Accountancy Qualifications: ACCA, ACA, CIMA, CPA
But, what do they all mean and what one is the best one for you to take?
What qualification should I study?
One of the most frequently asked question by a budding accountant looking to pursue a career in accountancy is:
"What exams should I study?"
As there are so many different options to choose from and there is no easy way to answer this, graduates or those interested need to ask themselves:
- What type of role do I want?
- What sector do I want to work in?
- What way do I want to study in the future?
The Practice Route: ACA
The exams are split into three separate sittings;
- CA Proficiency I which has five subjects
- CA Proficiency II which has four subjects
- Final admitting exam (FAE) which combines six modules examined over two days plus an elective
A training contract is usually signed and lasts for typically three and a half years in which the trainee must complete all the exams. Study leave is given for the exams with as much as three months given off for the FAE. The failure rate for these exams is very high so a lot of study is required!
The career prospects from doing the ACA are both diverse and rewarding. Typically there’s a very high demand for ACAs qualified candidates within internal audit, financial control, financial planning and analysis, financial and management accountant roles.
The Industry Route: ACCA/ CIMA
The industry ACCA or CIMA route is very different, both in relation to exam structure, and professional experience gained. The candidate would work in an organisation as an assistant accountant in various different finance functions. These functions could span over Credit Control, Financial Planning & Analysis, General Ledger and many more.
The ACCA exam process consists of 14 exams: 9 fundamentals and 5 professional exams.
The majority of graduates who have studied accountancy will have some exemptions gained from their degree.
The CIMA exam process is split into 3 levels:
There are 3 exams in each of the levels along with a case study exam. Once again, graduates have a possibility to gain exemptions from their studies.
ACCA tends to focus more on the technical side of accounting practices and leads to jobs such as a corporate accountant, tax accountant, auditor etc. CIMA has much more of an emphasis on management reporting, corporate strategy and organisations. CIMA jobs tend to fall more within the remit of forecasting, budget making, variance analysis and strategy. However, there is a lot of cross-over between the two, particularly in recent years.
CPA Ireland is one of the main Irish accountancy bodies with 5,000 members and students. The CPA designation is the most commonly used designation worldwide for professional accountants and the Institute’s qualification enjoys wide international recognition.
The CPA qualification consists of 4 exam stages (F1, F2, P1 and P2) with 15 exams in total. CPA Ireland may offer exemptions to those with prior qualifications. A minimum of 3 years relevant training is required to qualify as a CPA Ireland member, students are not tied to a training contract and can work in both industry and practice during their training period.
CPA Ireland has partnerships set up with various accountancy bodies worldwide such as Australia, Canada and India. Choosing the CPA qualification connects you with an international community of CPA accountants worldwide.
Many career opportunities exist with the CPA qualification. Students and members work in practice and industry in over 48 countries around the globe.
The qualification you choose
Whatever path you chose you can expect to enjoy a rewarding, diverse and challenging career ahead. You can work in a wide variety of areas for many types of sectors, organisations and roles - want to have a look?
Explore the opportunities we have available here.