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How to become a chartered accountant

To qualify as an ICAEW Chartered Accountant you must complete the ACA, a highly-respected professional qualification that requires students to complete at least three years on-the-job training while passing a series of exams. You can start your training by completing ICAEW's Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB), which is made up of the first six modules of the ACA, before going on to complete the rest of the qualification.

Find your route

What is the ACA qualification?

The ACA qualification is valued by businesses worldwide, with more than 5,000 employers currently training ACA students.

Completing the ACA qualification enables you to use the title ‘ICAEW Chartered Accountant’, offering a way to stand out from the crowd by providing employers with a specified, certified skillset.

The knowledge and skills provided by the ACA means that ICAEW Chartered Accountants are highly sought after professionals.

They often command higher salaries throughout their careers:

  • The average annual salary of an ICAEW Chartered Accountant in business is £134,000 (Indicative based on mean averages of specified salary bands - Member profiles response 2018). 
  • The average global member salary across all sectors is £108,000 (Indicative based on mean averages of specified salary bands - Member profiles response 2018).

How is the ACA qualification structured?

The ACA qualification is made up of four elements which provide students with a combination of finance knowledge, accountancy skills and real-world business experience.

They are:

  1. 450 days of practical work experience – offering invaluable insights into the realities of a career in chartered accountancy.
  2. 15 exam modules* – covering a broad range of topics including: financial management, law, assurance and business strategy.
  3. Professional development – preparing you to successfully handle different situations that you’ll encounter throughout your career.
  4. Ethics and professional scepticism – providing you with the skills to work under close scrutiny and be confident you are making the right decisions.
Infographic showing the elements of the ACA - knowledge, skills and experience

*ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB)

The first six modules of the ACA also make up a stand-alone qualification, ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business. This can be completed independently of the ACA. 

ICAEW CFAB is a globally-recognised qualification in finance, accounting and business. It is open to everyone and can be completed via self-study or with a tuition provider.

Read more about ICAEW CFAB

The six exams can be completed in any order and are assessed via computer-based assessment at local exam centres. As you pass each module, ICAEW will send you a certificate of achievement.

ICAEW CFAB can be achieved in 12 months and upon completion, you will receive your ICAEW CFAB qualification certificate. You can then go on to complete the rest of the ACA qualification if you want to.

ICAEW Business and Finance Professional (BFP)

ICAEW CFAB is a qualification on its own, but it’s also a stepping stone to the ICAEW Business and Finance Professional (BFP) designation.

BFP provides you with professional status, recognises your achievements and supports you with your development as you progress in your career.

Find out more about BFP

By gaining the designation, and adding the BFP letters to your name, you demonstrate your ability to stay up to date in your profession, and show a strong understanding of ethics and a commitment to professional development.

You can start your journey to BFP and complete the requirements while studying for ICAEW CFAB, or once you complete it. 


How to complete the ACA qualification

The ACA qualification takes between three and five years to complete and involves a number of key phases:

Route icon

Find your route

Becoming an ICAEW Chartered Accountant has never been more accessible. Options to complete elements of the ACA qualification include: ICAEW apprenticeships, undergraduate degrees, postgraduate qualifications, ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business and joint programmes with other professional bodies.

Find your route
Personal development icon

Finding an employer

To complete the ACA you must complete 450 days of work experience at an ICAEW authorised training employer (ATE). There are c5000 ATEs offering ACA training agreements, including accountancy firms of all sizes, private businesses and public sector organisations.

Meet the employers
Register icon

Register as a student

To start the ACA qualification you must register with ICAEW as a student. The majority of students do this once they have secured a training agreement, but it is also possible to register and begin studying the ACA before you have found an employer. Learn more about the registration process.

Register as a student

Apply for credit for prior learning

Those who have already completed a qualification in accountancy, business or finance, might be entitled to exemptions from one or more of the ACA modules. A full list of eligible qualifications and information on how to apply for credits is available on our CPL directory.

Apply for CPL
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Complete the four elements of the ACA

To successfully achieve the ACA qualification you must demonstrate that you have: completed 450 days of work experience at an ATE; passed 15 exam modules; undertaken professional development; and have advanced your ethical understanding and professional scepticism.


The support you will receive

As part of your training, you will undertake classes with an ICAEW-authorised training provider. These can be face-to-face or online, and will give you the benefit of an expert tutor.

Alongside this, your employer will provide you with a mentor to help you through the ACA and you will receive support from your colleagues.

ICAEW will also provide you with a range of tools and resources to help you, including:

  • wellbeing support from CABA charity;
  • events and volunteering opportunities;
  • Access to the Student Insights hub
  • student rewards and TOTUM PRO Card access;
  • cloud accounting courses from Xero; 
  • subscription to Communities and Faculties Online; and
  • an ACA planner to keep on track, ICAEW app and a dedicated student support team.

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