To become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, you need to train for and successfully complete the components of the ACA. ACA training is done on the job, so you will be able to earn a salary while studying for a globally recognised qualification. This article gives an overview of the qualification and how to become a chartered accountant.

The ACA qualification is one of the most advanced learning and professional development programmes available. It has integrated components which give you in-depth understanding across accountancy, finance and business. Combined, they help build the technical knowledge, professional skills and practical experience needed to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

How it works

View the ACA exam structure

Find out more about the ACA modules

The components are designed to complement each other, which means that you can put theory into practice and understand and apply what you learn into your day to day work. The components are:

  • Professional development
  • Ethics and professional scepticism
  • 3-5 years practical work experience
  • 15 accountancy, finance and business modules.

Professional development

ICAEW Chartered Accountants are known for their professionalism and expertise. Professional development prepares you to successfully handle a variety of different situations that you will encounter throughout your career.

The ACA qualification improves your ability and performance in seven key areas:

  • Adding value
  • Communication
  • Consideration
  • Decision making
  • Problem solving
  • Team Working
  • Technical competence.

Ethics and professional scepticism

Ethics is more than just knowing the rules around confidentiality, integrity, objectivity and independence. It’s about identifying ethical dilemmas, understanding the implications and behaving appropriately. ICAEW integrates ethics throughout the ACA qualification to develop your ethical capabilities – so in a world of scrutiny and accountability you’ll always know how to make the right decision and justify it.

3-5 years’ practical work experience

Practical work experience, or on-the-job training, is done as part of a training agreement with one of ICAEW’s 3,300 authorised training employers around the world. You need to complete 450 days, which normally takes between three and five years. The knowledge, skills and experience you gain as part of your training agreement is invaluable, giving you the opportunity to put what you learn into practice – all while earning a competitive salary.

Your training agreement also outlines the support you’ll receive from your employer, including paid tuition, study leave and mentoring. It ensures that all ACA trainees receive the highest quality and standard of training possible.

Accountancy, finance and business modules

Each of the ACA modules is directly relevant to the work that you will do on a day to day basis. You will gain in-depth knowledge across a broad range of topics in accountancy, finance and business, allowing you to confidently progress through the qualification.

There are 15 modules with exams over three levels.

Certificate level

There are six modules introducing you to the fundamentals of accountancy, finance and business. They each have a 1.5 hour computer-based assessment which you can sit at any time.

Most graduates complete the first six modules within the first year of their training agreement. However you can take some Certificate Level modules before you start a training agreement, either through the ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB) or credit for prior learning. If you have studied accounting, finance or business at degree level or through another professional qualification, you may be eligible for credit for prior learning.

Professional level

The next six modules build on the fundamentals you have already learnt, and test your understanding and ability to apply technical knowledge to real-life scenarios. Each module has a 2.5-3 hour exam, which takes place four times per year.

These modules are flexible and you can take them in any order to fit with your practical work experience. The Business Planning: Taxation and Business Strategy modules help your progression to the Advanced Level.

Advanced level

The Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management modules test your understanding and strategic decision making at a senior level. They present real-life scenarios, with increased complexity and implications from the Professional Level modules.

The case study tests all your knowledge, skills and experience gained so far. It presents a complex business issue which challenges your ability to problem solve, identify the ethical implications and provide an effective solution. The case study is fully open book, so it replicates a real-life scenario where you have all the resources at your fingertips.

A highly rewarding career

If you’re looking for a highly rewarding career in accountancy, finance or business – become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant. Read about where ICAEW Chartered Accountants are working and see where the ACA qualification can take you.

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