UK Accounting Qualifications

Accounting qualifications are more popular than ever. Many colleges, universities and educational institutions now offer part-time courses and home learning courses, as well as the traditional full-time courses. With government tuition fee assistance and other debt related packages, it is now easier than ever to pay for education and become a qualified bookkeeper or accountant.

In the UK alone there are several bookkeeping and accounting courses and bodies. In this post I will give a break down of the main qualifications that are on offer. A lot of these courses are available at most colleges and universities or through distance learning.

ICB - Institute of Certified Bookkeepers

The ICB qualification is one of the most basic bookkeeping qualifications available in the UK. The qualification is usually in 3 tiers and depending on your experience and provider, can be completed within 3-24 months. Most ICB distance learning providers will let you move at your own pace. I completed my ICB within a year without committing too much time and effort (as little as 30 minutes a week).

If you are a complete novice to bookkeeping and accounting, then the ICB qualification could be for you. It is generally the cheapest and simplest option.

For more info, please visit

AAT - Association of Accounting Technicians

The AAT qualification is one of if not the most popular qualification available. Employers love it as it provides a firm accounting foundation and covers a variety of accounting principles. The AAT covers everything in the ICB qualification and a lot more. In the AAT qualification you will not just learn basic bookkeeping and double entry, you will learn about management accounts, debt management, credit law, personal and business taxation and cost accounting. The AAT is a 3 tier qualification and usually takes 2-3 years to complete. Those who are ICB qualified or have other relevant qualifications or experience can skip the first tier, which can reduce study time by 6-12 months.

I completed my AAT in 4 years, my first 2 tiers took a year each, attending college 2 evenings a week. I then decided to commit to a single evening a week, making my last tier 2 years. I highly recommend the AAT. It costs more than the ICB but is worth every penny!

For more information, please visit

CIMA - Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

CIMA is the world’s largest and leading professional body of management accountants. Most accounting qualifications train people for private practice, external accounting, auditing and tax issues. CIMA prepares people for a career in business, it teaches skills for strategic advice, managing risk and making key decisions. The qualification is very much business and finance focused, the syllabus covers topics such as risk management, internal business audits, business strategy and financial analysis.

CIMA, ACCA and ACA cost considerably more than the ICB or AAT. The AAT is usually seen as a spring board for further accounting education such as the CIMA, ACCA and the ACA, but this is not always the case.

For more information about the CIMA qualification please visit

ACCA - Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

The ACCA is a global accounting qualification. It is usually chosen by those wanting to practice accounting privately and own or work in a chartered accountancy practice. The ACCA has lost slight popularity over the years due to accountants wanting a more business orientated qualification, like the CIMA. Those who are AAT qualified can reduce the study time for the ACCA qualification.

For more information about the ACCA qualification please visit

ACA (ICAEW) - Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

The ACA is very similar to the ACCA. The ACA is very traditional in it's approach and appeals to more senior accountants. The ACCA seems to have a younger membership.

For more information about the ACA qualification please visit