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ACA, ACCA, CIMA or CIPFA: Which pays the most for part-qualified accountants?

Accounting

If you want to earn your stripes as an accountant, most qualifications require a minimum of three years’ work experience. This is fine if your employer is willing to sponsor you through training, but for most people with a couple of exams under their belt this means looking for a job while studying.

So, assuming you’re thinking of starting an accounting qualification, which one will ensure the largest pay packet as you study in the UK? According to new research by recruiters Hays, it’s a toss-up between the ACCA and CIMA.

In London (the highest paying region in the UK), the typical salary for a finalist studying these qualifications is £38k, suggests the research, compared to £33k for the CIPFA and £31k for those sitting the ACA.

Interestingly, however, the ACA pays more at trainee level – offering an average of £24k, compared to £22-22.5k for the other qualifications. Perhaps this is because the ACA is the favoured qualification for Big Four accounting firms in the UK, who paid their graduate recruits and average of £25.7k in 2013, according to the Association of Graduate Recruiters.

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The good news for any part-qualified accountant is that there’s currently plenty of demand for your services. Hays says that employers are struggling to hire a limited pool of part-qualified candidates, who are being well-looked-after by their employers.

It’s not just about the technical skills; potential employers want people who can “demonstrate commercial acumen, problem-solving skills and an ability to connect and communicate effectively with non-finance people”, says Hays.

While employers don’t pay for accounting-qualification fees, it’s increasingly common to offer a £4k uplift in salaries, suggests Hays’ research.

Here are a selection of salaries you should expect as a part-qualified accountant:

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