What's the difference between ACA and ACCA?



My two cents on the debate…When I was at EY, then UBS the ACA’s were miles ahead of the rest in regard to type of role and salary. Front office positions were filled comfortably by ACA’s, leaving the rest of the race behind to fight it out for the less lucrative roles.

In a nutshell…ACA is miles ahead and will always be. CIMA is good for industry yes, but ACA can easily be transferable in industry, not vice versa.

It’s also true that it depends on your background/experience, regardless of qualification (if the job spec matches your credentials) but if you are just comparing the qualifications then ACA would come out on top anyday.

You can work in a sweet shop/petrol station and be ACCA qualified…what good is that in today’s fragile environment? At least CIMA has it’s own recognised place.


One more thing before I leave the post…it is a myth to think that ACCA is more recongnised around the globe. This was probably made up by themselves. I have friends in every continent working in industry, public practice etc who are doing extremely well for themselves and are ACA qualified. Of course it helps if you have big firm experience but still.

It is a common fact that the ACCA board opened up their qualification to every Tom, Dick and Harry in order to be the “biggest by numbers.” That’s prestige for you!


Okay ten - here is where life is not a Disney film:

  1. No one cares about you or is wanting to “help you” - asking on internet boards is wasting your time.

  2. In life the successful are the people who go out and make things happen - and those are what the employers want, so until you can answer your own question - you will not be able to make use of any answer - as it will be irrelevant. - Does this make sense?

There are plenty of Big 4 people posting on wikijob, thestudentroom etc - but this is all UK focussed. I would say use your common sense and phone the HR departemnts of all top 20 firms in yoru country and ask about internships, training, volountary work and jobs - they are best placed to advise you.


Can’t help myself:

Liverpool 123 is spot on (but you can also do ACA in a sweetshop/petrol station!)

What alarms me about accountants ruminating about the qualifications is people look to accountancy professionals for yes/no answers and accurate appraisals of net present value.

For that reason alone if you can’t say as an accountant - the value of the ACA is higher than ACCA or CIMA - there is something seriously wrong with you and I’d question your ability to objectively do your job. I don’t know maybe objectivity and NPV was left out of the ACCA and CIMA syllabuses (joking).

Again it alarms me accountants don’t appraise the situation of growing membership in these bodeis objectively:

Although these bodies are essentially not-for-profit -they exist to make money:

ICAEW focus on elite universities and empoloyers and government advisory in the UK investment and financial markets - that is why they will ALWAYS be the top of the profession in the UK - it is impossible for any other body to take over their niche role.

ACCA focus instead on a mass market approach - getting as many students to sign up as possible - who cares if its 10 million people from some desert in SE ASIA who will never get a job - as long as they pay the fees…

And that is the reason why in the minds of employers and recruitment consultants - the ACA is preferred to the ACCA in the job market - the market position of the qualifications - and who is doing them.

More ramblings:

Graduate2010 is right - you should take anything - but in the long term is it better to take a year off and get into a big 4 next time than jump straight into doing the ACCA in a supermarket finance department - if your goal is to work in audit or advisory?

He also shows endless masters, phd etc are not the differentiating element in job interviews - they are looking for client facing people with soft skills.

Tutor - there is no light at the end of the tunnel if your english is rubbish and you look like the back end of a cow with the social skills and team working abilities of a donut - especially not now:

So PWC have upped jobs by 10% - so what - now its harder than ever to get in:

  1. You have all the highly skilled, networked people who have lost jobs looking to downgrade or get into something stable - 20 - 40 year old career switchers and grads.
  2. There are more sandwich degrees than ever before which automatically take up available trainee positions
  3. There are more graduates than ever before and the grad job market has shrunk

So it goes like this: 1000 jobs at PWC:

  • 100 positions filled by school-leavers - AAAA a-levels, captain of rowing team who thinks University is a waste of time or switched on parents

  • 300 positions filled by interns or sandwich degree placement students who have received offers after doing a year - grads doing business, management, economics etc

  • 200+ posiitions filled by accountancy grads whos degrees exempt them from exams

  • that leaves 300+ places for the other 20,000+ people applying - factor in they have to take an equal number of women, ethnics etc and you can see - its tougher than ever - any excuse to stream you out will be used.

How on earth are you going to get through interview with patchy English or a CV that screams “does not fit in our organisation or UK social environment”



I do enjoy reading your posts! Very blunt, informative and straight to the point. Something that most of the people on here need, is a helpful dose of a reality check!

As you rightly touched on; it annoys me that media etc use the same old “Pwc has increased graduate vacancies by 10%” as a solution to the shrinking grad market. Like you said, this increase has made it even harder to get an interview / AC, not easier! More than ever, HR are using these silly filter tools to combat rising graduate numbers.

I could rant further about this and that, but I feel you have covered enough already (and perhaps have still more to do!)

Also, I keep thinking you went to the same Uni as me…


Cant you become both?


Yes Brachioz, you can then call yourself an “ACAACCA”

But why stop there? - you should get the CIMA, ACA, ACCA, CFA, CIOT, and an online MBA Bcomm, Bsc and Phd.

That way you can cover all bases and call yourself “ACOM PLET EIDIOT”


To tendousoujiooz.

It is best to go to the big four and speak to them; it is all about getting your foot in the door, networking with those big four employers and employees. The 2.1 300 UCAS points is a minimum entry requirement here in the UK (do not know the equivalent is in Malaysia). But that is all it is, a minimum nowadays. The biggest thing apart from academic results is fit. If you can, go to PWC, KPMG events, look at the way their employees look, dress, present themselves. Even hang around outside and watch the people coming out of the building - that’ll give you an idea. At 18, who have plenty of time. First thing is to get yourself involved with the big four i.e. get an internship; that’s very important. Most of my graduate friends who got big four jobs had gone to recruitment events, and got themselves internships the year before they were graduating. But appearance is a big factor in the UK, don’t know so much in Malaysia. But, like investment banking, you need to look the part. But again, it depends on whether you want to be involved with a system that is this selective about its candidates, but that’s the world in which we live nowadays; you have to show that you have the whole package. ACCA independent study is basically a money making machine. But a grad scheme ACCA with top 20 firm is better than just signing up and taking exams, like I’m doing, but i’ll probably do ICAS next year. ACA and ICAS are more structured, and are acknowledged worldwide as being that way. All we are saying is, big four ACA or ICAS is the best start you can have (this is the prevailing UK opinion). If you are young, 18, then this is the way to go if you are 100% sure that 's what you want. Just be patient, you are only 18. Get your marks, get an internship, develop soft skills like communication skills, team working etc. (joining a sports club for example) get a feel for the way they dress, the fit of the firm etc. and you should increase your chances. Good Luck to you.


Thanks a lot guys, those are really important information. I must now find a way to contact someone from the big4 firms. Thanks guys.


Hey there,

I have a problem. I have studied like crazy for the last year towards acca. I have got 3 exemptions because of my Bachelors in Finance and Banking. I’m currently studying at the last semester for masters in Financial Management and I’m doing very well. However I am not able to bite ACCA. Firstly I attempted only F4 and I have failed (47 points). In December 2010 I have attempted F4 again and F5. I had the knowledge on most of the subjects, especially on F4. And my scores were miserable: 37 from F4 and 41 from F5.

How to get around it, what is the magic trick?

I am working in Accounts but because my work doesn’t satisfy me to say the least, I’m about to serve my notice. I have no money but prefer that than dragging every day.

I’m desperately trying to get the qualification in accountancy and now, after reading the blog, I’m considering the switch from ACCA to ACA. Any tips and help would be much appreciated.


Dave, my friend, you can only complete your ACA studies with a training contract and attempt the case study in your final year (year 3). :).

All the best to all you wanna be accountants out there!



The magic trick is to be realistic - you have failed F4 twice and F5 once - these are the easy papers, best to stick with what you know than jump into a qualification which has limits on attempts and in any case - where you will be up against UK graduates on training schemes with structured time off and tutition.

To me you need better time management and to sort your life out - why do a masters - its completely pointless, once that is out the way-may as well finish i t now - you can spend more time on the ACCA…

Switching qualifications is not the best move for you - if you are already in a job that counts towards PER for ACCA - just get it done and when qualified you can move - you can even get teh 3 years done, quit the job and then sit all the exams.

If you hate every day of your job - congratulations - you are like every other trainee accountant!

Jumping ship now and trying to explain your erratic job history and qualifications to a prospective employer won’t make any sense…starting the ACA when you are already completing the training experience for ACCA also makes no sense.


Liverpool 123 - I know what you mean

But you can get your 3 years signed off by any CCAB accountant now - just like ACCA.

So you can indeed qualify as an ACA in exactly the same jobs as ACCA’s use.


Hi Liverpool,

So what you are saying is you can complete ACCA (an affiliate) and then do the case study in year 3. Plus your training contract that is. That seems quite good.


No what he’s saying is you need to be in a training contract to get the ACA - and you must be in year 3 of it to sit the exciting case study.

Right I am truly off now, and am deleting my profile - I go mad on this whenever I sit down to do some revision and have some nonsense to learn before my re-take course next week…

Best of luck to all.


Hi guys,

I’m looking for some advice. I’ve recently completed a masters in international accounting basically because I’m not 100% sure about being an accountant. I’d like to get into teaching, but, again, I’m not sure. I’m in one of those situations. I don’t know what I want to do. Anyway, I’m doing ACCA independently as a fall back in case I don;t go through with the teaching. Has anybody got any idea of whether teaching experience makes up part of the the ACCA qualification? Again, I;m thinking about applying to ICAS/ACA jobs again this year., but i don’t want to commit myslef to a full three years if I’m not 100% sure about qualifying as an accountant. Do you think this is the right move? Thanks


So the choices are between teaching and accountancy…

You don’t need any work experience to qualify for the ACCA. You have to think carefully if you really want to apply for ACA/ICAS etc as working and studying at the same time is going to be challenging if you are not 100% committed.

Start applying and see where this goes but you must be passionate and up for such a career. Same goes for finishing off ACCA - you need to be happy enough to put in the hours in order to qualify.

At the same time, have you thought about finishing off your ACCA and then maybe teaching at Kaplan or BPP? You could study there, finish and try and become a teacher there. Or contact them, they usually help people who need advice with such dilemmas.

All the best with what you do and good luck. As you have an accounting degree you could use this as leverage and gain exemptions to fast-track your studies…


Thanks, Liverpool. Yeah, I do have exemptions. I have five exams to pass ACCA, which I’m doing in June and December. But, like I say, I’m probably more interested in teaching. I never thought about Kaplan or BPP. That is a good suggestion.


I can’t delete my profile!

But good grief - you need 3 years work experience to qualify as ACCA just like if you are doing the ACA - you don’t get expereince signed off for teaching or gardening or anything else! Its got to be signed of by a CCAb qualified accountant…

ACCA is the same standard as ACA in exams etc - the difference is in the market place perception - its worth in the job market - where the ACA is far better to have.

Madness - anyway:

The ACA is easier to self study - look at some of my earlier posts (i’m not an egomaniac i promise) and it will explain the structure of the qualifications now, you can study either wihout a job…start self studying the ACA not the ACCA - its more flexible - more CBE’s, more exam sittings.

I did self study ACCA, switched to ACA self study taking exemptions, went for interviews and am in a half decent firm (not big 4) with other friends one is studying ACCA in a finance department and the other ACA at PWC.

Of all of us the person who has it the easiest is the guy at PWC - lots more time off and structured college than anyone else. I get a couple of weeks, my unlucky ACCA friend gets 2 days off per exam including the exam day and college on saturdays - he hates his life and wants to die.

Teaching or accountancy if you are not passionate about either - hands down without a doubt the best option is teaching - gcse/A-level maths ideally.

13 weeks holiday a year, lots of cash in hand tuition work and holiday work means you will actually out-earn most accountants - and the job is unsackable.

My sister is on £45k teaching kids in a comprehensive, then gets cash in hand doing tutoring on top of all that holiday…


Sorry, I meant that you dont need the experience to finish the exams Dave. Also a few further points:

  1. You need to be more than just a CCAB to sign off for ACA. My father for example is a CCAB - FCA, however because he has a small practice, the ICAEW deemed that he did not have enough audit clients to be classified as a training centre, thus he cannot sign off any trainee. This is not the case for ACCA - hence the need for a training contract.

  2. ACCA is nothing compared to standard, class or rigour if compared to ACA, you will see in the final part when undertaking the case study.

  3. Your friend at PwC will of course have it the easiest. The training material, time and effort spent by the big 4 in training their staff is second to none - thus the material and exam practice will be phenominal if compared to your other friend for example - that has nothing to do with qualification but the employer who provides the training.

  4. I never knew that teachers earned more than accountants in any spectrum of life! Put it this way, a newly qualified can get in banking can get base of £65 K plus bonus etc, which totals about 80K (only 3/4 years experience). Partners in tax in the big 4 have been known to get over £750,000. Ok, I know you said most, but I would never believe that teachers earn more. I know people who have their own practices commanding net revenue in excess of £500,000 - sole traders. Teachers cannot compare to this.

  5. Good luck with the studies and well done for getting a role in conjunction with your self study. Hope it works out well for you my friend…as for me, it is truly time to stop messaging here as it is tooooooooo addictive. :slight_smile: