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How to Become an Accountant Without a Degree

Accounting is a highly sought after and rewarding profession, and companies big and small depend on accountants to provide useful financial insights and advice for the benefit of the business.

If you’ve recently set your sights on becoming an Accountant, then we have the information that you need to turn that vision into a reality – and you don’t need a degree to get there.

What does an accountant do?

The primary role of an Accountant is to help prepare, examine, and plan the budget and finances of an organisation. While there are many areas that accountants work in – including auditing and management, sales and acquisitions, and corporate finance – the role of an Accountant is similar within each.

The main duties of an Accountant include, but are not limited to:

  • Managing financial systems and budgets 
  • Researching, analysing, and preparing reports and data for management review 
  • Documenting financial transactions with account information 
  • Recommending financial actions for business by analysing accounting options 
  • Preparing payments and verifying documentation 
  • Managing company payroll and taxes 
  • Reconciling financial discrepancies 
  • Verifying financial transactions and auditing documents 
  • Ensuring the overall financial health and efficiency of an organisation
An accountant book filled with numbers

What qualifications does an accountant need?

While you don’t need a degree to become an Accountant, an AAT qualification is typically considered essential by most employers. AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) gives you practical and industry-focused knowledge that you can use right away and can help kickstart your accounting career or take your current career to the next level.

The AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting is designed for beginners, so it’s ideal if you’re new to finance. However, they also offer Advanced and Professional diplomas that will progress you into becoming a chartered accountant with a UK accountancy body.

The UK’s chartered accountancy bodies offer AAT members generous exemptions and a fast track route to chartered accountant status. This track allows you to achieve chartered status faster than if you were to enrol with a university.

From AAT to one of the UK’s most respected accountancy bodies – take control of your career with the organisation that suits you best.

The most popular UK accountancy bodies to study and apprentice with include:

ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants)

ACCA is one of the largest and fastest-growing accounting qualification providers in the world.

If you have two A-Levels and three GCSEs in five separate subjects including English and maths, you can start your studies with an ACCA Qualification. This qualification is classified at a master’s level and once completed, you'll become an ACCA member. Whether you're looking to take your first steps towards a career in accounting, or you're a finance professional looking to progress and take your potential to the next level - ACCA will place you where you need to be regardless of existing qualifications or work experience.

CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants)

Anyone can study CIMA, whether you’re new to business and accounting or already have some experience. The only requirements are competence in math and English.

CIMA’s qualifications are respected worldwide and provide a diverse blend of skills to help students in finance succeed.

However, before registering, you should find out more about your entry route, including information on possible exemptions and where you’ll begin your learning.

A female professional holding a folder, wearing a suit

CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public and Finance Accountancy)

This UK chartered accountancy body is exclusively dedicated to pubic financial management.

The minimum academic entry requirements to study for a CIPFA qualification are three GCSEs and two A-Levels, or equivalent.

A CIPFA qualification gives you the hands-on, strategic skills required to become a public finance professional and gain the globally recognised designation of CPFA (Chartered Public Finance Accountant).

ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales)

ICAEW promotes, develops and supports chartered accountants.

To qualify with this professional membership organisation, you’ll need to complete the ACA qualification. And to successfully achieve this, you’ll need to demonstrate that you have completed four elements:

  • 450 days of practical work experience with an Authorised Training Provider
  • Complete 15 exam modules
  • Prove that you have undertaken professional development
  • Demonstrate that you have improved your ethical understanding and professional scepticism

These elements will provide you with a combination of finance knowledge, accountancy skills, and practical experience for your career.

A professional sat at a table with a calculator


Becoming an accountant with ICAS typically takes five years, and while there’s no previous business or accountancy knowledge required, you will need strong Higher or A-Level results to be considered for entry.

This qualification is another one that is ranked at the same level as a master’s degree and its syllabus is organised to cover everything from essential to advanced principles of accounting and business.

To complete the qualification, you’ll need 450 days of practical experience, and you’ll do this by working with an ICAS-authorised employer – earning a competitive salary while you learn.

What skills does an Accountant need?

Accountants are directly responsible for the financial affairs of their employers, so together with the right qualifications, you must have the essential skills to suitably carry out the role.


Working as an Accountant means managing a lot of responsibility, and naturally, it also means managing that responsibility while you’re already busy.

To help avoid any unnecessary mistakes, you should have a personalised and detail-oriented system to keep track of your tasks.

Making use of the tools available to you and staying highly organised for the short-term and long-term will lead to success in your role.

Your organisational tools might be in the form of Excel spreadsheets, electronic calendars, and reminders, or perhaps even a few good old fashioned Post-It notes. Whatever the case – whatever your system – just make sure it works for you and your business.

Time Management

Great time management skills tie in with strong organisational skills.

A system for managing your workload is only effective if you know how to budget your time as well as you can budget the finances.

As an accountant, you’ll need to manage and prioritise several tasks at once and ensure that you’re completing everything by your deadlines.

Analytical Skills

As an accounting professional, you’re likely to come across various forms of data and information in a typical day. It’s important to be able to understand that financial data and analyse the relationship between that information, the overall organisation, and the departments within it.

You should be able to think critically – as well as creatively – leveraging your observation and problem-solving skills to ensure that you’re interpreting data effectively. This minimises potential risks to your organisation and encourages sound financial decisions.


Accounting is a dynamic and IT-focused industry, and you need to be able to adapt quickly to be at an advantage.

Employers are in search of individuals who are prepared to use their accounting skills in new and various ways; favouring those who are informed about evolving industry changes and ahead of the curve when it comes to industry advancements.

An adaptable accountant will anticipate shifting environments, remain calm under stressful circumstances, and take on challenging workloads when necessary.


While accountancy is numbers-driven and computer-oriented, communicating effectively is a big part of being an accountant.

During working hours, you won’t always be sat in front of your computer crunching numbers. You’ll also need to attend meetings, interact with colleagues, inform management on key updates and issues, and potentially meet with clients.

The point of accounting data is to communicate meaningful information, allowing management to make thoughtful and well-rounded decisions. So, practised and well-tuned interpersonal skills are useful to have when the numbers can’t speak for themselves.

A male professional working at a desk

How much does an Accountant earn?

Gaining the right accounting qualifications can advance you into a range of well-paid roles, making them an enormously worthwhile investment in your future.UK accountants earn an average annual salary of £62,000, but the exact salary you will earn is dependent on your location, organisation, level, and specialisation.

  • Some examples of the current average annual earnings within the UK’s accounting field include:
  • Entry-level Accounts Assistants or Administrators earning an average salary of £19,500.
  • Accounts Officers or comparable positions earning an average salary of over £25,000.
  • Mid-level managerial finance roles earning an average of £34,000 annually.
  • And self-employed accountants earning an average of £54,000 per year.

You can also review the Hays UK Salary Guide for more information specific to your specialism.

There’s a common misconception that becoming a professional accountant is incredibly challenging, but with ICS Learn it doesn’t have to be.

We can help you become a qualified accountant online at your own pace – without a degree.

Want to begin or progress in your Accountancy career? Enrol for an online AAT accountancy qualification with ICS Learn and gain the skills you need to become an accountant.

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