant?

A chartered accountant is at the top of their game – they’re a senior accountant with a wealth of technical knowledge and practical experience of the field. They work in public-practice, public sector and industry settings, providing specialist, strategic financial advice to their clients.

A chartered accountant is usually accredited by a professional accountancy membership body such as:

  • ACCA: (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)
  • CIMA: (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants)
  • CIPFA: (Chartered Institute of Public and Finance Accountancy)
  • ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales)
  • ICAS (Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland)

Becoming chartered is one of the highest professional accreditations that you can achieve as an accountant. Chartered accountants are required to abide by strict professional and ethical codes, and that, combined with their exceptional standard of knowledge and the toughness of the chartered accountancy accreditation process makes them sought after employees and professionals in the accountancy and bookkeeping world.

And it’s not all just about professional recognition. As specialists, chartered accountants are able to command a higher salary and client fees – according to Prospects, the average salary of a chartered accountant in the UK is £84,500!

How Do You Become a Chartered Accountant?

Qualifying to become a chartered accountant isn’t easy. It’s difficult but it’s well worth the effort.

You’ll usually need to fulfill these requirements:

  • Pass a series of accreditation exams, covering a range of accountancy and business- related subjects
  • Have at least three years accountancy work experience from a range of approved industries and specific clients
  • Undertake annual professional development to stay up to date with the latest industry knowledge

In terms of actually gaining chartered status, there are generally two routes that people follow:

  • Studying a qualification at a university
  • Studying a fast-track qualification with AAT
Woman sat at desk typing on a laptop

The University route

One route some accountants go down is studying a chartered accountancy degree at university.

Several universities across the UK offer undergraduate qualifications that teach you the essential skills of accountancy, whilst also preparing you to qualify for chartered status.

You’ll gain the required work experience through a series of work placements at specific employers through your course (usually around 450 days). You’ll also have to sit a range of exams to prove that you have the required skills and knowledge to qualify for the accreditation.

One of the benefits of studying for chartered status this way is the fact that you get the full experience of going to university, combined with not having to climb your way up the career ladder to become a chartered accountant. This makes it popular with younger students, who are just starting out and don’t have the quality of skills and on the job experience that most employers expect.

That said, there are some obvious drawbacks though that put a lot of people off from studying their chartered accreditation at university. For starters, the level of work experience that a university chartered accountancy course provides doesn’t really match that provided by a decent career in accountancy: this can put you at a serious disadvantage when applying for jobs or trying to land clients.

There is also the rather obvious sting in the tail of the cost of studying at university. Recent hikes in tuition fees to £9,250 a year for students studying in England (even higher if you’re an international student) mean that you’ll probably graduate with a large amount of debt – and that’s before even factoring in things like living costs.

The AAT route

Generally much faster than studying at university, studying for chartered status with the AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) can help you qualify for chartered status in a lot less time than if you were to go to university. When you complete the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting, you’ll qualify for exemption from the all of the major chartered accreditation professional bodies in the UK like:

  • ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)
  • CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants)
  • CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public and Finance Accountancy)
  • ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales)

It can also help you keep your existing accountancy role while you study, allowing you to earn whilst you learn.  People who study with AAT for their chartered status can fast-track their application, allowing them to qualify much quicker than other accountancy students.

Rather than going into a physical learning establishment like you would if you were studying a degree, you’ll generally find that you study AAT qualifications through online, distance-learning, allowing you to fit your study around your life. Many AAT course providers do have the option of physical study if you’d like that though.

As well as being faster, the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting also works out cheaper when it comes to gaining chartered accountant status, with a lower overall course price than if you’d studied an undergraduate degree. You’ll also qualify for a fee reduction in the AAT membership cost if you’re studying for chartered status.

Accelerate your accountancy career today

We hope you've found some of the advice included in this blog useful. Remember, there are lots of different ways for you to advance your accountancy career - we've just outlined a few of the most popular approaches here. 

Develop your accountancy career from anywhere with an online AAT qualification that you can complete from anywhere. Download your free AAT course guide here. 

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