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How to progress from AAT to ACA (ICAEW)

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If you’re coming to the end of your AAT qualification, or you completed it a while ago, you may want to consider doing an ACA qualification.

Here’s a bit more information to help you make your decision.

What is ACA?

ACA stands for Associate Chartered Accountant, and is administered by the Institute of Chartered Accountant in England and Wales (ICAEW). It’s a great option if you would like to be a chartered accountant and work in accountancy and finance. It’s also a globally recognised qualification, so it can open doors in many different industries.

ICAEW is one of the oldest accountancy bodies in the world. It has more than 184,500 members and students in 148 countries.

How is the ACA qualification structured?

ACA consists of three levels - Certificate, Professional, and Advanced. You also have to complete 450 practical work experience days. In total, it’ll take around three years to complete the qualification.

For former AAT students, they may be eligible for a reduction to 300 days of practical work experience as they can apply for a credit of prior work experience from when they studied AAT.

What are the entry requirements for ACA?

Well it’s really good news if you’ve already done AAT, as you may be able to start at the Certificate level straight away. You’ll already have a great knowledge base from your previous studies, so this will suit you perfectly.

Also, you may be exempt from some of the Certificate level papers. These include:

  • Accounting, Management Information and Business and Finance
  • Assurance if you have completed optional External Auditing paper at level 4 (Professional Diploma)
  • Principles of Tax if you have completed BOTH optional tax papers at level 4.
For more info on exemptions, please visit the ICAEW fast-track site. 

How hard are the ACA exams?

They are tougher than the AAT exams, but not impossible. You will already have a lot of knowledge, but you will need to study hard as the exams go into a lot more detail than they did for AAT. Pass marks are around 50-55% for all exams, so you don’t need to panic that you have to get really high marks to succeed. You may find it a steep learning curve, but it’ll be worth it.

Why do ACA after AAT?

AAT is a great qualification, and lots of people do well with it, but qualifying as a Chartered Accountant will open up more career opportunities and allow you to progress further in accountancy.

Could I earn more with an ACA qualification?

You can earn a lot more with ACA than you can with AAT. A qualified chartered accountant salary, according to the ICAEW salary survey 2020*, is £63,715 a year, but you can earn well over £100,000 a year with experience, and depending on where in the world you are.

Ready to take your next step?

If you’re interested in moving on to ACA, have a look at our ACA pages for more details, and more information about our study methods. Also our student services team is always on hand for any questions and advice.

*ICAEW Salary Survey 2020