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Which AAT level to start and AAT exemptions

A frequently asked question from our potential customers is: Which level should I start AAT at? Or are there any exemptions for AAT qualifications?

Exemptions are available for AAT qualifications

Many qualifications these days provide open access. Open access means that you can effectively join the qualification at any level. The AAT recognise that the people who choose to study for an AAT qualification may have knowledge, skills and abilities obtained from other related qualifications, or from work experience.

The AAT’s guidance is: An AAT tutor from an approved training provider should assess a student’s prior qualifications and/or work experience to decide if the student has vocational competence equivalent to the level that they wish to be exempt from.

Prior work experience or qualifications could provide exemptions from specific learning areas, or from a full level.

The AAT qualification is very comprehensive. It covers many topics in financial and management accounting giving you a wide portfolio of knowledge, skills and abilities. This is excellent for career progression but work experience alone is not always sufficient to cover all learning areas for a complete level.

In particular, a topic that students find particularly challenging is manual double-entry bookkeeping. This isn’t a skill that is widely practised in the workplace. So, we usually recommend a student only considers exemptions if they hold equivalent qualifications.

Why are you choosing to invest in education and training?

We often ask potential customers why they want an AAT qualification

A typical answer is that the customer wants a recognised qualification that will improve their career prospects. It could be getting a job, a promotion, changing careers or becoming self employed.

If that’s the case, then consider what employers or clients are looking for

If an employer asks for qualifications it’s because they provide evidence that you have completed a training course and been tested on your skills and abilities. They are more confident you can do the job competently. They are more confident with investing in you because you’ve invested in yourself!

A potential client will need to have confidence that you’ll be able to process transactions accurately, prepare final accounts and reports to help them make important business decisions.

What’s your short term goal?

So do you hold a qualification that is equivalent to the jobs you’re applying for? Some employers may dismiss your highest qualification. They need evidence that you can do the job you’re applying for.

Job roles that each level prepares you for

Below is a brief example of the types of jobs that each level can prepare you for.

Level 2 Most entry level jobs, bookkeeper (processing transactions), sales ledger and purchase ledger clerks, accounts receivable or payable clerks, accounts clerk, credit control clerk, payroll clerk
Level 3 Bookkeeper (accounts preparation), accounts assistant, supervisor/manager
Level 4 Financial accountant, management accountant, tax assistant

The above is for illustrative purposes only - it is not an exhaustive list.

What’s your long term goal?

The final thing to consider is the impact of your AAT qualifications on future choices.

AAT provides many opportunities which include:

  • Becoming a full member of the AAT
  • Obtaining an AAT self-employment practicing certificate
  • Completing a degree at university
  • Progressing onto chartered/certified qualifications

The AAT state that when applying for full membership, students who were approved to commence their studies at level 4 will need to confirm the basis on which their AAT tutor approved their entry level.

The AAT qualification can provide exemptions from the first level of some degrees and chartered/certified qualifications, but there may be a requirement for certain levels of the AAT to have been completed to obtain full exemptions.

To summarise...

If you’re considering starting at level 3, you could try the quizzes on the accounting or bookkeeping course pages. Only you see the results. It will give you some idea about your current knowledge and what you’ll be learning about on level 2.

Take a look in more detail about what you learn about at each level on either our AAT accounting courses or AAT bookkeeping courses. Then you can decide if you can demonstrate to employers (or clients) that you’ve obtained these skills elsewhere in your career.

If you have recent, equivalent accounting qualifications and you’d like to discuss exemptions for level 2 or 3 with us further, then please don’t hesitate to contact us.

There is a lot to gain from studying all three levels of the AAT qualification. The investment can pay dividends. You will benefit from improved confidence, as well as being able to offer potential employers a wide portfolio of knowledge, skills and abilities. Or offer clients a great range of services!

Our AAT distance learning courses give you great flexibility, so you can achieve rapidly if desired.

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