Aspiring accountants come from all walks of life. While some may have only just left school, others might be looking after a family, or already be partway through their career. Those with an interest in accountancy have one thing in common. At some point, they will all be asking the question, “What qualifications do I need to become an accountant?”
You don’t need any qualifications or experience to begin studying, just good numeracy skills and enthusiasm. You’ll gain the knowledge and skills essential to a career in accounting, from financial administration to financial management.
Do I need A Levels or a degree to be an accountant?
Although you don’t need any A Levels or a degree to become an accountant, a competency in English and Maths is essential, and a good head for numbers is all you need to get started. There are many qualifications covering the basics of accounting which do not require any previous experience or qualifications.
If you do have A-levels or a degree in accounting, you may be exempt from certain qualifications, shortening the time it takes to study to become an accountant. A degree gives you useful theoretical knowledge, but the qualifications we’ll look at arm you with the practical skills needed for a successful career.
AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) qualifications are the minimum you’ll need for a blossoming career in accountancy. A great starting point for those new to the industry, AAT can take you all the way to a level 4 qualification, the equivalent of studying at university for a year.
Once you’ve completed level 4, you can go on to become a professional member and use the letters ‘MAAT’ after your name. With the full AAT qualification under your belt, you’ll find that new doors are open to you, and it is highly recognised among employers.
AAT Level 2 Foundation Certificate
What is it? The AAT Level 2 Foundation Certificate is the starting point for the AAT accounting qualification. This level introduces the idea of double entry bookkeeping and the accounting equation. It also includes a computerised accounts unit, which means you can apply any manual bookkeeping skills you have learnt to the computerised system. You will also look at basic costing and the role of accountancy in a business.
Who should do it? This is a great choice for anyone brand new to accounting, as well as those with working experience of accountancy, but lacking a qualification. It’s ideal if you have just entered a trainee accounts role, as it will rapidly increase the development of fundamental skills.
The Foundation Certificate is also well suited to those working in an Accounts Clerk role using a computerised accounts package, as it will equip you with an understanding of how the software works, and how it integrates with other accounting functions.
AAT Level 3 Advanced Diploma
What is it? The second level of the AAT accounting qualification is the AAT Level 3 Advanced Diploma. This level builds on knowledge from the Certificate, including double entry principles and costing, introducing concepts such as year-end adjustments and accruals and prepayments, as well as producing a set of final accounts.
This level also introduces new concepts, with units dedicated to the use of spreadsheets and ethics in an accountancy role.
Who should do it? If you have already completed the Certificate, then the next step is progression onto the Advanced Diploma. If you have another accountancy qualification that equips you with the basic knowledge covered at Certificate level, then you should begin at this level.
If you have a working knowledge of manual accounts and understand double entry principles, then you could start at this level. If you work in an accountancy role such as Senior Accounts Clerk and are used to manual accounts processes, then this is the perfect starting point as it will build on your current experience with bank reconciliations and management accounts.
What does it take to become an accountant?
Watch the webinar with AAT qualified accounting tutor Patricia Barlow
AAT Level 4 Professional Diploma
What is it? The third and final part of the AAT accounting qualification is the Level 4 Professional Diploma. This level again builds on knowledge from the previous two levels, looking at financial accounts for limited companies, as well as financial performance for businesses.
You will be able to choose two optional units, which will either be tax or cash flow based. You will also need to complete a project, which gives you the opportunity to apply what you have learnt throughout the qualification and demonstrates your understanding of accountancy controls.
Who should do it? If you already have the Advanced Diploma, then this is the obvious next step. If you have been working in a finance role and have a working knowledge of double entry, final adjustments to accounts and costing, you will have the comprehension levels required to begin with the Advanced Diploma.
If you work in a Finance Manager role, where you are costing products, completing cash flows and budgets, and performing financial accounts and tax returns, then this is the ideal qualification to support and enhance your existing skills and knowledge.
If you’re still wondering which AAT course you should do, don’t hesitate to get in touch below.
ACCA (Association of Chartered Accountants) qualifications are recognised around the world by finance employers. You’ll cover everything from risk and ethics to advanced taxation.
Giving you an even more advanced understanding of the profession than AAT, ACCA is ideal for those wanting to rise to the upper echelons of financial accounting. Completion of the qualification is equivalent to a master’s degree, equipping you for roles such as Personal Banker and Financial Analyst.
If you’re hoping to go into management accountancy, you’ll need to become CIMA (Certified Institute of Management Accountants) qualified. With a range of levels, each made up of with three main knowledge areas, CIMA will give you both a broad and deep knowledge of management accounting.
A qualification from the largest professional body of management accountants in the world will equip you for some exciting roles, from Finance Analyst to Financial Director.
There are a wide range of accounting qualifications which enable you to become an accountant in your own time. Depending on your career aspirations in accounting, you can specialise in niches such as tax and auditing, which makes you a desirable candidate for any company.