How to Become a Chartered Accountant: Qualifications, Requirements & Certification

Take a look at what it takes to become a chartered accountant. Read on to find out details about the qualifications, requirements and certification required to enter this career. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Chartered accountants are professionals who have undertaken a lengthy qualification after achieving their bachelor's degrees. They work closely with institutions to ensure that areas relating to finance--for example, tax and financial records--are properly managed and everything is paid on time. Working in this role requires good math, analytical and organizational skills as attention to detail is important. Take a look at the chart below for more information about being a chartered accountant.

Degree Required Bachelor's (usually in accounting)
Licensure Certified public accountant (CPA)
Skills Required Math, analytical, organization
Job Growth (2016-2026) 10% (for all accountants and auditors)*
Median Salary (2017) $69,350 (for all accountants and auditors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Is a Chartered Accountant?

A chartered accountant has generally gone through more training than an accountant. They usually hold the Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) qualification, which entails several years of training and is internationally recognized. A chartered accountant can work in any part of the economy. They use their expertise to deliver financial planning advice to businesses and public sector organizations, depending on their role.

What Qualifications Do I Need?

Most accounting roles require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a similar field. Some employers may ask for a master's degree to demonstrate a higher level of expertise. It is also possible to gain practical experience through summer internships or work experience, which many colleges provide as part of their accounting degree programs. Training to be a chartered accountant can begin upon graduation, preparing you to undertake the ACA certification exam to become qualified. It is also expected for a chartered accountant to stay abreast of professional development as part of this role.

What Certification Is Required?

If part of your role as an accountant requires filing reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), then in the U.S you must hold the CPA certification. Many other accountants hold this anyway because it gives a higher level of credibility to their work. To gain this certificate, you must pass a national exam and fulfill other requirements as set by the state in which you will be working. For most states, 150 hours of college coursework is needed in order to become licensed. This is above average and many colleges offer 5-year bachelor's degree programs to meet this number.

Where Will I Work?

Many chartered accountants work in accountancy firms where they provide financial business advice, tax services and audits for clients. The businesses accountancy firms work with can range in size from small organizations to big corporate firms with many members of staff. It is also possible to work within a business to manage their accountancy needs, or work for a corporation as part of a team that manages corporate finance. Working for a company in litigation support, to manage personal injury, fraud and civil cases, is a less common but also possible setting to work in.

What Other Roles Could I Consider?

Those wanting to work in the financial field could also consider working as a budget analyst. This role also requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and, according to the BLS, had a median salary of $75,240 in 2017, which was slightly higher than that for accountants and auditors. The role requires working with either public or private institutions, depending on the job, and helping them to organize and plan their finances. They typically prepare reports regarding an institution's budget and then monitor its spending to help ensure financial success.

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