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At which level should I start studying AAT?

Sign post with many different directions

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) is one of the most popular accounting qualifications out there. But for people new to the qualification, it can be hard to work out which level to start at.

AAT is made up of three levels: Foundation, Advanced, and Professional, as well as the AAT Bookkeeping Qualifications that can be taken separately.

You don’t need any previous qualifications or accountancy experience to begin studying AAT. And anyone, from school leavers to career changers, can start the qualification.

Here’s an overview of each level, and the experience required.

AAT Bookkeeping Qualifications

There are three bookkeeping qualifications, Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 2, CIB), Foundation Award in Accounting Software (Level 2, AIAS), and Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping (Level 3, CIB). If you pass all three qualifications, you can gain AAT Professional Bookkeeper status.

You don’t need any previous accounting experience to take a Bookkeeping course, just be willing to learn new skills.

If you want to start AAT at the Advanced Diploma level, it’s advisable to take one of the bookkeeping courses as you will need a good knowledge of Double Entry Bookkeeping.

AAT Foundation Certificate

Foundation Certificate covers the basic principles of accountancy, and is your starting point if you’ve never studied accountancy before. You don’t need any prior experience to start at Foundation, but will need good maths, IT and English skills.

You’ll learn the basic principles of accountancy, such as double-entry bookkeeping, costing and preparing financial statements, as well as how to use accountancy software. Most people complete this level in around six months to a year.

If you’ve completed the AAT Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (FCIB) qualification, you’ll be exempt from completing the first two units of this level (Bookkeeping Transactions and Bookkeeping Controls).

The Foundation Certificate includes the following subjects/assessments:

  • Bookkeeping Transactions (BTRN)
  • Bookkeeping Controls (BKCL)
  • Elements of Costing (ELCO)
  • Foundation Synoptic Assessment (FYSA)
  • Using Accountancy Software (UACS)

Once you’ve passed this level, you could work in roles such as an accounts payable clerk, accounts officer, payroll administrator and a finance assistant, with salaries of up to £23,000*.

AAT Advanced Diploma

The Advanced Diploma builds on the knowledge gained in the Foundation Certificate level. If you work in accounts or have studied accountancy before, you may be able to start at this level.

Ideally, to start at the Advanced level, you should have passed AAT Foundation (Level 2). You may be eligible for relevant exemptions if you’ve been working in an intermediate accounts role, or have achieved relevant A Levels.

If you wanted to start at Advanced Level, there is an assumption that you have a good knowledge of Double Entry Bookkeeping, so taking an AAT Bookkeeping qualification is a good idea.

At the Advanced Level, you’ll learn complex accounting techniques, and master a number of accounting disciplines including: financial processes, advanced bookkeeping, final accounts and ethical practices for accountants. Most people complete this level in around six months to a year.

The Advanced Diploma includes the following subjects/assessments:

  • Advanced Bookkeeping (AVBK)
  • Final Accounts Preparation (FAPR)
  • Management Accounting: Costing (MMAC)
  • Indirect Tax (IDRX)
  • Advanced Synoptic Assessment (AVSY)

After completing this level, you could become a finance officer, assistant accountant or an advanced bookkeeper, earning a salary of up to £25,000**.

AAT Professional Diploma

This is the final level, teaching you more complex accounting theory, and you can choose two specialist subjects to focus on. You will need to have completed the AAT Advanced Diploma to start at this level.

At the Professional level you’ll learn about budgeting, management accounting, preparing financial statements, accounting systems, and tax.

The Professional Diploma is made up of 4 compulsory subjects/assessments and then you can choose two optional subjects:

Compulsory subjects/assessments:

  • Financial Statements of Limited Companies (FSLC)
  • Management Accounting: Budgeting (MABU)
  • Management Accounting: Decision and Control (MDCL)
  • Professional synoptic assessment (PDSY): Accounting Systems and Controls


  • Business Tax (BSTX)
  • Personal Tax (PLTX)
  • External Auditing (ETAU)
  • Cash and Treasury Management (CTRM)
  • Credit Management (CDMT)

You could work in exciting jobs such as a forensic accountant, tax manager, accountancy consultant and finance analyst, earning salaries of up to £42,500*** as you advance and gain experience.

Ready to start your AAT journey?

We hope you have more of an idea where to start your AAT journey. If it sounds like the right qualification for you, have a look at our AAT pages for more information.