The Many Different Routes Into Accountancy Firm Roles

Posted on Friday, November 12, 2021 by Lydia SinclairNo comments

One of the largest misconceptions in the field of accountancy recruitment is that you need to have a related degree to train to be an accountant and get into an accounting role.

This is exceptionally far from a case, and whether you want to be a chartered accountant or a certified accountant, there is a wide range of routes that do not require a university degree.

These work on a spectrum from practical on-the-job apprenticeships to foundation qualifications without an academic pre-requisite of any kind. This ensures that everyone with the willingness to learn and work hard can become an accountant regardless of academic attainment.


The Pathways To Chartered Accountancy

Accounting is a somewhat broad term, and legally is not protected, so anybody can call themselves an accountant by law. However, a chartered accountant is a protected term and highlights the level of attainment, continued professional development and experience an accountant has.

Charted accountants are bound not only by the law that all other accountants are but they are also bound by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)’s Code of Ethics.

Whilst the most common route to become a chartered accountant is to get a degree in accountancy and train for the requisite three years at an ICAEW recognised employer, there are a few other routes you can take.


The ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting And Business

Also known as the “baby ACA”, the CFAB is a foundation qualification that takes a year to complete and can be completed without either an academic pre-requisite or experience working for an ICAEW-recognised employer.

This makes it ideal for people who are looking to change careers, as it is a relatively short qualification that can be the launching pad to enter a training contract with an ICAEW-recognised firm and become fully accredited as a chartered accountant.



Since the development of the more flexible Modern Apprenticeship system in 1995, chartered accountant apprenticeships have become a viable option for someone to build up their skills and ability with a firm goal at the end.

There are two ICAEW programmes available; the Level 4 (foundation degree level) Accounting Technician Apprenticeship, which includes the CFAB and the first six exam modules of the ACA qualification, taking 24 months to complete.

The other pathway is the Level 7 (master’s degree level) Accountancy Professional Apprenticeship, which takes between 36 and 48 months and provides the qualifications necessary to be a fully qualified chartered accountant.


Bright Starter Programme

If a young person completes their formal education with a high level of attainment (5 GCSEs from 5-9 and 2-3 A-levels from A*-C), they can in some cases jump straight into a training programme with a recognised firm as a “bright starter”, which helps get them on their way to full chartered status.


Certified Accountants

chartered certified accountant is a specific type of accountant that belongs to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, known for having a very stringent number of tests and requirements and requiring their applicants to pass 13 exams.

Whilst the most common pathway is to get a degree in Business Finance or another relevant degree that will allow them to skip some of these examinations, there are other pathways to becoming a certified accountant.


Complete Foundations in Accountancy Or Certified Accounting Technician Certificates

Much like with chartered accountants there are at least two non-academic foundation courses that each take around 18 months to complete.

You need work experience as part of this qualification, but unlike the ICAEW accountants you can get this from any type of accounting firm, and there is the option to transfer from the FiA or CAT qualifications to a full ACCA certificate.


FiA/CAT Apprentice

Much like with chartered accountancy there are dedicated apprenticeship schemes that enable an apprentice to get either of the two qualifications over two years.


Apply As A Trainee

The earliest possible step into an ACCA qualification is 5 GCSEs grade 5-9, and two A levels grades A*- C, which is also the common requirement for trainee certified accountant roles.

This allows someone to immediately start building up the 36 months of experience they need for full ACCA accreditation.

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