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Getting Qualified for an Accountancy Job May Be Easier Than You Think


If you want a job in financial services but don’t feel inclined to spend 300 hours studying for each three levels of the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) qualification, you could always opt for the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) accounting qualification instead.

Like the CFA exams, ACCA exams can be prepared for on a distance learning basis while you’re working. Also like the CFA exams, the ACCA is global: if you pass in the UK, you can (in theory) go and work in Shanghai or New York or even Paris. However, while CFA Charter holders often go into fund management or research roles in banks, people with the ACCA qualification will usually move into accounting or finance positions.

The ACCA appears a lot easier to pass than the CFA qualifications. While both CFA level one and CFA two exams have pass rates of only 37%, the 14 core ACCA papers have pass rates ranging from 32% to as high as 65%. In order to gain an ACCA, students have to pass each of the 14 exams listed below. Colin Davis, a spokesman for the ACCA, said that it’s common to take four ACCA papers every year.

ACCA: The 14 exam papers and their pass rates  

Paper F1, Accountant in Business, 65%

Paper F2, Management Accounting, 59%

Paper F3, Financial Accounting, 55%

Paper F4, Corporate and Business Law, 41%

Paper F5, Performance Management, 37%

Paper F6, Taxation, 47%

Paper F7, Financial Reporting, 53%

Paper F8, Audit and Assurance, 34%

Paper F9, Financial Management, 43%

Paper P1, Governance, Risk and Ethics, 50%

Paper P2, Corporate Reporting, 49%

Paper P3, Business Analysis, 48%

Paper P4, Advanced Financial Management, 33%

Paper P5, Advanced Performance Management, 33%

Paper P6, Advanced Taxation, 44%

Paper P7, Advanced Audit and Assurance, 32%

Will an ACCA really help you to get a banking job?

Will an ACCA enable you to walk straight into a job in banking? Probably not. Our own job listings and CV database suggest 10 CVs were uploaded into the eFinancialCareers system over the past three months for each ACCA job currently advertised. However, banks do hire ACCAs, so having the qualification won’t do you any harm.

Tom Stoddart, head of accounting at recruitment firm Eximius in London, said that banks are usually open to hiring candidates who have a CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants), an ACCA or the ACA Chartered Accountant qualification run by the ICAEW. “The ACA is often seen as being more rigorous but ACCA qualified accountants will also get picked up for junior roles in banks,” said Stoddart. “They’re typically hired into financial accounting, financial reporting, or management accounting roles,” he added.

Qualifications that are even easier to pass than the ACCA 

If you don’t want to sit all 14 papers above and gain an ACCA, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants offers a few alternatives for which the pass rates are even higher.

These include:

Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting

FA1, Recording Financial Transactions, 70%

MA1, Management Information, 74%

Foundation Specialist papers 

FTX, Foundations in Taxation, 70%

The qualifications above comprise only one exam, which the vast majority of people seem to pass. Davis said each of these papers can be taken on a home-study basis in six to eighteen months and are intended as “starting blocks” for people who might want to work in accounting or in roles which bring them into contact with accountants.  “The foundation and introductory levels are for people who haven’t worked in accounting before. All these qualifications are global,” he reiterated.

Even if the ACCA exams don’t lead to a job instantaneously, they should contribute to your employability, even if you have no prior financial services work experience. “If you have an ACCA on your CV but no banking experience, you’ll be more appealing to recruiters than if you neither,” said recruiter Stoddart at Eximius.

Comments (4)

  1. Your article is VERY misleading Sarah. I would elaborate but this is the equivalent of a Daily Mail article.

  2. Sarah, I think you got it all wrong. Your piece seems to be based on ‘hear say’, filled with ‘half truths’ misleading and unfounded. Your claims were not well researched.
    It depends on whose side you are. The ‘rivalry’ between the various accountancy bodies have resulted in a battle of superiority and supremacy, characterised by mudslinging and bad mouthing.
    To say that ACCA is simpler is blatantly incorrect. The pass rate for ICAEW is much higher than that of ACCA. I presume you have not heard of ICAS as it was not mentioned in your article. That ICAEW and ICAS are not global qualifications and they are only recognised in countries where they have reciprocal agreement. The ACCA covers every aspect of accountancy and finance in the same way as ICAEW. Both require three years relevant work experience before qualifying. That ICAEW require students to secure training contracts with accredited businesses does not make ICAEW superior to ACCA. If you thought that ACCA was simpler, then ask those who have tried it rather than making unsubstantiated claims which are incorrect and baseless.

  3. I agree with the above person. Sarah, you really got it all wrong. The first 3 papers of ACCA (F1, F2 & F3) are only the ‘baby papers of ACCA’. They are just basic financial and management accounting and are only there to give people who do not hold a relevant degree in finance/ people who don’t know anything about financial and management accounting a chance to learn about the basics of these so that they won’t find it hard to grasp the advanced stuff they would learn later on when they move up.

    Also, Comparing ACCA, ACA or CPA to CFA is like comparing a Bentley to a Ferrari. The first three are professional accountancy qualifications which focus on all aspects of accountancy and finance including auditing, financial reporting, management accounting. financial management, taxation etc. while on the other hand CFA focuses on investments and financial analysis relating to investment activities. So the first 3 and the latter have different purposes and comparing them is not really a wise thing to do. You cannot expect a CFA to perform external audit or prepare consolidated financial statements and similary an ACCA, ACA or CPA won’t be able to perform the higher level investment analysis that a CFA does.

    Finally, the beleif that ACA is better than ACCA or easier than ACCA is a myth. ACCA and ACA are both equally good. Even ACCA students have to go through very hard exams and appropriate good quality training to become a member. One of my lecturers who is an Fellow of the ICAEW (FCA) told me this “ACCA’s P2 Corporate reporting paper is much harder the ACA equivalent paper”.

    To sum it up, all qualifications are good in their own right. So a comparison of these qualifications, on a thin line with no or little research done about them, is flawed. If you really want to know about these qualifications and compare them, don’t listen to anyone go do them yourself. Only then will you understand what these qualifications are really composed of.

    -An ACCA Professional Level Candidate


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