ACA and ACCA: Which shall I choose?

When moving into public practice, there are likely two qualifications you will be looking at.  When deciding between the ICAEW, ACA and ACCA qualifications, many students can find it difficult to determine which qualification is the best fit for them. Both qualifications offer excellent career opportunities but there are several factors to consider.

Reflect on which topics you find interesting. Identify if there are any early indicators of what your longer-term plans and goals are.  Depending on where you are coming from, it may be too early to fully picture this.  Don’t worry, you can still make it. You can discover your own journey as you move through your training and experience of different fields first hand.

How are they aligned?

Before you worry about the differences, it is worth looking at the common ground:

  • Both qualifications are recognised internationally. Their examination content (to a degree) are similar in what they aim to teach you.
  • The two qualifications have a series of computer-based exams at the beginning. Subsequently, session exams are available at quarterly sittings (except for the final ACA exams).
  • Both series of exams are targeted across 3 levels, culminating in a case study style examination;
  • The entry requirements are flexible across each (you don’t have to have a degree for either);
  • Both can be timetabled to be completed across 3 to 4 years. ACA and ACCA require 3 years of relevant experience before membership.
  • They are both deemed to be Level 7 Trailblazer apprenticeships. If studied under this route, and anyway of studying with Carpenter Box provides practical work alongside your academic learning;
  • Via different methodologies; they both require a student to record their experiences and development across a series of competences. They also lean heavily into the importance of ethics and professionalism as part of your learning.
  • Study materials, methodologies, textbooks, OnDemand courses and online lectures. All are available for both, and costs here are covered by our study programme.

ACA and ACCA: What’s the difference?

Both ACA and ACCA qualifications are highly sought after and will create job opportunities across a wide range of areas. However, there are distinctions between the two.

ACA qualification

The ICAEW offer the ACA qualification to become a Chartered Accountant. This has historically been considered the more traditional route to becoming an accountant.

This is accomplished across:

  • The completion of 15 exams;
  • Capturing 450 days of relevant experience (broadly achieved across 3 years);
  • Completion of a series of ethics modules and scenarios; and
  • Examples of experience recorded across 52 professional development ladders.

These elements are tracked and recorded under your online Training File. These are then signed off at regular 6 monthly meetings with your Training Employer.

The ACA approach has technical and ethical emphasis. This is continued and is reflected in the resources provided by ICAEW pre and post qualification.

Statistically, there is often a skew of ACA students moving into audit and tax specialities. Due to larger firms having a bias towards these specialities, it can still be viewed as the principal route into practice. However, by no means is it a necessity to achieve in these areas.  The wider Business Services team we have at Carpenter Box, and the guidance to new and growing businesses, can equally be given valuable advice from those learning with ICAEW.

It is important for us to identify and support ACA students of course! We are a firm of Chartered Accountants after all!

ACCA qualification

While both are internationally known, arguably the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) qualification is recognised at a global level.  If you have plans to work across the world, you may find this is more readily transferable.

To reach qualified status, you will:

  • Complete 13 exams;
  • Experience at least 3 years of relevant work;
  • Finish the Ethics and Professional Module; and
  • Evidence 45 elements across the Performance Objectives platform to demonstrate work experience undertaken.

As a platinum approved employer, we undertake this last point via an internal process. This is to ensure fairness across the qualifications at Carpenter Box. Our ACCA students also have 6 monthly meetings with the Training Supervisor.

Given its globally targeted wider range, this qualification provides a strategic view, which is tied into its final exam sequence, along with geographical variants falling across several exam syllabi.

For a non-management accounting focused qualification, ACCA can often seem anchored a little more to industry. Additigiven its worldwide recognition and sector driven articles on their website and magazines, perhaps unsurprisingly.

But don’t be misguided – like its healthy competitor under scrutiny here, public practice is a welcome home for ACCA too, and in terms of student enrolments here at Carpenter Box, it is a very popular choice.

Making a decision

Maybe you already know what you want to do, 

Perhaps your degree has led you down a particular path already.

You may have changed your mind. And back again.

Hopefully, something here has helped put some things in perspective.

Maybe… you still don’t know!

All of these are OK.  There is no wrong choice.  There is only your choice, and we can help if there are any questions.

So talk to us.  We look forward to hearing from you!

At Carpenter Box, we have opportunities for forward-thinking people to earn whilst they learn either ACA or ACCA qualifications as a trainee accountant. If you’re looking to upskill and work in a successful and award-winning team, you can view our openings here.