The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, (CIPFA) is the only professional accountancy body exclusively dedicated to public finance in the world. Their 14,000 members work throughout the public services, in national audit agencies, in major accountancy firms, and in other bodies where public money needs to be effectively and efficiently managed.

The CIPFA Professional Qualification

CIPFA’s Professional Qualification is the most robust and relevant accountancy qualification for the public services.

Starting from scratch without any exemptions, you can achieve the CIPFA professional qualifications in three years. The course is modular and can be completed at a time and speed dependent on you.

The qualification is regularly updated and has been designed in conjunction with employers, students and academics. On successful completion you gain chartered status and the designation CPFA (Chartered Public Finance Accountant).

The CIPFA (Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) qualification enables students to become an expert in financial management within the public services where CIPFA accountants can work in public services, national audit agencies and in other firms where public money needs to be managed. Getting a CIPFA membership can take around 3 years to complete which includes the exams and work experience need to complete the course.

Minimum requirements

The minimum academic entry requirements to study our Professional Qualification are three GCSEs, grades A–C, and two A-Levels, grades A–C, or equivalent. Scottish, Northern and Southern Ireland equivalents also accepted. Subjects must include Maths and English at either level.

BTEC and SCOTVEC national certificates are also accepted.

The minimum vocational requirement is NVQ/GNVQ level 3, or Scottish equivalent.

If you do not meet the academic requirements above, you can become a CIPFA student if you are 21 or over and have over three years’ relevant work experience and the support of your employer.

Entry routes

All graduates are welcome to study for the Professional Qualification. Those with a relevant finance or accountancy-related degree may be eligible for exemptions.

Many AAT graduates study for the Professional Qualification and find it supports their career development. Currently we offer AAT members 3 free exemptions from Financial Accounting, Management Accounting and Corporate Financial Reporting. Full details including exemptions, case studies and special offers, are available on the AAT entry route page.

Part-qualified Accountants
If you’re studying with another accountancy body, we can help you switch to CIPFA. You may be entitled to exemptions based on the modules you have completed.

Qualified accountants
Members of ACCA, CIMA, ICAEW, ICAS, and ICAI (or similar accountancy organisations) with 5 or more years of relevant experience, may be eligible for our Direct Membership route. If you do not meet these requirements, you can take our Fast-Track Route which consists of two modules and can be completed in 6 months!


Level 1 – Professional Certificate stage
From double-entry bookkeeping to preparing and interpreting financial statements and management accounts, this level gives you the right grounding for your career.
You can apply for affiliate membership after passing the modules at this stage.
Level 2 – Professional Diploma stage
This stage focuses on specific public sector business skills and financial topics. It covers areas such as ‘whole of government’ accounts, public sector reporting frameworks and public sector borrowing. This knowledge can easily be transferred into the private sector companies.
You can apply for associate membership after passing the modules at this stage.
Level 3 – Strategic stage
The final stage in becoming a chartered public accountant is the culmination of all the skills learned. It gives a focused strategic financial management overview of running major projects and large complex organisations.
You can apply for full CIPFA membership applied for after passing these exams and submitting a Professional Experience Portfolio.

Other CIPFA qualifications

International Public Financial Management (IPFM)
Study for our suite of International Public Financial Management qualifications and get recognised as a member of the global body for public finance and become an expert in professionalising public financial management.

Certificate in International Public Sector Accounting Standards (Cert IPSAS)
Be prepared for IPSAS with a qualification that will demonstrate your in-depth understanding of the standards and their application, certified by CIPFA, the global body for public financial management. As part of our support for organisations preparing for the adoption of International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), CIPFA has certified training.

Certificate in Financial Reporting for Academies (Cert FRA)
The Certificate in Financial Reporting for Academies is a joint programme from CIPFA and the National College for School Leadership enabling those involved in managing the finances for academies to be suitably skilled and qualified to do so.

How to Get Started

We have some great trainee opportunities available throughout the year for motivated graduates who want to start a rewarding career in public finance and accountancy.

You’ll be placed with a leading employer on a three year fixed term contract with full sponsorship to complete the CIPFA Professional Qualification.

For more information on how to become an accountant and to find out what working in accounting is like check out our careers advice page for employee profiles and career guides.

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  • Name: CIPFA
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