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Please help - ACA or ACCA?

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Hi All,

I am currently working in as an Assistant Management Accountant in industry and became fully AAT qualified a couple of months ago. I am now looking to progress on to ACA or ACCA which my employer offer study support for but am unsure which one to go for.

I've done some research online and people seem to have lots of different opinions on them. From what I can gather, ACA is the more prestigious qualification and harder but normally more suited to people who are wanting to pursue a career in practice as an auditor? Or is that not necessarily true.

Few queires I have:

  • ACA doesn't seem to cover much management accounting and I'm worried that if I do decide to stay in management accounts for a while ACA won't be as valuable as ACCA or is that not the case?
  • I thought ACA might be the best option as I may find it easier to pursue a career in practice if I decide that's what I want to go into later on as practices seem to prefer the ACA qualification. However, will it be hard for me to make the transition to practice from industy even if I'm ACA qualified as I have no practice experience?
  • If I stay within management accounts or go onto financial accounting in industry will the ACA be more respected by employers and increase career prospects/pay or will it likely not make much difference?
  • If I want to get into the Big 4 would it be extremely hard even if I become ACA qualified as I have no Practice experience or a degree?
  • ACCA offer a degree whilst you study it with oxford brookes. Overall, if I became ACCA qualified with say a 2.1 with the applied accounting degree they offer, would that be more valuable as opposed to just being ACA qualified?

Very confused which one to pick as they both take a long time to complete and I want to make sure I choose the correct one.

Really appreciate all replies.

 

Thank you in advance.

 

Replies (10)

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By SXGuy
14th Nov 2019 10:36

Not considered CIMA instead then?

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Replying to SXGuy:
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By Clarity123
14th Nov 2019 10:40

I have looked at it but it does seem slightly limited with a big emphasis on management accounting, I am looking for ACCA or ACA which is more broader.

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By Mr_awol
14th Nov 2019 11:16

There's not that much between them, any more. I've seen terrible examples from both, albeit slightly more so from ACCA, but for a long time it was cheaper and arguably easier, so I think more people took that route for a while. That might explain why. I've also seen very good examples of both of course.

Personally #if I knew then what I know now# I would have done ACCA and then done the top-up paper. In fact at one point I think they abolished or greatly reduced the equivalence requirements for ACCA members to become chartered* and I don't know if this is still possible.

* yes, yes I know - but before I get attacked by ACCA members I will always refer to ACA and ACCA as 'chartered' and 'certified'. At the end of the day they are different qualifications and this is the easiest way of referring to them.

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Caroline
By accountantccole
14th Nov 2019 11:46

They're pretty much of a muchness. ACCA hasn't stopped me working in / being partner of ACA firm so don't let that worry you.
Check the work experience sign off requirements - I thought these were harder to get from ICAEW if you don't work in practice (think you need an ICAEW sponsor/mentor but I could be very out of date!). ACCA is more industry friendly (I think) but prepares you adequately for practice too.
Once you have a professional qualification, I think the degree is less relevant but it might tick boxes for some employers.

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By tom123
14th Nov 2019 12:30

I have managed a perfectly respectable board level career with CIMA, and never needed to worry about working in practice.

It is not compulsory to do so :)

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By paul.benny
14th Nov 2019 12:31

It's a good question and I sympathise with your dilemma.

First... your employer will support ACA? Are you sure? Whilst training outside public practice is possible, relatively few actually offer it because requirements on the employer are quite demanding.

I think you're getting over-anxious about the differences in syllabus. Experience counts much more. My ACA studies included lots of tax but they only tax returns I've prepared have been my own. I'd rather leave tax to people who do it as a day job.

You mention moving from industry to practice. That is rare - very much because the experience you get in industry has little relevance to most practice roles. There is also a huge difference between big firms where most of your training will be spent in audit and smaller firms where it's much more about accounts prep and tax returns.

If you think you might want to work in public practice, now is probably the best (only?) time to make that move.

Ask yourself about your career ambitions. Partner in a big firm? Prestigious, big money but it's a narrow pyramid and takes hard work/long hours to climb with no certainty of success. Mid-senior level financial controllers in industry can earn more than small practitioners; both have to contend with different hassles, politics and frustrations.

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Replying to paul.benny:
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By Clarity123
14th Nov 2019 12:43

Thanks for the reply Paul, much appreciated. I think I am over thinking it a bit but really want to make sure I choose the right one. My employer aren't currently an ACA approved employer but they're quite a big firm and have offered to apply to become an authorised employer for me. Are the requirements on the employer quite demanding then?

What advice do you have for me, do you think having ACA instead of ACCA makes a difference when in industry?

Thanks.

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By tom123
14th Nov 2019 16:20

Outside of 'practice' the requirement would most probably just be for a 'qualified' accountant.

In larger sectors, you will tend to get recruitment in their own image, so if the FD is ACA he/she may favour the same etc.

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Replying to Clarity123:
By Red Leader
14th Nov 2019 17:21

I think you are very fortunate in your employer. Getting an ACA training contract can be difficult, more so than ACCA. Go for ACA.

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Replying to Clarity123:
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By paul.benny
14th Nov 2019 17:53

I'm sure you can find the employer requirements on the ICAEW website. You judge for yourself whether your employer will actually want to go down that route.

ACA or ACCA? ACA is more prestigious and more highly regarded - partly because the more prestigious firms (Big4 etc) train ACA students and doesn't inherently mean it's "better". For financial reporting roles, employers may specify ACA, but as noted by another poster, "qualified" is usually the main requirement.

Another consideration is that most jobs are filled through recruitment agencies. Especially for newly-/recently-qualified candidates, they *may* view you as higher-calibre if you are ACA rather than ACCA. That in turn may influence the sorts of jobs you get shortlisted for - which in turn sets your career trajectory.

Don't dismiss CIMA, btw. It is well-regarded.

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