How long does it take to become a chartered accountant? This is a question many learners ask us when planning out their accounting career. Depending where you are in your accounting career, it could take on average three to seven years to become a chartered accountant. It’s well worth knowing what path you need to take and which qualifications are best placed to help you attain chartered status.
Becoming a chartered accountant is the dream for many accountants. Not only does chartered status demonstrate your ethical and professional commitments, but it also offers you greater flexibility in your career.
You will need to decide if you want to become a chartered accountant, or a management accountant, as this will determine which qualification you need to study.
Minimum requirements to become a chartered accountant
Your path to becoming a chartered accountant doesn’t need to be rigid, but you’ll need a foundation in accounting. You’ll need to have either a degree in accounting or AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting. If you’re just starting off in your accounting career, becoming qualified with AAT is the ideal way to work towards chartered status.
Become qualified with ACCA
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a leading provider of accounting courses and professional membership for accountants. If you want to further your career then becoming qualified with ACCA is essential.
ACCA offers three units that make up a full qualification which give you a deeper understanding of the strategic elements of accounting and finance:
- ACCA Applied Knowledge
- ACCA Applied Skills
- ACCA Strategic Professional
As a minimum, you need 5 GCSEs and 2 A levels to study Applied Knowledge. If you have completed AAT Professional Diploma then you are exempt from the first three units of ACCA Applied Knowledge (AB, MA, FA), which can save you about six months of study time.
If you have an accounting degree from a recognised university you could be exempt from ACCA Applied Knowledge, which could save nearly two years of study time.
ACCA gives you up to ten years to complete the full qualification, but if you choose to sit four exams per year, you could complete in around four years around full-time work and commitments. If you study part-time or even full time, you could become qualified more quickly, within three years with hard work and dedication.
Once you have gained your qualification, you can apply for chartered status with ACCA. You will normally need a portfolio of work and at least three years of experience in a relevant accounting role. Your previous experience whilst undertaking your studies will count towards the required experience.
Becoming a chartered management accountant with CIMA
A management accountant’s role is vastly different from a traditional accounting role. Taking a broad view of the finances of the company, you will gather financial information to help support business decisions.
CIMA currently offer three management accounting qualifications:
- CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting – four units and a synoptic exam
- CIMA Diploma in Management Accounting – three operational level units and a synoptic exam
- CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting – three management level and three strategic level units and a synoptic exam
CIMA have two exam periods per year, and learners can sit two units per exam session, meaning the full CIMA qualification could be achieved in four years.
If you have an AAT Professional Diploma, you don’t need to study the CIMA Certificate in Business accounting, meaning you could become qualified in two to three years.
To achieve chartered status you will need to submit an application to CIMA. You will need to provide evidence of your work experience and potentially a portfolio of work.
Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint
Studying a relevant qualification in accounting opens many doors, and it’s tempting to see if you can fast-track your progress. It’s important to remember that studying is a journey in itself, and hurrying through units could hamper your chance of passing exams. How much time and energy you dedicate to studying will also impact how quickly you can progress through your qualification.
Your unique position and experience will impact where you can start on your path to becoming a chartered accountant. You will also need to gain relevant work experience to support everything you’ve learned on throughout your studies. Becoming a chartered accountant or chartered management accountant is a fulfilling career and opens many doors to running your own business or promotion to director level within your own business.