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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 3,300 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:

  • Across the world in 2015, the average annual salary of an ICAEW Chartered Accountant in business was £90,800, plus a bonus of £20,600. (Data source: Salary Survey Report 2015, Stott and May.)
  • ACA students enjoy starting salaries of up to £30,000. (Data source: High Fliers Research, The Graduate Market in 2015.)

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:


The support you will receive

Collage of ACA student resources

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:

  • an ACA planner;
  • webinars;
  • Vital magazine;
  • an online training file;
  • access to societies, groups and online communities;
  • helplines; and
  • the ACA student app. 

Read the stories of real-life ICAEW students and members