What's the difference between ACA and ACCA?



i am looking to get into accountancy, with a long term view to set up a private practice, which is the best qualification for this ACA or ACCA?


I almost fell of my chair when I read the comments of that wise sage Chrism2671. In reality he would appear to know nothing about anything!

‘ACA requires you to clock up 2 years of technical work experience with a firm before you qualify, whereas for ACCA you just have sit the exams and pass and you wouldn’t have to work a day in your life’ he states with relish. WRONG! With the ACA qualification you need three years practical experience before you can call yourself an ACA, exactly the same criteria applies to the ACCA.

He further states: ‘It’s a choice of routes - not everyone’s up to ACA’. The implication being that only those who are too stupid to study for the ACA qualification take the ACCA route. Wrong again Mr Know It All. I don’t want to sound a braggard but I gained 4 A Grade A Levels and then achieved a 2.1 in Accountancy and Finance from the London School of Economics, but I then chose the ACCA route at KPMG because it is more recognised internationally. If you were to state to a business person in Hong Kong that you were an ACA he would think that you missed out a C in your qualification description!

I now work as a senior manager for a mid size firm in Kent and I constantly see school leavers coming in to study for the AAT qualification with dubious A levels (CDD) and then after AAT go on to study for the ACA qualification with no difficulty at all. And I must state that gaining any qualification is no predictor of success as I have met terrible accountants with all types of qualifications (ACA/ACCA/CIMA etc.)

I don’t mind it if you want to play the joker Chrism2671, but there may actually be people on this forum who believe the nonsense you spout. Which would be a shame.

The reallity is the the ACA/ACCA qualifications are both extremely good and will give anybody who takes them a superb grounding in business and finance.


Hi all, I am looking at a career in accounting and currently completing my AS Levels but i cant help thinking further a field about what would be the best option after this, so I’d like some opinions and advice:

Do you think it would be best to first study an Accounting based subject at university and then move on to gaining an ACA qualification? Or would it be best to skip the university part and begin my AAT-ACA straight from school which could present me with a faster route?

At a recent university exhibition I managed to pick up an ACA booklet and it explains that either way I will be presented with the same opportunities, however I’m really not sure on what to do, I’d love to experience university but I’m not sure which is best option so feel free to comment on what you think would be best.



Hi Jack_1111,

Here is some advice:

  1. You don’t need to have an accounting degree to become an accountant (infact sometimes people with a different degree do better in ACA exams as they are having a fresh start) - about 50% of the intake do not have accounting/maths/economics degrees
  2. University provides a lot of other things in addition to education - it provides life experience, lets you make new friends and gain other skills
  3. Sometimes companies will prefer graduates because they think they have developed skills in university that you may not develop doing AAT
  4. The booklet says things will be the same but it is not always like that - some employers won’t mind, some will
  5. Also a degree can be a path into many different careers - AAT is not
  6. The content of a degree is very different to A Levels whereas AAT is similar to Accounting A Level in some ways

What A Levels are you doing? What grades do you expect to get?


Thanks for the advice, so if i chose to study accounting & finance at university would i be exempt from completing AAT and some ACA exams?

Im doing 3 A-Levels - Applied Business, History and Film Studies (Which was chosen to fill up my subjects) and i expect to get 3 B’s in these, maybe a C in History is more realistic. I was also doing economics but i decided to drop it after my first year exams but im starting to realise that it would have been quite a useful subject to have kept.


their isn’t really any point in doing aat if you do an accounting degree

as for aca check exemptions here: http://www.icaew.com/index.cfm/route/146395/icaew_ga/en/Students/Credit_for_prior_learning_directory


Jack, If you don’t want to go down the uni route… take a look at PwC’s non-graduate opportunities for A-level finishers. Need 280 points, which by your predictions you will get. I know of someone who joined and they found it perfect for them. Only downside is you do ACCA for Assurance route rather than ACA (which you seem to want to do, not that there is that much difference). Here is the page: [http://www.pwc.com/uk/eng/car-inexp/student/non-grad.html]


I’ve just been reading all the comparisons with interest. I’m an ACCA member working with a big 4 in audit. I’ve recently transfered over to Australia and I have found that to my horror that Australia does not recognise ACCA in any shape or form (unlike ACA). Infact to gain the australian CPA (ACA equivalent) I would not only have to start the qualification from scratch, but go back to uni to first study modules in both tax and law. So although ACCA may have the reputation of being more internationally recognised, in my case it is not. Work has suggested to me that I transfer to ACA then transfer to CPA.

However please note that for migration purposes ACCA is still recognised as a professional qualification (I think the country just has double standards)


Iam currently an ACCA student studying for ACCA part 3.Iam currently demotivated in my career development as an accountant in UK.It seems impossible for me to get an accounting job in this country,i cant even find the lowest accounting jobs as an accounts clerk.I have many years of accounting experience in Zambia and some charity work in finance in UK.As a matter of fact my first appointment was a cost assistant job whilest was in my final year at University.In UK am asked for the so called relevant UK experience even for basic accounting clerk work.What is the so called UK experience?How do i acquire the same UK accounting experience if am not given chance to work in the first place?I have valuable accounting skills, but i feel left out in my career development as accountant in UK.Am i the only one going through this or are there many other minority accountants who are affected?Is it some kind of segregation and if true is it ethical?What is CIMA,ACCA and ICAEW doing about it?I think its time we minorities are given equal employment and promotion opportunities without regard to race or religion.I also think that the accounting ethics in UK do not say much about discrimination compared to US CPA.What actions ACCA and ICAEW taken in response to racial discrimination allegations in some of the big 4 accounting firms?

Can somebody please help me with answers to my questions.



I dont see any difference between ACCA and ACA.A choice between the two depends on where you are or where you plan to be in the near fulture.There is no difference between these two and US CPA.Any differences in global mobility are more political than professional.If for example most partners in an audit firm based in UK are ACA s they will prefer to favour ACA trainees than ACCA trainees and ACCA partners for and audit firm based in HK` will likewise tend to favour ACCA trainees.The AICPA dont recognise ACCA in US not because CPA is better but because they want to protect their market.In UK US CPA reciprocal decision is still pending because there s no such arrangement between some UK accounting bodies and AICPA. I think these politics may in near fulture lower the credibility of the accounting professional and udervalue the quality of service being offered to the client if a lower performing member is favoured on the basis of credentials rather than quality of performace.For example why couldnt accountancy see the global meltdown of economy we are going through now?

Its only the client who can decide which one is more superior ACCA ,ACA or US CPA.In my view iam calling for a single world wide accounting designation,uniform accounting and auditing standards and increased global mobility.This may improve the quality of assurance and assurance related services like forensic accounting.For example the quality of an investigation of a money laundering fraud involving different juridictions with different accounting rules ,restrictions and presentation currences of accounts statements may be better than currently is.


Its just one qualification being offered by different bodies.Its like 2 product brands differing only in the packaging and labelling.


I am so relieved to read your professional reply relating to ‘Chrism2671’; obviously he seemed to be talking complete rubbish. I am currently doing a few weeks work experience here and there at accountancy firms and am thinking of going into the profession. I think I will either do the ACA or ACCA qualification, but there are endless debates, as you know, posted all over the internet of people claiming one is better than the other. On the ACA website it states the entry requirements you need to be accepted onto the program. It seems I pass them all with flying colours, apart from my degree (ACA requires 1 or 2:1) for which I received a 2:2 from Leeds in Philosophy, a result due to social student life and its sheer difficultness. But gaining the degree has given me more incentive to work harder and concentrate more if I go into accountancy. How much at a disadvantaged am at with a 2:2? I know obviously I will be at some disadvantage, having little to no chance of working for the Big 4. But I am no way inclined to work for such a company anyway. How relevant is nepotism in today’s business world? I am privileged to have many friends and relatives who are in very good positions in major companies all around the world. Does the old saying 'who you know, not what you know still apply today?

Anyway I just wanted to write to you as you seem the only one on this blog to know what their talking about.



Very interesting reading all these comments about the two different qualifications.
I am wanting to start an ACA qualification, how dissadvantaged do you think I’d be being 28, and a background as a musician.
Any advice on books I could read to find out a much more detailed description of what I’d have to go through in qualifying, and to help me get a placement in the first place.


was just interested to see if anyone had any views or advice…my son is taking a year out of Uni having done one year at Imperial College, London studying maths. We live in Jersey and he was looking for temp work. Last week he received a job offer from a trust company based in Jersey. They are offering to sponsor him through the ACCA as well as paying him a good salary which will double upon completion of the qualification,but only if he stays with them and doesn’t return to Imperial to complete his degree. There are some graduates who have also applied but they have said they prefer him as his A Levels grades are so good.(As and A*s in Maths, Furthur Maths, Physics,Chemistry and Biology).
Not being from any kind of maths or science background myself I really don’t know how to advise him and don’t really want to get involved with a decision which must really come from him…any advice from people that may have more insight into the world of accounting/actuaries/stockbroking etc…?


OK. Well obviously two very distinct arguments here.
On the one hand a degree from Imperial College is a fantastic qualification to have and will be an excellent entry on his CV.
Currently, a degree will open up many more career opportunities than just having A levels. A good degree in Maths from IC is a good entry ticket for most City/Finance jobs and of course employers visit IC to recruit the best graduates.
That said, why has he taken a year out? Struggling with the degree? Student debts issues (I doubt it if you live in Jersey)?
If he’s not happy with Uni then why force the issue and possibly struggle to get that coveted IC maths degree? If he gets a 2.2 he will have difficulty getting interviews since most employers now insist upon 2.1 minimum.
Once he has his degree he will still have to go through all the application/recruitment process. He’s already got a job now.
If your son is enjoying his current job and the prospects for professional qualification are good then there is a good argument for staying with the company and working for his ACCA. At the risk of starting a heated debate on this site, I personally feel the ACA qualification is the gold standard for our profession but, given the nature of his work, it may be that the ACCA is more appropriate technically. If he felt it necessary to gain the ACA he can look on the ICAEW website where there is a section which explains how you can use your ACCA qualification to gain credits etc towards the ACA qualification. I mention the ACA simply because in terms of CFO, FD of FTSE companies the tendency is towards ACA.
Looking to the future, he may find that the lack of degree on his CV will be an issue when applying for jobs. Hopefully his professional qualification and by then, work experience will overcome any issues on that score.
Finally, on the social side. There is a lot to be said for having a great time being a student in London. Will he miss that?
Finally, take a look at the ICAEW and ACCA websites.


I think that’s fair. Unless he’s not doing well/ doesn’t like his degree course he should definitely finish his degree. No idea what company is offering him the training contract but with a 2.1 from imperial he will be able to choose a firm to study with after his degree finished.

I’m doing the ACA, so can’t really comment on the ACCA but objectively, the ACA probably has the edge in prestige and recognition. Not that I’m casting aspersions on the other qualifications but having researched this extensively - that’s simple the wider perception. I’m probably biased but if he’s not sure about what he wants to do - there’s few places better to start off than doing the ACA at a big 4 firm in London. It keeps your options as wide as possible whether that is to remain in public practice, work in industry, or move into investment management.


For those who enjoy stats: A recent survey of FDs of the FTSE top 100. Qualifications. ICAEW 56; CIMA 9; ICAS 7; ACCA 5; Other 10; none 14. Yes, the total is 101 because the FD of Friends Provident is ACCA, CIPFA. The FD salaries make more interesting reading. Page 29, Accountancy magazine, October 2009.


thanks to all sages who have enriched my knowledge on this topic. i really appreciate the comments of “pagreen”. Of late i came across some info from wikipedia.org which i felt would be relevant here.

The British Government’s Department of Trade & Industry (DTI), implementing the Companies Act 1989, allows members of six bodies to act as auditor to a limited company. These are the member bodies of CCAB & Association of International Accountants (AIA) excluded CIMA. In the European Union, under the EU mutual recognition directive, members of these six bodies may practise auditing in other EU member states, with absolute equal status.

The Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies (known as CCAB), formed in 1974, is an umbrella group for the major British qualified accountancy bodies. All six British and Irish professional accountancy bodies with a Royal Charter are members of the CCAB. These six are also the British professional bodies that belong to the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). They are:

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)
Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
All full members of these bodies are deemed to hold equivalent-level qualifications

i think, based on the above information there should be no difference in either of this qualification. I guess this must be the reason for why KPMG recognising both the qualifications at par.

thanks to all…


Very interesting read and I have some opinions on the subject. I am an ACCA within Big4 audit and there is a mix of a ACCA / ACA (ICAEW) / CA (ICAS) within my department.

Currently the Big4 firm I work for have completely abandomed ICAEW and all new grad’s now sit ICAS (or ACCA). I know a few years ago ACA was the trend but this changes all of the time.

Just to clear up a few incorrect comments further up:-

  1. “Practical Experience” - You can independantly sit the ACCA exams without working should you wish, but you cannot become a full member until you have 3 years experience. Like all 3 bodies listed above, you have to collect evidence of competencies and log 3 years worth of experience before they will accept full membership.

  2. All qualifications (including others such as CIMA) have the same legal rights to sign audit reports etc and there is no statutory difference amongst the bodies (only opinions differ).

  3. There is no legal requirement to have an accountancy qual to be a CFO/FD of a company or any other director role. The reason that the majority of UK CFOs are ACA is that historically ICAEW carries more prestige / has more members in the UK (so obviously the ‘UK based’ FTSE100 will have more ACAs).

From my experience, any differences in the ‘value’ of these qualifications lie purely in the opinions of the people you are dealing with and the regional variations:-

E.g. I had a colleague (ACA) who applied for a job in Hong Kong and was actually asked by the employment agency…‘is that a spelling mistake on you cv?’. In Asia this is by far the more respected qual. However I know (from personal experience) that ACCA is not held in anywhere near as much regard as ACA / CA in Australia. This highlights the regional variations.

Some people have opinions over which is the ‘harder’ qual to obtain, but again this is down to opinion. The ICAS students at my firm like to joke that their exams are harder than ACCA, however they sit twice as many exams per sitting. I know a tutor who left my firm to teach ACCA having studied ICAS and she claims ACCA is much detailed. It depends on the person (whether you suit technical or practical), the number of exams you sit per sitting, pressures from work etc, but if you look at the syllabus of each body they are all very similar. Anyone who claims to say conclusively that one qual is better than another is simply stupid/ignorant, as it is purely a matter of opinion.

Some people I have worked with (particulary older people) tend to form opinions based on what qual they hold. I personally think this is quite narrow-minded, however you will occasionally see job adverts stating ‘CA only’ etc, however in general all accountancy quals will open up doors and ensure you earn a decent salary in a respected job.

The ‘right’ qual for a particular person depends on their own ambition/situation. If you want to work in the public sector then CIPFA (accountancy body specialising in public sector finance) is more suitable. If you want to travel and work in the emerging markets in Asia then prob ACCA. If you want to work for a large UK FTSE company, then prob ACA/CA. It all depends on the person/situation.

In response to MANDAs post re the IC student. Without knowing the circumstances of why he is considering dropping out, I would defo recommend he completes his course (especially if he thinks he can get a 2:1). He shouldnt jump ship purely for the security of a job as he will not struggle for opportunities post graduation and his c.v. will initially look like it has a ‘hole’ where a degree should be (this year it is estimated that about 50% of 18yrs will apply to uni).

I personally agree with a post further up, that the industry needs standardising across the world. Moves are being made for global convergence of accountancy standards etc, however we are a long way off one accountancy qual to fit all.

So to conclude, I don’t believe that there is significant difference between all 5-6 accountancy options, however consider you own ambitions and what options are available to you.


well, dont wanna go off-topic, but there is a basic difference - ACCA has 1 more C than ACA!



  • ICAEW gives ACA
  • ICAS gives CA
  • ACCA gives ACCA