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Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 19 Sep 2023



Accomplishing an accountancy qualification offers numerous benefits to candidates, from increased earning potential, to career advancement, global recognition, and versatility. When it comes to choosing which qualification to carry out, there’s a lot of deliberation over which route is best to go down.

The four main professional qualifications to choose from are the renowned ACA, ACCA, CIMA, and AAT. ACCA and CIMA have dominated the qualification market since 2018, with 32% of our audience ACCA accredited, and 31% qualified with CIMA. Of those who are qualified, 38% of CIMA candidates and 30% of ACCA, work in senior or director roles.

The GAAPweb community maintains their relationship with the ACA, seeing a 21% plateau year-on-year. Increasing in popularity, AAT has seen a 3% rise on last year’s figures, with 14% of our audience now being AAT qualified. So, what does each qualification entail?

  • ACA

    To qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant you must complete the ACA, a highly-respected professional qualification that requires students to complete at least three years on-the-job training while passing a series of exams. You can start your training by completing ICAEW's Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB), which is made up of the first six modules of the ACA, before going on to complete the rest of the qualification.

    ACA has 15 modular exams, covering a broad range of topics including: financial management, law, assurance and business strategy.

    The exams often focus on how students are able to demonstrate and communicate their understanding of a topic, rather than simple learning and retention, with the aim of creating knowledgeable, flexible accountants.

    The qualification requires students to gain suitable work experience with an authorised training employer; these are typically within accountancy firms rather than commercial business.

    According to our latest salary survey, those with an ACA qualification see the highest pay grade, taking home £92,348 on average. The ACA qualification takes between three and five years to complete - see the ACA student guide for more. Apply for the latest Accountant jobs on site. 

  • ACCA

    ACCA has 14 modular exams, plus professional ethics module and practical experience requirement, split into two main sections – fundamentals and professional. All nine fundamental papers must be sat, plus the first three professional papers; two final papers from the second stage of professional can be chosen.

    The qualification covers a range of accounting, audit, taxation, and ethics topics, providing students with a broad understanding of both professional services and commercial accounting knowledge.

    With flexibility to choose your own path, and worldwide reputation - ACCA graduates gain a flying start to their career. Average earnings stand at £69,698 on average - apply on our dedicated ACCA jobs page. 

  • CIMA

    CIMA - Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, is for those who do not bring exemptions from university studies. The qualification consists of a series of exams and practical experience requirements that candidates must complete to become a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA). The CIMA qualification covers various aspects of management accounting, financial management, strategic management, and business skills.

    The qualification itself comprises twelve exams split across three levels – operational, management, and strategic – with each level consisting of three computer-based objective tests and one human-marked case study. The objective tests are designed to assess knowledge, while the case studies test understanding and application in a commercial setting.

    Because of the above, CIMA is largely studied by those in commercial business, though some in outsourcing divisions of accountancy practice will choose this option.

    CIMA candidates take home an average of £76,469 per annum: apply to CIMA jobs on GAAPweb. 

  • AAT

    AAT is the Association of Accounting Technicians, the world’s leading professional body for accounting technicians. AAT provides a range of accounting qualifications and training programs for individuals, starting with the Foundation Certificate and progressing to the Advanced Diploma and Professional Diploma.

    AAT qualifications emphasise practical skills and real-world application - a practical approach intended to prepare individuals for the demands of working in accounting and finance roles. According to our salary survey, AAT candidates can earn an average of £37,449 per annum. Discover the latest Accountant jobs on GAAP. 

Apply for the latest dedicated ACA, ACCA, CIMA, and AAT roles on GAAPweb. Sign up for job alerts, to receive a selection of jobs matching your criteria.