Different Types of Accounting Qualifications Explained

Which accountant is the best fit for your business?

Would you rather hire someone with an AAT, an ACCA or a Xero certification? You may be asking yourself, what is the difference in the first place?

From entry-level accountants to experienced chartered accountants, the world of accountancy can seem very complicated from the outside looking in. When you are looking to hire in a financial position, the range of job functions, qualification levels and pay differences are bound to confuse you and make you question whether all this hassle is even worth hiring an accountant. We’ve put together a simple guide to compare and contrast the different levels of accountants to give you an idea of who might be best suited for your business.

Types of Qualifications

In the UK, the main qualifications accountants can get are AAT, ACA, ACCA, CIMA and CIPFA. Within these certifications lie a variety of educational, competency and location-based differences.

AAT Qualifications

There are three levels of the AAT qualifications, including:

  • The AAT Foundation Certificate in Accounting,
  • The AAT Advanced Diploma in Accounting,
  • and The AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting.

These qualifications are for those who start accounting from the ground-up. They are internationally recognised and ensure students have the practical skills they need to succeed in accounting and finance. With a Professional Diploma, certified accountants are able to set up their own practice, apply for accounting and financial positions, and study to become a chartered accountant. AAT qualified accountants often find positions working as Senior Finance Officers, Commercial Analysts, Indirect Tax Managers, Cost Accountants and VAT Accountants (Chalmers 2021).

Chartered Accountant Qualifications

A list of most recognisable chartered accountancy qualifications in the UK including the ACCA, ACA, CIMA, CIPFA and ICAS. Acronyms explained below.

Oftentimes, accountants pursue further certification to become chartered accountants, a title which can take up to five years to acquire. The key differentiator between accountants and chartered accountants is the latter are a registered member of a professional accounting body. Furthermore, chartered accountants will have experience working in a firm with other chartered accountants, while the term ‘accountant’ in itself would not imply the same level of experience.

The most recognisable chartered accountancy qualifications in the UK are:

Emerging Qualifications

Recently, as the use of applications and automating software has become increasingly common within accounting practices, new types of accounting qualifications have emerged. These include the mastery of cloud accounting software such as Sage, QuickBooks and Xero. With over 460,000 users in the UK alone, Xero has emerged as one of the leading cloud accounting software for accountants as it covers a breadth of services and includes add-ons which are essential to fully moving a business’s financial processes to the cloud.

Xero created their own ‘Xero Advisor Certification’ which they make accessible to online members and which centres around providing mastery of the principles of cloud accounting, setting up and using Xero, and reporting. This allows accountants to get more work done using less resources, in less time and for significantly cheaper. Xero applications additionally increase productivity and effectiveness by targeting specific areas of accounting and automating them. For example, Float is a Xero integrated application which allows users to get a real-time view of their cashflow, enabling better scenario planning and forecasting for future business decisions.

Cloud Accounting Specialist or Regular Accountant?

A comparison table showing the advantages and disadvantages of cloud accounting specialists vs traditional accountants

Working with a cloud accounting specialist, as opposed to a regular accountant, can seem daunting and precarious. However, cloud accountants are often experienced accountants and chartered accountants who have embraced and mastered the latest industry technology to reduce the amount of time spent on the time-staking everyday tasks in accounting. Cloud accounting brings with it more time to focus on the areas that will truly make a difference to your business, whether that be financial planning, networking, or business development.

A triangular heirachy diagram showing the a typical finance team structure. Finance director is listed at the top, Assistant level at the bottom, with Managerial level in the middle.

With access to accountants of all levels, Sllick’s Virtual Finance Team manages your day-to-day accounting needs for a fixed monthly fee at a portion of the cost of a junior accountant, senior accountant or director. Your accounting information will always remain accessible to you and we’ll hold regular meetings to ensure you know exactly how your finances are performing!

Send us a message for more information on the best accounting processes for your business at https://www.sllick.io/contact. We’re always here to help!

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