Which AAT qualification is best for your staff?

AAT provides a large range of qualifications, from basic bookkeeping for clerical assistants to advanced diplomas for senior finance managers.

Here we outline the different qualifications available, from six-week courses to 9-18 month diplomas, who they are aimed at and the practical skills and training they provide.

Access level qualifications

The Access Award is aimed at junior staff looking to move into the role of a cashier or clerical assistant. It takes around 12 weeks and introduces students to the basics of bookkeeping, including: 

  • how to process customer and supplier transactions 
  • how to process payments and receipts 
  • financial transactions and how to handle these 
  • the duties and responsibilities of a bookkeeper  

This qualification is often taken alongside the AAT Access Award in Accounting Software to help develop a rounded set of skills and knowledge that finance teams need.  

Access Award in Accounting Software 

This qualification, which also takes around 12 weeks, introduces students to accounting software and how to use it in a business environment. It outlines the benefits and the potential risks and gives students, including cashiers and clerical assistants, a basic overview of the following:

  • set up accounts 
  • record bank and cash transactions 
  • produce reports using accounting software 

Access Award in Business Skills (approx. 12 weeks)  

This qualification provides students with a more general overview of the world of business focusing on the basic skills, knowledge and behaviours the world of work requires. It helps students get a more detailed understanding of:

  • how to use numbers within business 
  • the processes and set up of typical business environments 
  • the importance of accurate sales and purchase records in business 

Bookkeeping and accounting software qualifications

Foundation Certificate in Bookkeeping (12 weeks)  

Manual bookkeeping is still at the heart of accountancy and finance and the foundation certificate provides staff, including trainee bookkeepers, finance assistants and account administrators, with the essential skills and knowledge they need to support their finance managers.  This certificate helps staff develop skills in:

  • double-entry bookkeeping 
  • recording and dealing with financial transactions accurately
  • completing bookkeeping procedures, including VAT, reconciliation and trial balances 

Foundation Certificate in Accounting Software (6 weeks) 

With more and more organisations moving to cloud accounting, accounting software skills are an essential requirement for any accountant… 

The Foundation Certificate in Accounting Software, aimed at Accounts Clerks and Accounts Administrators, helps develop well-rounded finance staff with the right practical and technical skills needed to administer business finances online. This course outlines how to:

  • set up new accounts in accounting software 
  • process sales and purchase transactions 
  • perform bank and cash transactions 
  • perform period end routine tasks 
  • produce reports   

Advanced Certificate in Bookkeeping (6 months)  

The advanced certificate takes employees bookkeeping skills to the next level and helps prepare Senior Bookkeepers, Ledger Manager and Accounts Managers for all eventualities. It includes:

  • the advanced principles and concepts of bookkeeping  
  • how to prepare financial statements  
  • issues around indirect tax and VAT 

After completing this qualification, students can also apply for professional bookkeeping status, AATQB.

Accounting Qualifications

AAT’s highly established, industry recognised accounting qualifications cover three levels – foundation, advanced and professional for all members of a finance team.

Foundation Certificate in Accounting (6-12 months)  

The foundation certificate in accounting introduces staff to the basic accounting principles and techniques, from costing and double entry bookkeeping to using accounting software. It’s ideal for administrators and assistants and gives them the skills to:

  • process payments and receipts 
  • prepare invoices 
  • complete bank reconciliations 
  • use accounting software to manage your accounts administrations  
  • communicate accounts and business information effectively with other colleagues.  

This qualification gives finance staff, including Payroll Administrators, Accounting Assistants and Trainee Accounting Technicians a solid understanding of the practical skills they need to efficiently administer their business finances. 

Advanced Diploma in Accounting (6-12 months)  

The Advanced Diploma is a good stepping stone qualification for staff to move from dealing with day to day accounts administration to supporting finance managers with strategically managing budgets. It’s tailored towards Payroll Supervisors, Tax Assistants and Finance Assistants and helps them to:

  • make provisions for doubtful and irrecoverable debts 
  • reconcile ledgers with the cash book 
  • apply professional ethics within a working environment 
  • analyse variances 
  • use spreadsheets to manage and record information in the accounting environment 

Once the diploma has been completed, they can also apply for professional bookkeeping status (AATQB).

Professional Diploma in Accounting (9-18 months)  

The Professional Diploma is the highest accounting qualification and covers complex accounting challenges which help Finance Managers and Senior Finance Officers strategically run and manage finances. It provides an overview of the following:

  • drafting and interpreting limited company accounts 
  • preparing forecasts of income and expenditure 
  • preparing draft budgets and revising them reflect your business needs 
  • measuring performance and preparing performance reports 
  • reviewing the financial function to help you identify risks and make recommendations to improve efficiency and financial management.  

This qualification also provides accountants with the chance to apply for full AAT membership, MAAT.

In Summary

Ultimately, the huge array of qualifications available means there is something for every employee, at every level, from junior cashiers with limited experience to finance managers looking to expand their skillset. Find out more here.

Further reading

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

Related articles