Become a Certified CA During Your Undergrad in the UK

Are you interested in chartered accountancy (CA), but don’t want to wait until you finish your undergraduate degree? If yes, then consider the UK. Here, you can give your CA qualification exams during your undergraduate degree, rather than waiting to complete the 2.5 years of articleship required in India.

The UK has two professional bodies, The Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW), and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), both of which offer routes for undergraduate students. Unlike the CA qualification requirements in India, these institutions don’t require entrance tests, have no group system and each exam can be given separately. Since these bodies are recognised internationally and accepted widely by corporations, you can pursue a career in financial management, auditing, business strategy and taxation around the world.

Here are the requirements for ICAEW and CIMA:

ICAEW is an international professional body for chartered accountants. To become an ICAEW chartered accountant, you need to pass their globally recognised ACA qualification, which has four elements:

  1. 450 days of practical work experience: The work you undertake must be at one of ICAEW’s 5000 authorised training employers (ATEs) or with one of their authorised training principals (ATP). Also, it should be related to one or more of the following fields: accounting, audit and assurance, tax, financial management, insolvency or information technology.
  2. 15 exam modules: You must study and pass 15 exam modules focused on different aspects of accountancy, finance and business. While the modules are split over three levels – certificate, professional and advanced –  they can be taken in any order, except for the case study, which you must take last.
  3. Professional development: This aspect helps you develop professional skills such as business communication, team working and problem-solving. All these skills are vital and important to be a successful business professional.
  4. Ethics and Professional scepticism: These elements give you knowledge about the ICAEW Code of Ethics. You will learn about identifying ethical dilemmas, understanding the implications and behaving appropriately.

There are three ways in which you can complete your ACA qualifications if you choose to study accountancy as your undergraduate degree:

1) Employer affiliated degrees:

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has partnered with ICAEW to offer students the Flying Start Degree Programme, which can be studied at Nottingham Business School, Newcastle University, and Reading University. This programme offers credits for 12 of the 15 ACA exam modules i.e., certificate and professional level modules, along with three work experience placements. After completing the programme, you only need to study three advanced level modules instead of 15, fulfil the remaining work experience requirement and complete ethical and professional development. You can apply for this through UCAS, but you also have to go through an ‘Assessment and Interview’, which is conducted by PwC.

2) Degrees with placement:

Many colleges like Cass Business School, Alliance Manchester Business School, Warwick Business School and Cardiff Business School, among others, have partnered with ICAEW authorised employers to offer its students a one-year paid industry work experience, along with accountancy degrees. Most of these accounting courses provide credit for up to eight out of 15 modules, whereas other accounting and finance courses provide credit for up to six modules. The complete list of colleges offering degrees with an ICAEW authorised training employer can be found here.

Note: All the aforementioned courses have a duration of four years.

3) ICAEW accredited degree:

There are a few colleges that offer ICAEW accredited degrees, so if you plan on studying at any of these places, you can get credit for the modules you study. For example, The University of Liverpool offers a BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance degree, which offers credit for 12 ACA modules. This means that after your undergraduate degree, you only have to complete the remaining three advanced level modules instead of 15, 450 days of work experience and complete the ethical and professional development. The list of other colleges offering ICAEW accredited degrees and number of credits can be found here.

CIMA is a professional body of management accountants that offers a CIMA Professional Qualification and the designation of Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) upon completion. You can register for the Professional Qualification during your undergraduate studies, however, you will need to complete a minimum of 36 months of relevant practical work experience. A list of accredited programmes offering exemptions can be found here. The CIMA Professional Qualification has been divided into three levels of progression:

  1. Operational level: This is the first level and consists of three computer-based objective tests and one case study exam. You will learn how to prepare financial statements, provide management accounting information and use appropriate decision-making tools.
  2. Management level: The second level has three computer-based objective tests and one case study exam. You will learn how to prepare group accounts, make pricing and product decisions based on a robust analysis and manage projects and relationships.
  3. Strategic level: The last level of the professional qualification has three computer-based objective tests and one case study exam. You will learn how to formulate financial strategy, manage strategic relationships and identify and manage risk.

There are a few programmes that offer credits for both ICAEW and CIMA like the B.Sc. Accounting course at Manchester University. This means that after your undergraduate degree, you can explore either Chartered Accountancy and Management Accountancy. Although ICAEW and CIMA don’t require any specific degree to register, there are courses that might not offer exemptions, so choose your courses wisely as they can help you finish your qualification in less time.

If you are applying to any of these competitive courses, remember to start your applications as soon as possible. For advice on what not to do when writing UCAS personal statement and for more course-specific information, get in touch with us.

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