How Long Does it Take to Become an Accountant?

Posted by: Andre Post Date: 6th August 2014

Unlike many other professions, such as medicine and law, there are no set qualifications on the path to becoming an accountant.

Depending on where your ambitions lie, there is a range of qualifications you can achieve to help you embark on a career in accountancy, which might leave you wondering, ‘how long does it take to become an accountant?

So, considering some of the different qualification routes, how long does it take to become an accountant?

How Long Does it Take to Become an Accountant?


Many aspiring accountants take their first steps with the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). The full AAT qualification is made up of three levels, each containing a different number of compulsory units:

  • AAT Level 2 – 5 units
  • AAT Level 3 – 6 units
  • AAT Level 4 – 6 units

You can sit each paper one at a time, whenever you’re ready. Most learners take between six and twelve months to complete each level. So, you could complete the whole AAT qualification in as little eighteen months studying at a fast pace. Usually, however, it takes around three years.

You can also complete these qualifications while gaining workplace experience and weekly wages on an apprenticeship. Click here to search for an apprenticeship, or get in touch below to find an opportunity to suit your needs.

What does it take to become an accountant?

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The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) offers a more advanced qualification for those looking to develop their career in accountancy. To begin with the ACCA Fundamentals course, you must already have achieved at least five GCSEs and two A Levels.

ACCA consists of two qualifications, made up of a number of compulsory units:

  • Diploma in Accounting and Business – 9 Fundamental level units
  • Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business – 5 Professional level units

You have ten years to complete the full qualification, but many learners take around four, often taking two exams at each twice-yearly sitting. The first set of units often takes between six months and three years to complete, while the second is achievable within between twelve and eighteen months.

If you are already AAT qualified, you will be exempt from the first three papers, saving you at least six months.

Some people decide to become ACCA qualified after graduating from university. With a relevant business or accounting degree that is recognised by the body, you could be exempt from the Fundamental units, reducing your study time by more than two years.


The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offers three levels of qualification:

  • CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting – 5 units
  • CIMA Diploma in Management Accounting – 3 Operational level units
  • CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting – 3 Management level and 3 Strategic level units

Papers can be sat twice each year, and most learners find they are able to sit two at a time, sometimes three. Therefore, it normally takes around 4 years to achieve the full qualification.

As with ACCA, being AAT qualified makes you exempt from the first part of the qualification. Without having to study the CIMA Certificate, becoming fully qualified could take two to three years instead of four.

Trying to answer the question, ‘how long does it take to become an accountant?’, can be bewildering, and you’re bound to have questions about your particular situation. If so, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our accounting course experts below.

Want to become a qualified accountant?

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