Professional qualifications in accounting open up a whole new, curious world of acronyms. The ACCA is one particular beast that’s going to crop up quite a lot if you’re considering an accounting career. So what’s it all about?

What’s the ACCA?

The ACCA Qualification (frequently shortened to the ACCA) is an internationally recognised professional qualification in accounting provided by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants – the global professional body for accountants. If you bag the ACCA, you can practise as a professional accountant, qualify to become an ACCA member and receive chartered status (as long as you meet all the criteria). Hurrah!

The qualification is designed to give you a broad, and thorough understanding of the professional standards, ethics and skills required to be a practising accountant.

The first nine papers of the ACCA roughly equate to degree standard. The professional level of the qualification is the equivalent of a master’s degree.

What will it involve?

The full qualification can take three or four years to achieve when you study and take exams alongside work, but the timescale and pace of study can be flexible.

You’ll need to pass exams in a number of different areas: Knowledge and Skills for the ‘Fundamentals’ level and Essentials and Options in the ‘Professionals’ level. This includes different areas of financial and management accounting, as well as other technical areas.

What will it enable me to do?

An ACCA qualification will enable you to work as a professional accountant, so it can be your ticket to many of the top jobs in the accounting industry. It gives you the flexibility to progress in almost any accounting direction you choose. Pretty nifty!

If you take a cruise through some of the more senior jobs online beyond entry level positions, it’s highly likely you’ll see an ACCA qualification listed as one of the essential criteria.

How can I get the ACCA?

It’s possible to pay up front and study for the ACCA, but that alone can be rather expensive.

There is another way! There are plenty of employers out there who really understand the value of this qualification. There is a big advantage for the business, both in training up their intake to professional industry standards and in the doors it opens up for their employees once they qualify. So luckily you can find a good deal of school leaver and graduate roles that incorporate training and study for the ACCA alongside work at the firm. And what’s more, they will pay for it!

Some school leaver programmes are likely to offer ACCA foundation level courses for those without the necessary qualifications to dive straight into the ACCA Qualification. These will set you up nicely for the next stage.

If you have at least three GCSEs and two A-levels in different subjects (including maths and English), you can power on with ACCA study. Plenty of Higher Apprenticeships and graduate schemes offer this option.