Going from AAT to ACCA – what to consider

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If you’re near the end of your AAT qualification, or if you finished it a while ago, it might be the right time to move on to ACCA. But what should you think about before you make the leap?

Here are some things to think about to help you make that decision.

What is the difference between AAT and ACCA?

AAT is a lower level qualification, preparing you for more junior positions in accounting firms or organisations. During AAT you learn a wide range of skills, and can put these into practice straight away.

ACCA is a more professional accounting qualification, allowing you to become a Chartered Certified Accountant with full professional status.

Both are great qualifications to have – it just depends on where you want to go in your career as to which one you do, or if you decide to do both.

How are AAT and ACCA set up?

AAT is your first step into accounting, and all you need to begin the course is enthusiasm. The Level 2 Certificate in Accounting will give you the basic accounting skills and knowledge, from costing and double-entry bookkeeping to computerised accounting.

ACCA is also a great place to start, as you can begin the Foundations level without any prior experience or qualifications. You just need willingness to learn.

To start the Applied Knowledge level, you will need to have at least two A levels and three GCSEs. The Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills levels of ACCA start at a more advanced level than AAT. Its coverage is both broad and deep, focusing in detail on topics including Financial Accounting, Corporate and Business Law, and Performance Management.

Going from AAT to ACCA – exemptions

Once you’ve completed AAT Level 4 you can go on to do ACCA and become a chartered certified accountant. ACCA is considered a much harder qualification to achieve, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

You will also be eligible for ACCA exam exemptions once AAT qualified. You won’t need to do the Applied Knowledge level that includes Business and Technology (BT), Management Accounting (MA), or Financial Accounting (FA).

If you haven’t passed the full AAT Level 4 qualification you can still claim exemptions on a paper to paper basis:

  • If you’ve sat and passed AAT’s Management Accounting: Budgeting and Management Accounting: Decision and Control, you will be exempt from ACCA’s Management Accounting (MA).
  • If you’ve sat and passed AAT’s Financial Statements of Limited Companies and Accounting Systems and Controls, you will be exempt from ACCA’s Financial Accounting (FA).

Tips for transitioning between AAT and ACCA

There are some things to think about when going from AAT to ACCA. Have a look at these tips to help you transition.

  1. Understand the difference between the qualifications. While AAT focuses on technical skills and practical knowledge, ACCA emphasises a broader understanding of business, strategic thinking, and decision-making. Be prepared to delve deeper into various areas of accounting and finance.
  2. Set some goals and plan your studies. Make sure you know why you’re studying ACCA – setting short and long term goals can keep you focussed. And make a study plan to break down the syllabus into manageable chunks.
  3. Use all the study materials. With Eagle you get everything you need – including mock exams and practice questions. Try and use as much of the material as you can.
  4. Keep up to date with changes. The accounting and finance field evolves over time. Stay updated with the latest regulations, standards, and industry trends. ACCA may update its syllabus to reflect these changes, so make sure you’re studying the most current materials.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. ACCA has some tricky topics, so it’s understandable that you’ll need some external input – be that from a tutor, peer, or online group. It’s ok to ask for help.

How hard are ACCA exams?

The ACCA exams are demanding, and increase in difficulty as you go through the syllabus. If you start ACCA once AAT qualified, therefore exempt from the first three exams, the standard of the first ACCA exam is set at the level of a UK Bachelors degree. The Professional Level exams are set at a Masters degree level.

But don’t worry – because you’ve completed the ATT qualification, you will have a really strong base to build on, and to develop through the ACCA qualification.

What jobs could I do?

You can get much higher level roles when you move from AAT to ACCA. For example here are some roles with the average UK salary*:

Financial Accountant – £32,000 – £35,000 p/a
Financial accountants analyse financial information using cash flow statements and balance sheets. In this role you would also be responsible for preparing the organisation’s financial statements for external parties like tax and regulations authorities, creditors, shareholders and investors. You may also be expected to create business strategies to increase revenue and profit.

Auditor – £38,000 – £40,000 p/a
As an auditor you would examine and authenticate the precision of an organisation’s financial and operational records and statements. They tend to work for large organisations, so you could be working for top companies around the world.

Management Accountant – £40,000 – £50,000 p/a
As a Management Accountant you would be responsible for recognising, measuring, assessing, and communicating the financial information of an organisation. You would be analysing critical organisational information and data that is used to assist the management in making important business decisions.

Although the role may seem similar to financial accountants, management accountants differ as they analyse information for the internal management of the organisation to help measure performance and the strategies employed.

Financial Crime Risk Analyst – £65,000 – £75,000 p/a
Financial Crime Risk Analysts provide expert advice and support relating to financial crime risk, control and compliance. In this role you would work to ensure sound and responsible business practices and high ethical standards within the business, as well as the integrity of the products and services delivered to customers.

But this list isn’t exhaustive – there are so many roles you could do – and with experience you could even become a Chief Financial Officer, earning well over £100,000 p/a.

So should I do ACCA?

In the end it’s entirely up to you, but there are some things to consider. ACCA will take up a lot of your free time, so you’ll need to consider if you can really commit to it.

You will also need to have three years’ work experience – this will be easy if you’re already in a relevant accounting or finance role, but worth considering if you’re not quite in the right position.

The other thing to consider is where you want your career, and salary, to go. If you’re wanting a large salary with most doors open to you, then ACCA is the way forward. You could be looking at a salary over £100,000 once qualified and a few years’ experience. With AAT you’re looking at around £35,000.

Need more help to decide?

Have a look at our ACCA pages for more information about the qualification, what’s involved, and how it might work for you. If you have any questions or need some more advice, get in touch via our online enquiry form or by calling us on 01978 722511.

Keep your studies going. Try an ACCA course FREE for 7 days.

*Average salary according to www.reed.co.uk August 2023