How to become an accountant?

A notpad and an alarm clock with two bells

You don’t need a degree, but you do need an accountancy qualification to further your career in the accounting and finance industry. There are a few different qualifications to consider with varying lengths of study time. Some need existing experience, and some only need bags of enthusiasm.

There are some great pathways into a fulfilling and lucrative career in accountancy, whether you’re looking for a future as a bookkeeper or are an aspiring forensic accountant.

AAT stands for The Association of Accounting Technicians and is the ideal introduction to accounting. It’s the usual route for starting out your accountancy journey, as you don’t need any prior knowledge of accounting.

However, if you have your heart set on chartered accountancy, you can take up ACCA (The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) straight away and can start at Foundation level with no experience or qualifications.

Choosing the right accounting qualification

If you decide to take up accounting today, in less than a year you could:

  • Be earning whilst you are learning, and potentially more than those without qualifications
  • Obtain professional recognition and status (use AATQB after your name)
  • Work as an AAT Licensed Bookkeeper

We offer two qualifications at Eagle, so feel free to choose the one that best suits your career ambitions.

AAT – Association of Accounting Technicians

AAT is particularly suited to those who are starting out or taking their first steps into the accountancy profession – all you need to start is enthusiasm for the subject. This makes it one of the best accounting qualifications for career changers and school leavers.

The structure of the course can lead to great achievements much quicker than you might find going down the traditional academic route. In 2 – 3 years studying AAT, you could have achieved a full professional qualification, professional membership and have gained valuable work experience!

AAT is made up of three levels: Level 2 Foundation, Level 3 Advanced and Level 4 Professional. They each combine industry knowledge and practical work skills.

What’s great is that each level is recognised and certificated once it’s passed, each being a qualification in its own right. This gives you more flexibility in deciding how far to progress in your accountancy career and less precious time being wasted if you do have a change of heart.

The whole course helps you develop the knowledge and skills required to become an AAT Accountant (MAAT). After completing Level 4, you can even go on to study ACCA.

ACCA – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

An ACCA qualification can open doors to great careers and amazing salaries across the world. There are so many roles you could go into – nothing is out of reach for an ACCA member.

Starting off, the Foundation level of ACCA teaches you the fundamentals of accounting, and is ideal if you’re new to accountancy. It’s also relevant if you already work in accountancy but don’t have any formal qualifications.

The Professional level is for those who are already in accounting – this is broken down into Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills and Strategic Professional. ACCA is thought of as a very intense course and regarded as a higher level than the AAT qualification. It’s also your key to chartered accountant status.

How long does it take to become an accountant?

With the AAT qualification most people take six to twelve months to complete each level – so you could complete the whole qualification in 18 months, or take up to three years. With Eagle we support you to study at a pace that suits you.

The ACCA qualification is made up of two levels – up to nine units at Foundation level and up to 13 units at Professional. You can take up to 10 years to do the whole qualification, but most people manage to complete it in four years.

The first set of Foundation units often take between six months and three years to complete, while the Professional units usually take between 2 and a half – 3 years.

Once qualified, find your specialism

Accountancy isn’t limited to just one job. It’s actually a career that can be incredibly varied. Simply put, accounting careers can be split into two broad areas: management accounting and financial accounting. Within these there are specialist fields such as:

  • Business recovery and insolvency
  • Corporate finance
  • Tax
  • Forensic accounting
  • Auditing
  • Chartered accountant

Management accounting provides information to people within a company, while financial accounting provides information to those outside of it, such as shareholders.

Unlike financial accounting, management accounting is not required by law and only covers particular products, while financial accounting covers the entire organisation.

And you can choose between working in the public or private sector, or become a freelance accountant. It’s up to you.

Want to be an accountant?

So, are you sold on accountancy? Eager to know more? Feel free to check out our AAT and ACCA information to find out more.

Still unsure which qualification is right for you? Get some more guidance on with our helpful blog highlighting the key differences or contact us directly.