What path should you take after AAT?

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AAT qualifications are highly respected, and they enable students to work in a wide range of professional roles. But if you want to continue studying after AAT Level 4, we look at some pathways you could take.

Many students who gain AAT qualifications go on to enjoy rewarding careers. However, some go on to study for qualifications offered by other bodies, which can lead to higher-paid jobs. 

Here, Ben Bullman, tutor and director at training provider First Intuition, explains some of the most common choices. 

1. Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) 

Requiring at least three years practical experience, the ACCA qualification is globally recognised and can open up many career opportunities, whether in accountancy practice or industry. 

“It takes commitment and hard work, but most students qualify within three years,” says Ben. “ACCA courses focus on compliance, audit, financial reporting and tax. The ACCA qualification is typically sought by employees in practice, industry and the public sector.” 

2. Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) 

CIMA is the world’s largest professional body for management accountants. “It’s aimed at those already working in company finance or management positions, and most students pass within three years,” Ben points out. “CIMA courses combine finance and business, giving you more than just accounting knowledge – you’ll also be professionally trained in business management, which can enable you to advise future clients on business strategy and risk management.” 

3. Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW/ACA) 

“The ACA [Association of Chartered Accountants] qualification prepares you for leadership up to board level,” Ben explains. “The course is popular with those on a training contract with an ICAEW-approved employer. If you’re AAT qualified, you’re exempt from some of the certificate-level papers, so you can be fast-tracked to the professional level. Most students qualify in about 2.5 years. The ACA is made up of four components: 15 exams, 450 days’ practical work experience, professional development and ethics. ACA students and members are in high demand across all sectors, not just in practice.” 

4. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) 

“In the UK, using the ‘CA’ [chartered accountant] designation is reserved only for ICAS members,” says Ben. “It’s one of the most highly regarded professional accounting qualifications. It normally takes three years to qualify, during which time students combine structured work experience with classroom study. The CA qualification consists of public trust and ethics, 12 technical subjects and examinations, as well as practical experience.”  

5. Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) 

CIPFA is the world’s only accountancy membership and standard-setting body for public financial management. “CIPFA’s Professional Accountancy Qualification is its flagship qualification and it’s aimed at those who want to become a chartered public finance accountant,” notes Ben. “Students with a finance or accountancy degree or who’ve passed professional body examinations may be entitled to exemptions.” 

6. Chartered Institute Of Credit Management (CICM) 

CICM is the professional body for credit professionals. “Its qualifications are Ofqual-regulated and various study options are available, including online and home-based,” says Ben. “Qualifications are available at entry, intermediate and advanced levels to those working in credit, collections, money and debt advice and enforcement.”   

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