Do I need a degree to work in chartered accountancy, and if so, in which subject area?

No, you don’t need a degree to train for the ACA qualification, there are many different routes you can take. If you do decide to go to university, it’s not necessary to have an accounting or business-related degree; graduates come from

all degree disciplines as employers are looking for a diverse and varied workforce. However, if your degree was in business, accountancy or finance, you could be eligible to claim credit for some of the Certificate and Professional Level exams. To find out more about the qualifications you need, take a look at our Education & Skills page.

Do I need a Maths A level?

No, you just need to be competent with numbers and confident in your ability to understand numerical data. The only subject requirements employers usually have is an A or B grade in Maths and English at GCSE (or equivalent). When it comes to A levels and degrees, employers are more interested in the grades you achieved than the subjects you studied. Find out what grades individual employers are asking for in the Employer Directory at the back of this guide. Do also bear in mind that general studies is not always accepted by employers.

What other requirements are there for accountancy?

To assess whether you are cut out for ACA training, you should consider a number of core skills that employers will look for. Commitment, self-motivation, teamwork, communication, problem-solving skills and commercial awareness are essential. Consider how you can provide examples and stories to illustrate these, ideally outside of academia — work experience, part-time jobs, hobbies or voluntary work are important to employers, even if they are not accountancy related.

Where can I find out about credits for prior learning/exemptions?

Credit for prior learning, or exemptions, may be available if you have studied accounting, finance or business modules as part of your degree, or as part of another professional accountancy qualification. You can check to see if you are eligible online at icaew.com/cpl.  You should also ask your future employer whetheryou would need to sit all the exams.

How do I qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountants?

You complete a training agreement which gives you the opportunity to learn while in full-time paid employment, combining practical work experience, study and exams. Throughout your training period you will be working and earning a competitive salary at the same time as using your new knowledge and skills in your day to day job. Once you’ve successfully completed your ACA training, you will be invited to become an ICAEW member. This will enable you to call yourself an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and use the letters ACA after your name.

Are ICAEW Chartered Accountants recognised internationally?

Yes. The ACA qualification is held by over 144,000 ICAEW Chartered Accountants worldwide. ICAEW Chartered Accountants are recognised globally for excellence. ICAEW has established formal agreements with leading Chartered Accountancy bodies around the world which enhances our members’ international credibility.

Where can I find an accountancy training agreement?

You need to complete your training agreement with an ICAEW authorised training employer or principal. Training agreements are available in the UK and internationally. You can choose from over 3,300 authorised training employers, including firms of chartered accountants (public practice) as well as commercial businesses, such as banks, high street brands and public sector organisations.

Where should I train?

The decision of where to train is down to your personal preference. A good indicator is how comfortable you feel during the interview, but before that, you need to check what is on offer in your chosen location, while considering which service-line interests you the most. Do also consider which size and style of organisation appeals to you; large, mid-tier, small firms, businesses and public sector organisations all recruit ACA students. Employers need to be authorised to train you for the ACA, so the standard of training will be high regardless of the size and type of employer. Larger accountancy practices tend to place students within a particular area, e.g. audit or tax, whereas in smaller firms, you would gain more general practice experience.

When should I apply?

Although there is no fixed recruitment period, employers often begin their recruitment of university finalists in September (for vacancies starting the summer after exams). So, the first term of your final undergraduate year is a great time to make applications, but always check individual employers’ deadlines to make sure you don’t miss out. This also applies if you aren’t at university — check the deadline given by the employers you are interested in. You apply to individual employers, not to ICAEW.

Can I apply for a training agreement from outside the UK?

Yes. You need a qualification from an established, internationally-accredited university or college that is comparable to a UK degree or a recognised accountancy qualification. If you are outside the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland you will need to apply to an employer who has agreed to sponsor non-UK nationals. For further information visit the UK Border Agency website at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk. You may also need a work permit. ICAEW cannot get a work permit for you; your employer will need to apply on your behalf.

Can I study the ACA in my home country?

There are currently thousands of students studying for the ACA outside of the UK; across Africa, Europe, Greater China, Middle East and South East Asia. You will find opportunities to train across accountancy and professional services, businesses, banks, small and medium-sized businesses and government. To find out where you can train around the world visit icaewtrainingvacancies.com.

What opportunities to travel and work globally will the ACA give me?

ICAEW Chartered Accountants are globally recognised and 97% of the world’s global leading brands employ ICAEW Chartered Accountants.* With more than 3,300 authorised training employers around the world, there are fantastic opportunities for international travel. Large accountancy firms normally have overseas offices and many qualified ICAEW Chartered Accountants complete international secondments. It is not uncommon to find our accountants working in the Middle East, South East Asia, or the Cayman Islands to name but a few locations.
*Includes parent companies. Source ICAEW member data at January 2015, Interbrand Best Global Brands 2014.

I am a Chinese student, can I do the ACA?

As a graduate you can complete all components of the ACA in China – the minimum entry requirement for most Chinese employers is a good bachelor’s degree in accountancy, finance or business. Most firms will expect you to have started studying for the ACA before you begin working for them.

_________________________________________________________________________________________

Accountancy Careers worked in partnership with The Chartered Institute of Taxation and The Association of Taxation Technicians to help answer some of your more common questions.

What skills and qualities do I need to be a successful tax adviser?

You will need to be numerate, be able to write well, think laterally and creatively and be willing and prepared to tackle new problems as they arise. The ability to construct logical and persuasive arguments and to interpret complex legislation is essential.

A good memory, tact, diplomacy and an aptitude for researching information will all be highly valued by any potential employer.

What exams do I have to take?

Graduates in any degree subject can qualify as a tax adviser by finding a position as a tax trainee and taking the Association’s ATT examination, which leads to the qualification of taxation technician.
All ATT students are required to have two years’ relevant work experience in UK taxation in addition to completing the exam in order to obtain membership. The next step is to take the Institute’s CTA examination.
Alternatively, graduates can first qualify as an accountant or solicitor and then specialise in taxation, in which case they are eligible to proceed straight to the Institute’s examination. To become an Associate of the Institute you must have completed three years’ professional experience.

Do I qualify to obtain a credit?

There is a credit available to full AAT members who have passed AAT Unit 18. The credit is available in ATT Paper 2 – Business Taxation & Accounting Principles.
There are a number of credits available for CIOT students. For example, those who have passed the final examinations of ICAEW, ACCA or ICAS are entitled to apply for a credit in the Application Paper of the CTA examination. For further details please visit www.tax.org.uk.

Which companies recruit tax advisers and what are employers looking for?

Tax advisers are employed in law and accountancy firms, in industry and commerce, the clearing banks and tax consultancy practices. The major recruiters of tax trainees are accountancy practices. The ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms will generally require a 2.1 degree and a high number of UCAS points.

Top 20 firms offer fewer places, as their tax departments are smaller, but they may be more flexible on entry requirements. The range of tax work undertaken in industry, commerce, clearing banks and tax consultancy practices means that the level of qualifications required will vary in relation to the position available.

Do the ATT and/or the CIOT recruit tax advisers themselves?

The Association and the Institute are the professional bodies for UK tax advisers/tax technicians rather than consultancies and as such are not able to employ tax trainees. Both organisations advertise in careers publications in order to raise the profile of taxation as a career and the professional qualifications offered.

What salary can I expect to start on?

The financial rewards for successful tax advisers are very high. Starting salaries depend on location, size of firm and whether the employer is in industry or commerce. As an example, a graduate ATT trainee with a big accountancy firm in London would commence on a salary of approximately £20,000. Salaries in such firms will increase substantially after success in the ATT and CTA exams.

How do I become a member of the CIOT?

Admission is dependent upon passing the examination and on demonstrating three years’ relevant recent professional experience.

What are the benefits of passing the CTA examination?

The principle benefits are the use of the title Chartered Tax Adviser and the designatory letters CTA, along with enhanced career prospects and commonly a substantial pay increase.

What other exams do I need to pass to register as a member?

You need to have passed either the exams of The Association of Taxation Technicians or those of another professional body such as ICAEW, ACCA or the Law Society. For further details please visit www.tax.org.uk/students_qualifications.

Do I have to be working in tax to register?

No. You do not need to be working in tax to register or to sit the exams but you will need three years’ relevant professional experience to become a member of the CIOT.

Can I register online?

Yes, you can register online at the Chartered Institute of Taxation website.

What opportunities are there for mature students?

The Association and the Institute both have many mature students, as taxation presents numerous, varied career opportunities for those from a range of backgrounds. It offers direct entry for those who decide early on and indirect entry for those who may have already embarked upon a career and now want to specialise or move in a new direction.

What opportunities are there for students from outside the UK?

The ATT and CTA are both UK taxation qualifications. Residence in the UK is not necessary in order to register or study for the examinations; however, students should note that the examinations take place in the UK with very limited exceptions.

Students wishing to specialise in international tax should consider the Advanced Diploma in International Taxation (ADIT). Visit the ADIT website for more about this qualification.

About the Author

  • Name: Accountancy Careers
Back to Top

Receive the latest Graduate Jobs Internships & Placements Profession Newsletters