If you have a natural affinity with numbers, are quick to identify patterns and love to solve problems, maybe you should consider becoming an accountant.
Most people, when thinking about an accountant’s work, think about middle age men with tiny spectacles, crunching numbers all day long on an antiquated calculator and filing tax reports all year long.
While this stereotype may endure for a while longer, it could not be further from the truth. In today’s business world, accountants are closer to consultants than they are to bookkeepers. It is true that bookkeeping remains a part of the job description, but it only accounts for a fraction of what accounting firm do (and bill big companies for).
The development of accounting softwares has made it easy to perform regular bookkeeping tasks: issuing invoices, tracking payments and costs and so on. This meant that the accountant effectively spent less time crunching numbers and had more time to analyse the performance of a company and potentially find ways to make it financially more stable and efficient.
The most prominent accounting firm in the world, Deloitte Ltd., counts more than 285,000 employees spread over all continents and generated more than $43 billion for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. It has seen an increase in revenue for the past nine years and, as the biggest of the Big Four accounting firm, showed that skilled accountants are in very high demand.
If you are entertaining the idea of becoming an accountant you probably want to know what you’re getting into and how long it will take until your harvest the rewards of your hard work. Let’s look at how long it would take you to become a Certified Accountant.
Old fashioned bookkeeping was done with pen and paper but has since been replaced with accounting software.
If you choose to follow the Association Of Accounting Technicians courses you will have to pick amongst different programs, basing your choice on your situation.
The ATT was created in 1989 and has since been offering a first step certification for anyone wanting to become a professional accountant.
The four Accounting Qualifications offered by the AAT can be completed in six to eighteen months depending on your commitment and availability to study and sit the exams.
The Foundation Certificate in Accounting is the first step in your accounting career. This course prepares you for any entry-level accountant job. You will be taught the fundamental accounting principles, how finance administration works and the rudiment of bookkeeping and costing. You will also learn to master professional accounting software. Most people complete this course in less than one year.
The Foundation Diploma in Accounting and Business is strictly reserved for students about to finish their secondary school curriculum (16 to 19 years old). Same as the Foundation Certificate in Accounting, it will introduce you to the basics of accounting as well as teach you business communication skills. It takes up to one year to complete.
The Advanced Diploma in Accounting teaches more intricate accounting specialities such as final accounts, ethical practices and elaborate bookkeeping. Again this qualification can be achieved in six to twelve months.
The Professional Diploma in Accounting is the highest and final qualification that you can take with the AAT. It takes up to three semesters to complete and includes highly specialised accounting skills such as managing budgets and evaluating the financial performance of a company or performing internal and external audits related to business or personal tax. You will also learn how to control cash flow and treasury.
Overall, getting if you follow the AAT path to the end, it will take you 2 to 4 years to be able to join the ranks of the AAT members. If you have any university degree, you might be eligible to skip some exams and reduce your study time by one or two years.
The AAT also requires that you complete a certain amount of work experience, but most students work and study at the same time.
The ACCA was created in 1904 and is now recognised globally. This association teaches accounting in 179 countries around the world and counts no less than half a million students.
To start studying for the ACCA qualification, you will need at least three GCSEs and two A-levels in five different subjects, with Maths and English being a mandatory requirement (or an equivalent of English depending on the country).
The ACCA curriculum is divided into four groups and three different levels.
The Knowledge group includes Business Accountancy, Management Accounting, and Financial Accounting.
The Applied Skills group includes six different exams: Corporate and Business Law, Performance Management, Taxation, Financial Reporting, Audit and Assurance and Financial Management.
The Essentials Level group includes three exams: Governance, Risk and Ethics, Corporate Reporting (UK or International) and Business Analysis.
Finally, each student has to choose two optional subjects between four options which are advanced Financial Management, Advanced Performance Management, Advanced Taxation or Advanced Audit & Assurance (UK or International).
Because all ACCA modules need to be sat in order and since you can not take more than four exams per sitting it means that in practice, it will take you three to four years to become an ACCA Chartered Accountant.
It used to be that you had ten years to complete all your exams but this rule recently changed as the ACCA found that Accounting laws, procedures and regulations were changing too much in that ten year period. Today you have seven years from the first exam you sit to take and pass all the required tests, failing to do so will mean that all the reviews you sat will be invalidated.
As an accountant you will face figures on your screen all day long, do not forget to take a screen-break from time to time.
The ICAEW has been training accountants for more than a century and a half. It counts no less than 150,000 members and 80% of the Financial Times-Stock Exchange 100 have an ICAEW accountant on their Finance Board.
You don’t necessarily need a university degree to start the ACA, and some students begin their Association of Chartered Accountant (ACA) training right after secondary school.
The certification requires that you pass 15 modules over three different levels
The Certificate Level is an introduction to the basics of accountancy, finance and business. You will also learn about assurance, law and taxation. The exams can be taken on a computer at any time (but unlike the ACCA, these are time-limited).
Once all the modules completed, you will obtain a first certificate, the ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business, which is recognised as a stand-alone qualification.
The Professional Level includes the six more modules revolving around Business Planning, Taxation, Banking and Insurance.
Finally, the Advanced Level constitutes the last step before being rewarded with the ACA. Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management are at the centre of this level and will teach students to make strategic decisions based on real-life scenarios.
The whole qualification takes three to five years to complete, but for any ACA qualification, you will need to find an ICAEW authorised training employe and sign a training contract with them.
The CIMA was created in 1919 when the needs for a new kind of accounting was felt in the business world.
For almost a hundred years, this institute has been focused on training Management Accountant, who focus on handling a company’s budget, taxes, strategic planning and financial security.
Like the previous accounting qualifications, the CIMA is divided into three different levels: Operational, Management and Strategic.
The operational level covers the implementation of a strategy, as well as reporting on the implementation of the strategy.
The management level has a medium-term focus. It translates the strategy decided at higher levels and communicated it to lower levels for implementation. It monitors and reports on the implementation of a strategy, and ensures corrective action is taken when required.
The strategic level has a long-term focus. It concentrates on making strategic decisions and providing the context in which those decisions will be implemented.
This qualification is also divided into three pillars covering nine different subjects.
The Enterprise Pillar deals with the formulation of strategy, as well as its effective implementation. It emphasises how change management, project management, relationship management and the structuring of organisations can help to successfully implement a strategy.
The Performance Pillar uses the tools and techniques of management accounting and risk management to ensure that a strategy is realistic and to monitor its implementation. It shows students how to use their understanding of costs to construct budgets, make decisions about prices and capital expenditure, manage costs and manage performance. It develops the ability of students to progressively identify, classify, evaluate and manage risk.
The Financial Pillar focuses on the financial accounting and reporting obligations of a company. This includes an understanding of the regulatory framework and external reporting requirements, and the ability to construct and evaluate complex financial statements to show the financial position and performance of any commercial organisation. The fundamentals of business tax are covered, as are the tax implications of financing decisions.
In total it will take you three to four years to become a Chartered Management Accountant.
Analysing financial report and understand the profitability of a potential investment is a key responsibility of Chief Financial Officers.
All those accounting training are similar and take roughly three years, but your choice should be based on the kind of accountant you would like to become, as some of these qualifications lead more easily to certain specialities than others.