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5 Essential Insights on AAT vs ACCA for Path to Accountancy Success

Are you seeking an accounting qualification that equips you with the needed skills in your chosen industry? Find out how accounting qualifications like AAT and ACCA can help further your career!

Accountants are high-earning professionals in the world. Their ability to communicate financial position to stakeholders and transpire accurate financial information makes them invaluable in their industry.

But before you can be a great fit in these high-paying roles, you first should have the required skill set and knowledge to be competent at your jobs. This is where qualifications like AAT or ACCA can help you become a professional accountant.

So, in this article, we'll talk about the differences between AAT and ACCA. We'll also discuss their five key differences and how these insights are essential when picking a qualification.

Accounting Body and Recognition

Accounting Body and Recognition

Awarding bodies like AAT or ACCA differ in their historical background, professional conduct of ethics, and long-standing track record of success. These aspects determine these regulatory bodies' scope of influence and reputation.

Association of Accounting Technicians

AAT qualification is your gateway into the accounting profession that can help you turn from a complete novice to an accounting specialist.

The Association of Accounting Technicians garners global recognition for its practical skills, technical-focused qualifications and exceptional standards. While AAT is internationally acclaimed, they mostly found their relevance and presence in the UK and Ireland, where major UK accounting bodies first created the association. Today, AAT is one of the UK's leading professional bodies in accounting and is home to 130,000 AAT qualification holders worldwide.

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

ACCA professional accounting qualification is one of the highest-level professional certifications that an accountant can receive.

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants earns its global reputation for providing a rigorous curriculum that delves into advanced accountancy and business leadership concepts.

Because of the institute's international presence, ACCA operates globally, having over 110 offices and centres in 51 countries. As of 2024, ACCA has over 241,000 chartered certified accountants and 542,000 future organisation members completing their qualifications.

Career Goals

Career Goals

When deciding between AAT or ACCA, it would be best to base your preferred accounting qualifications on your career goals.

AAT Qualification Career Paths

For those who are still beginning their accounting journey or seeking a technical understanding of the trade, consider an AAT qualification.

The qualification is perfect for positions requiring you to perform core accounting responsibilities. In these roles, you'll be doing hands-on work and operational duties related to finance. Some tasks you need to accomplish include bookkeeping, reconciliation, budgets, and tax.

You can secure jobs paying from £16,000 to £100,000 with an AAT qualification. With that qualification, some of the job opportunities that you can get are:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Payroll Manager
  • Chartered Accountant
  • Accounts Payable Clerk
  • Accounting Technician
  • Tax Technician
  • Accounts Assistant
  • Cost Accountant
  • Payments & Billing Supervisor

ACCA Qualification Career Paths

If you're seeking a senior position in your accounting career, ACCA can help you achieve just that.

ACCA qualifications open career opportunities that focus on managerial roles. These job positions require seeing the bigger picture and becoming a decision-maker. Skills you need include financial modelling, forecasting, financial reporting, risk management, and business analysis.

Jobs relevant to ACCA are lucrative, with salary pay ranging from £44,000 to £140,000. With that qualification, some of the job opportunities that you can get are:

  • Chartered Certified Accountant
  • Business Analyst
  • Forensic Accountant
  • Management Accountant
  • Tax Specialist
  • Investment Banker
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Management Consultant

Starting Point and Study Commitment

Starting Point and Study Commitment

Another thing you should consider when picking between AAT and ACCA is your starting point in your career.

Accounting qualifications often have different eligibility and entry requirements. Moreover, these qualifications also vary in learning demand and commitment levels.

Starting Point and Commitment for AAT Qualification

AAT is an excellent skills prospect if you want to enter the accounting and finance industry. They structure their courses to be flexible and shorter, which you can take at your preferred pace.

As for their requirements, their courses only require you to be:

  • At least 16 years of age
  • Have the willingness to learn
  • Solid understanding of English and Math

AAT also require zero work experience before you take the courses. But with previous experience on your CV, you can be eligible for exemptions from sitting in their AAT assessments.

Starting Point and Commitment for ACCA Qualification

Conversely, ACCA is a viable skill prospect for career development and upskilling. Their qualification includes a rigorous curriculum that usually needs full-time commitment from you.

Before you can take the qualification, ACCA requires a formal educational background. ACCA has a high entry difficulty, with institutions often comparing the qualifications to a university degree. That being said, you can study the qualification without prior accounting experience.

ACCA's eligibility requirements include:

  • A minimum of two A Levels
  • Three GCSEs that include Math and English

If you have these qualifications from other accounting bodies, you can apply for exemptions, skip concepts you already know, and take your ACCA qualification faster.

With prior certifications, you can be exempt from taking the foundational level qualifications and the ACCA qualification's Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills exams.

Course Content

Course Content

When choosing an accounting qualification, you also want to factor in AAT and ACCA's course content. Both qualifications have course structures that produce different learning outcomes and cater to accounting specialisations.

AAT Qualification Course Content

AAT brings a more practical and technical approach to accountancy between the two.

There are three AAT levels to build your knowledge progressively. These levels are:

Curriculums from the qualification often include the essential skills in accounting that can progress to advanced accountancy. Some of the key topics that you'll learn from the courses are:

  • Bookkeeping principles (double-entry system, journal entries, ledgers)
  • Financial statements (income statement, balance sheet, cash flow statement)
  • Control accounts
  • Accounting software
  • Advanced Bookkeeping
  • Payroll processing
  • Taxation fundamentals
  • Business law and ethics

Finally, AAT requires passing the assessments within each level to measure your comprehensive understanding of the concepts. For Levels 2 and 3, there are 4 exams that you need to pass in these levels, while there are 5 in Level 4.

Upon completion, you'll be awarded a professional diploma in accounting and have the designatory letters MAAT after your name.

ACCA Qualification Course Content

ACCA, on the other hand, offers a more strategic and managerial approach to accounting and business. The qualification covers three elements that help build your accounting knowledge and apply them. These elements are:

  • Applied Knowledge
  • Applied Skills
  • Strategic Professional

Furthermore, ACCA focuses on concepts of advanced accounting that help in decision-making, each having its own assessment. Some of the key topics in their curriculum are:

  • Business and technology
  • Financial Accounting
  • Management Accounting
  • Taxation
  • Performance management
  • Audit and assurance
  • Corporate and business law
  • Financial reporting
  • Financial management
  • Strategic business leader
  • Strategic business reporting

Additionally, you must go through ACCA's Ethics and Professional Skills Module and render 3 years of Practical Experience Requirement before completing the qualifications and becoming a Chartered Certified Accountant.

Cost and Delivery Method

Cost and Delivery Method

Getting a qualification often involves paying for tuition fees, exam costs, memberships, and study materials. Basing your choice on cost ensures you can continuously pursue your chosen qualification without any financial issues later.

AAT Qualification Cost

The qualification courses are typically delivered to you via the following methods:

  • Physical Classroom
  • Live Virtual Class
  • Self-Study
  • Online

AAT Accounting qualification costs may also vary, at e-Careers we offer this for the following price per course, but please speak to one of the team for advice and any offers:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Accounting - £695
  • Level 3 Diploma in Accounting - £695
  • Level 4 Diploma in Professional Diploma - £795

Take note that you must also pay for the AAT membership registration and assessment fee, which is separate from the course cost above. Both additional costs are important if you want to sit through your exams and apply for the AAT professional membership.

AAT's one-time registration fee for UK students can cost around £175 to £244. Assessment fees, on the other hand, may vary depending on your location. These fees can range from £95 to £125 at AAT-approved testing centres.

ACCA Qualification Cost

For ACCA, you must pay £89 to apply for the qualification and £134. Upon registering as a student, the myACCA portal becomes available to you, which you can use to access their vast learning resources and support hub.

You can take the Applied Knowledge exams on demand through the links in your myACCA portal when sitting through assessments. Alternatively, you can get the exams at your local computer-based exam (CBE) centres, where the exam fees will vastly vary per location.

All other assessments are session-based exams in which you'll pay examination fees starting at £150. However, if you miss ACCA's standard entry deadline, your late booked exam sessions can go as high as £430, depending on your exams.

As for the course delivery, the following study method options are available when you take the course:

  • Classroom setting
  • Self-study
  • Online
  • Live virtual class

Online courses and virtual classrooms are generally more affordable than physical classrooms. These courses will only cost you around £900 to £4,500 for the whole exam level.

For physical classrooms, you will have to pay for the individual classroom sessions instead. Depending on the location, course you're currently taking, and content of the booked class, you'll pay £600 to £1,300 per class.

Moving from AAT to ACCA

Moving from AAT to ACCA

You can use your AAT qualification as a stepping stone to getting your ACCA!

If you finished your AAT Level 4, you can use it and receive exemptions when you apply for an ACCA qualification. This exemption allows you to skip the Applied Knowledge exams and makes your student journey quicker.

To qualify, present your qualifications to ACCA for verification and pay the exemption fees of £98 and £123 for the Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills exams, respectively.

Conclusion

Choosing between AAT or ACCA seems daunting at first, but don't let it overwhelm you! Both qualifications have key differences that make one a more inviting option than the other.

AAT qualification is practical and skill-focused, giving you flexibility as you go through the curriculum. ACCA, however, has a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum that demands massive commitments on your end.

Alternatively, another option is to choose both. Complete your AAT qualifications first and leverage it as a basis for exemption when you get ACCA next. This way, you'll have a smoother learning curve that inevitably results in better skill progression.

Your qualification choice should always align with your career goals and learning preferences. Take time to research both options thoroughly to make sure that you have a solid understanding of what these qualifications can offer to you.

Eager to start your accounting qualifications? Take the first step towards your accounting career with e-Careers! Our AAT-accredited courses come with eLearning, books, live online classes and award-winning tutor support to help you pass your qualification. Contact us at +44 (0) 20 3198 7700 or visit our AAT Accounting page for more information about our AAT-related courses.

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