What is an ACCA Qualification?

1-2 minutes

In this blog, you will learn

  • What an ACCA qualification is and how to gain one.
  • If an ACCA makes you an Accountant and what an ACCA salary is.
  • Requirements for an ACCA qualification.
  • What an ACCA qualification is equivalent to.
  • How to find and apply for the best accountancy jobs.

What is ACCA?

ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the world leading accountancy qualification for aspiring financial professionals which has certified more than 200,000 members around the world. 

In 2022, ACCA members increased by 3.4% growing their global member market share to 21.7% – reaching their original 2025 ambition. Obtaining an ACCA can lead to a successful career in accounting and finance and can open up a world of opportunities.

Throughout this blog, we delve into the benefits of becoming an ACCA member, salary potential, and how it compares to other professional qualifications. 

You will also learn how obtaining an ACCA qualification can lead to a competitive salary and be equivalent to other prestigious accounting qualifications.

How to gain the ACCA certification

The ACCA qualification is a globally recognised professional designation in the accounting sector and consists of a maximum of 13 exams, an Ethics and Professional Skills module and evidence of three years of practical work experience within a relevant role.

In order to gain an ACCA qualification, students must complete three stages of exams; applied knowledge, applied skills and strategic professional.

Applied Knowledge exams

These exams act as an introduction into the basics of accounting and provide students with a broad understanding of essential accounting techniques.

  • Business and Technology (BT)
  • Management Accounting (MA)
  • Financial Accounting (FA)

Applied Skills exams

These exams build on your existing knowledge to develop the understanding of future strategic professional Accountants in any sector or industry.

  • Corporate and Business Law (LW)
  • Performance Management (PM)
  • Taxation (TX)
  • Financial Reporting (FR)
  • Audit and Assurance (AA)
  • Financial Management (FM)

Strategic Professional

These exams are designed to provide students with an understanding of accountancy in the real world and the option to choose specialised exams to develop strategic, professional Accountants. ‘Strategic Professional’ exams are both ‘Essentials’ and ‘Options’ exams.


Students will take both these exams which provide them with the skills they need to make an immediate impact with employers.

  • Strategic Business Leader (SBL)
  • Strategic Business Reporting (SBR)


These exams offer the unique opportunity to specialise in areas of greatest relevance to a chosen sector or career path.

  • Advanced Financial Management (AFM)
  • Advanced Performance Management (APM)
  • Advanced Taxation (ATX)
  • Advanced Audit and Assurance (AAA)

What is an ACCA salary?

The starting salary of a Chartered Accountant, can vary depending on the industry, experience, location and size of the company, the sector, and any other qualifications. Salaries can start at £25,000 and can increase to £45,000 in Senior Accountant roles. According to Totaljobs, the average UK ACCA salary overall is £35,000-£58,000.

The average salaries for the different ACCA qualified sectors in the UK are: 

  • Banking - £25,000-£30,000
  • Auditing - £23,000-£35,000
  • Financial consultant - £45,000-£50,000
  • Taxation - £25,000-£40,000
  • Business management - £29,000-£60,000

(Source - Glassdoor.co.uk & Totaljobs)

Does ACCA make you an Accountant?

Once you have successfully completed your exams, the Ethics and Professional Skills module and professional experience requirement, you will be a qualified professional Accountant. Those who complete an ACCA qualification often go on to further advance their accounting career and become a Chartered Accountant.

A Chartered Accountant studies accounting to a higher level and is typically more qualified having gained a globally-recognised qualification such as the ACCA. Including an ACCA qualification on your CV would recognise you as a financial expert with highly sought after skills, knowledge and experience.

Do you need a degree to do ACCA?

No, you don’t need a degree to complete the ACCA qualification. To be eligible, you need to be 18 years of age and have two A Levels and three GCSEs in five separate subjects including English and maths (or equivalent qualifications).

If you possess higher qualifications, you may qualify for exemptions from some modules.

What is an ACCA equivalent to?

The ACCA qualification is broadly equivalent to degree standard when you take the first nine papers (the Fundamentals level). When you take the Professionals level, it is equivalent to a masters degree.

The Foundation-Level qualifications consist of awards, including certificates, diplomas and a Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) qualification. The ACCA Diploma in Accounting and Business (RQF Level 4) is equivalent to year one of a UK bachelors degree.

Is ACCA better than a university degree?

The ACCA is equivalent to an accounting degree and can have similar benefits and outcomes. However, as the ACCA requires at least 3 years experience, it can provide students with firsthand learning, the opportunity for development and valuable professional experience.

Some students study ACCA, CGMA or CIA qualifications as the skills they gain are invaluable to become a highly sought-after finance professional who can work across teams and sectors.

How hard is the ACCA?

Gaining the ACCA qualification is a long process filled with exams and time spent doing work experience, all of which requires dedication and perseverance. The difficulty level depends on the student's individual strengths and their ability to retain information, study and apply their knowledge and experience.

The exams test theoretical knowledge, practical application and an understanding of accounting principles. However, with pass rates on some papers as low as 30% and the option to study full-time or part-time while working, 

Students could find the ACCA difficult if they’re not putting in enough time and energy into studying, despite having 10 years to complete the qualification. If students are dedicated to passing and put in the effort, the ACCA is an achievable qualification.

How many times can you fail ACCA?

There is no restriction to the number of exams you may attempt, allowing you to choose to sit as many or as few papers as you like at each exam session. You are, however, recommended to attempt a maximum of four exams in a six-month period.

You need a minimum of 50% to pass each paper. If you pass one subject, you don’t have to do it again. The exams are held every quarter, but a few papers can be taken on demand. 

What is the average age to pass ACCA?

The average age to pass ACCA is 27, however there is no age limit for people wanting to study ACCA. In fact, ACCA is a popular facilitator for career change so it doesn’t matter what age you decide you want to become an Accountant or become an ACCA student.

Take into consideration the time it will take for you to complete the qualification as it can be achieved in 3 years if done full time.

Accountancy jobs and recruitment services

If you’re looking for your next Accountant job, why not take a look at the vacancies currently available at Spencer Clarke Group? Discover how to choose an accountancy practice that’s right for you and information about what accounting jobs are in demand?

If you’re new to the accounting industry, why not learn how to get your first accounting job or information and advice about how to find an accounting job.

Why not take a look at all the latest job vacancies available with Spencer Clarke Group or upload your CV. Can't find what you’re looking for? Contact our specialist accountancy consultant, Matt Byrne-Fraser, who can advise on upcoming positions!

Meet Matt Byrne-Fraser

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