The ICAEW Chartered Accountant (ACA) is a highly respected business and finance professional qualification graduates from any discipline can pursue. In fact, over 150,000 chartered accountants around the world have pursued and obtained the prestigious ACA qualification, which they now bear as professional titles.
As an internationally recognised and respected professional qualification, the ICAEW ACA will allow you to build a rewarding global career that will boost and accelerate your life-long career journey.
Who Can Pursue the ACA Qualification?
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to be an accounting wizard or study accounting as one of your courses to pursue the ICAEW ACA. Indeed, ICAEW welcomes university students and graduates across all degrees and majors.
Most employers will expect at least a minimum 2nd Class Honours or 3.0 CPGA equivalent. Additionally, chartered accountants are required to have a wide range of relevant skills, which are built through the ICAEW ACA’s structured programme, which combines employment with integrated learning.
Training to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant
The ICAEW ACA qualification combines study and exams with ‘on-the-job’ training experience. You will be based with an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer (ATE), doing real work and earning a professional salary as you train. Depending on the route you take, it typically takes 3 to 5 years to complete the program. An important note to keep in mind is that you will need to look for an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer (ATEs) to support you and enter into a training agreement with them.
The training agreement will outline the support you will receive during training and also includes details about tuition, mentoring, and study leave. In addition to providing you with sufficient time out of the office for your studies, your ATE will pay for your tuition fees (with a dedicated tuition provider), examination fees, and student registration fees.
After you have successfully completed the ICAEW ACA qualification and passed all required modules, you will then have to apply to become a member of ICAEW. Upon obtaining approval, you will be officially recognised as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and can use the letters ‘ACA’ after your name.
Routes to becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant
Depending on your personal outlook, career goals, and learning style, there are several paths you can take to become an ICAEW ACA, each with its own advantages and challenges.
ICAEW’s Chartered Accountant qualification consists of 3 levels – the Certificate Level, the Professional Level, and the Advanced Level. Depending on your current education level, you may be able to obtain exemptions for certain components of the programme.
- If you are a school leaver and have completed your SPM (or equivalent), STPM (or equivalent), or pursued a non-business & accounting Diploma or Degree, you will have to start at the Certificate Level. You will have to complete all of the required Certificate Level modules (6 in total).
- If you have graduated with a Diploma or Degree in Accounting, you can apply for up to 8 exam credits, and opt to start at the Professional Level.
- Candidates with a Diploma or Degree in Accounting who have completed their full-time studies on the Professional Level will then undertake part-time studies together with full-time salaried employment for 450 days.
1. Starting the ICAEW qualification with only SPM / STPM or equivalent
Students can start full-time studies with the ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) as a foundation. This is a highly structured programme that comprises six modules and provides key practical skills and essential knowledge for business, finance and accounting.
Upon completion of CFAB, students will proceed to ACA Professional and Advanced level studies. The ACA Professional and Advanced level (except the final Case Study module) are available as full or part-time study.
As part-time study, students also work full-time as a salaried employee with an ICAEW Authorised Training Employer under a Training Agreement (TA). With the TA, students will have the opportunity to learn and apply their knowledge simultaneously, helping students to better understand and see first-hand how theoretical concepts are brought to life in a real-world scenario.
2. Starting the ICAEW qualification while in degree
For students who are in degree in any higher education institution can sit for the ICAEW examinations (except for the final Case Study module). ICAEW works with tuition providers who conduct part-time classes for undergraduates.
This can be quite beneficial for one’s employability after graduating. Employers see the student’s initiative to challenge themselves by taking a professional paper.
Universities listed in ICAEW’s Credit of Prior Learning directory (icaew.com/cpl) have their course accredited by ICAEW where the degree programmes have matching course outline where undergraduates can apply for certain modules to be exempted.
3. Strategic Collaborations
This is a special partnership between ICAEW Malaysia and selected Partners in Learning. In this option, ICAEW works closely with specific Higher Education Institutions to offer an accelerated route towards becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant alongside a university degree. Students who choose the strategic collaborations may be eligible for exemption.
Here’s a list of universities that have special arrangements available in Malaysia to kickstart your ICAEW journey:
Strategic Credit Universities (Up to 12 Credit for Prior Learning credits)
- Multimedia University, Melaka (Bachelor of Accounting (Hons))
- Multimedia University, Cyberjaya (Bachelor of Accounting (Hons))
- University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (MSc. Professional Accountancy)
Exclusive Pathway Universities (Up to 8 Credit for Prior Learning credits)
- University Malaya
- Sunway University (Lancaster Programme)
- Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM)
- Universiti Sains Malaysia
- International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)
- Henley-ICAEW Programme (BSc. Accounting & Finance (Hons) undergraduates will graduate with the ICAEW Business Finance and Professional (BFP) designation)
For programme details and further information, please contact ICAEW Malaysia at Andrew.Yew@icaew.com
What’s Your Path to Leadership?
In summary, you can train for the ICAEW ACA regardless of your study discipline or background. In fact, a significant number of the ICAEW Chartered Accountants are from a non-accountancy background, some even with degrees in the humanities and arts!
However, if you are pursuing an accountancy, finance or business-related undergraduate degree, you may be eligible for exam credits towards the ICAEW ACA qualification, meaning that you may have fewer exam papers to complete. Ultimately, the ICAEW ACA prepares you to be a successful business leader in your respective field.
For more information on how to become an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and the various training routes to reach it, visit ICAEW’s careers website.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in June 2018 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and completeness.