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What Grades Do I Need to Start Accountancy?

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What myths do you believe about accountancy? When we surveyed accountants across the UK, one of the biggest misconceptions was about qualifications and grades. Almost 1 in 4 didn’t think they had the right qualifications before they made the switch.

So we’re here to set the record straight! You might be surprised to learn that you often don’t need any prior qualifications or specific grades to get started in accountancy.

There is no one route into the accountancy profession. Whether you’ve just left school, hold a degree in business or finance, or just want to retrain for a more stable career, there are lots of routes to explore. Many of which don’t require more than a willingness to learn!

No qualifications needed

AAT - Foundation Certificate

If you’re ready to jump right in, the AAT qualification is one of the most popular for people new to accountancy, or looking to progress in their current job. Whilst studying, you'll develop practical real-world accounting and finance skills, which will equip you for a future in business wherever you choose to work.

77% of students agree that studying for an AAT Qualification has increased their earning potential, and qualified members earn up to 40% more than those who are non-qualified.

Once you’ve completed the Foundation Certificate, you can move on to the Advanced Diploma and Professional Diploma.

Minimum grades required: None

Find out more about AAT with our comprehensive guide

AAT Bookkeeping

Not sure if accountancy is right for you? The AAT Bookkeeping courses could be a great place to start and only take 3-6 months to complete.

These bite-sized courses give you a taster of AAT and the skills needed to become a Bookkeeper. After completing three exams, you’ll be a qualified Bookkeeper and have the the option to move onto the full AAT qualification with exemptions for exams you’ve already sat.

Minimum grades required: None

Find out more about AAT Bookkeeping


Looking for an alternative to university? The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting provides a great opportunity to realise your business potential, regardless of academic background.

Going beyond financial accounting, CIMA Certificate teaches the fundamentals of both business and finance - skills that employers will always need. Or you could look to run your very own business with the skills you’ve developed.

CIMA Certificate is a recognised qualification in its own right, but can also be used as a stepping stone into the full CIMA Professional qualification (more on that later).

Minimum grades required: None

Find out more about CIMA Cert BA

ACCA Foundations

ACCA Foundations is for those wanting to start in financial accounting. The course begins at GCSE level, and progress up to first year degree level.

This course provides a recognised qualification in its own right, but is perfect for those who aspire to move on to the full ACCA qualification to become a chartered certified accountant

Minimum grades required: None

Find out more about ACCA Foundations


Apprenticeships are a method of studying a variety of different qualifications through a company - meaning you earn while you learn!

Whether you’re interested in Accountancy, Tax, Audit or Financial Services, there is an apprenticeship to suit you.

You can apply for an apprenticeship whilst still at school - the only requirements are that you’re older than 16 years old and not in full-time education (though rules change depending on where you are in the UK).

Apprenticeships take between one and four years to complete, and it’s not all classes and exams - you’ll pass through a combination of work-based assessment visits, workshops and reviews.

Minimum grades required: None - in fact, applicants must not have a degree, HND, Level 4 or equivalent!

Find out more about apprenticeships

Some qualifications needed


ACCA is perfect for those interested in financial accounting, looking for a career in practice, audit or tax. On completion, you will be a chartered certified accountant and a globally recognised full ACCA member.

Though you do require some prior qualifications to start ACCA, you may be surprised at how accessible it is. To start the first part of the ACCA Qualification, ACCA Knowledge, you just need a handful of GCSEs and A Levels.

If you are more well-versed in finance (maybe having completed one of the qualifications above), you could be entitled to some exam exemptions - cutting down the time it takes to qualify. So even within single qualifications, there are multiple roots in.

Minimum grades required (ACCA Knowledge): Two A-Levels and three GCSEs (or their equivalent). These need to be in five separate subjects including English and Maths.

Read more about the benefits of studying ACCA

CIMA Professional

CIMA is the world’s largest professional body of management accountants. The main focus of a management accountant is to analyse information to advise business strategy. During the Professional Qualification, you will learn how to make pricing and product decisions, formulate financial strategy and mitigate risk.

Entry requirements are a little higher than other qualifications on this list. But while studying, members earn on average £39,000 in the UK*, so it’s not without its rewards.

Minimum grades required:

  • have completed the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting
  • be a graduate in any degree discipline
  • be a member of a recognised IFAC body, such as AAT

Read more about the benefits of studying CIMA

So you can see there is a route into accountancy for everyone! If you would like to find out more, visit our becoming an accountant page, which gives you even more information about starting your career.

*Source: 2019 Association of International Certified Professional Accountants Salary Survey