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Do you need a degree to be an accountant?
The short answer is no, you don’t need a degree to be an accountant. As with most careers, a postgraduate degree is desirable, but not essential. Some accountants do, but you’ll find many that don’t. Instead, most people in the industry will have completed an AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) course. This professional diploma is often a minimum requirement for the role. It will teach you the basics all the way up to advanced knowledge, across three levels. Armed with this qualification, you’ll be able to choose a career in accounting from a range of exciting industries.
There is a common misconception that all accountants are maths geniuses and therefore need to have studied a relevant degree. Of course, you need to be able to understand the figures and do the basics. However, complex mathematics skills aren’t totally necessary. An AAT course builds on your existing knowledge and teaches you the principles. So if you’re no whizz with numbers, fear not. You simply need a broad understanding, which you can develop as you start to study.
It is worth noting that chartered accountants need to have a degree, plus working experience. If this is a potential career path for you, consider gaining a diploma in a specialism or a subject such as Maths, Economics, or Business Studies. For more information, take a look at our chartered accountants blog.
What qualifications do you need?
We’ve talked about some of the qualifications you don’t need. And that you don’t need a degree in maths. Now, what are some of the necessary qualifications for a career in accounting?
ACCA Foundations (formerly known as FIA):
The bare minimum qualification you’ll need to get a career in accounting is ACCA Foundations. This entry-level series of awards allows you to choose a suitable progression route, based on your previous experience and future aspirations. It’s a perfect starting point if you’ve never studied accountancy before.
You can then go straight to AAT, which will provide you with the further skills and knowledge needed to become an AAT Accountant (MAAT). This qualification is broken down into three levels: Level 2 (equivalent to GCSE), Level 3 (equivalent to A Level), and Level 4 (equivalent to an NVQ level 4/5).
At the end, you’ll be awarded a Foundation Certificate in Accounting, an Advanced Diploma in Accounting, and a Professional Diploma in Accounting. You don’t need to have studied FIA to begin an AAT course.
If you’d like to progress further, you can study ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) to become a fully qualified chartered accountant. This qualification is ideal for anyone looking to step up or specialise.
After completing this course, you’ll receive a Certificate of Achievement, Diploma in Accounting and Business, Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business, and a Strategic Professional Certificate.
ACA or CIMA:
It’s also possible to choose a specialism, which will give you an industry-recognised qualification in your chosen field. Either ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant) from the ICAEW or CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants).
If you’re still not sure, take a look at this table to find your best route:
Duration of study
What you’ll receive
Looking to become an accountant
12 – 18 months
ACCA Diploma in Financial and Management Accounting, ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business, Certified Accounting Technician
Accounts administrator, bookkeeper
Looking to become an accountant
Foundation Certificate in Accounting, Advanced Diploma in Accounting, Professional Diploma in Accounting
Management accountant, Finance manager, Finance business partner
How to become an accountant without a degree
Now you know you don’t need a degree, and you also know some of the qualification options available. How exactly can you be an accountant without a degree?
Step 1: Choose the right qualification
The first step is deciding on the accounting route you want to go down. Whether you have aspirations to be an auditor, management accountant, or something else, you need to work out the best path. For most, an AAT course will be the best place to start. You’ll cover the basics, Sage accounting software, bookkeeping, and more. When you pass, the world will be your oyster! You’ll be in a great place to make a decision on where you want to go next.
An ACCA Foundations course is another first option that aspiring accountants can choose to do. The starting level is equivalent to a GCSE, but these progress all the way up to a bachelor’s degree. There is also apprenticeship funding available for ACCA Foundations students, perfect for school or college leavers.
A lot of people ask whether they should study AAT or ACCA. However, ACCA wouldn’t be the best first option as you’ll need to have some accounting knowledge. You can start the foundation level with no experience, but you will find it difficult. And the professional level is a different beast. For this, you’ll need to have either completed the foundation level or have proof of experience.
Step 2: Decide which area you’re most interested in
Accounting has two career areas: financial and management. Essentially, financial means you’ll work within an organisation. Whereas management is usually providing information for people outside an organisation. These can be private companies or government agencies. Financial accounting is required by law, but management isn’t. Once you know where you want to be, you can make a call on the next qualification to study.
Are you interested in carrying out internal audits, preparing profit and loss statements, and controlling cash flow? If yes, financial accounting is for you!
Perhaps you want to create strategies for shareholders, prepare commentaries and statements, and negotiate major projects? Then you’ll find management accounting right up your street.
Step 3: Get to work
By now, you’ll most likely be working as an accountant and applying your knowledge. However, if you’ve gained a qualification whilst you’re doing another job, congratulations! Now it’s time to discover the right role for you. Do you need a finance graduate scheme? How about an apprenticeship? This step is totally down to you. Think about where you want your new career to go. There are accountancy firms out there that will take you on if you have an AAT qualification, but no working experience. Reach out to some local businesses, apply for some positions, and see where your new skill-set can take you.
Step 4: Progression
After a few years, you may want to further your skills and take on a new challenge. At this point, you can consider any relevant accounting courses to help boost your career.
If you were considering financial accounting, look at taking an ACCA course. If you wanted to pursue management accounting, consider CIMA to progress to the next level.
Become a qualified accountant with Eagle, without a degree
Even without a degree, the road to becoming an accountant isn’t the easiest, nor the quickest. However, it is a very rewarding role and it opens doors in all kinds of industries. The average salary in the UK for an accountant is just over £30,000 per annum, with plenty of progression opportunities*.
With Eagle, you can achieve an AAT, ACCA or CIMA qualification with our cost-effective subscription. Take your first steps into the accounting world on your own terms. We’ll provide everything you need to know about the courses. All you need to do is bring motivation and commitment.
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