What Are The Main Differences Between ACA and ACCA?

The ACA stands for the Associate Chartered Accountant qualification, which is the professional accounting qualification offered by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), a global professional body for Chartered Accountants.

The ACCA qualification is managed by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, a professional membership body for Chartered Certified Accountants globally.

The ACA and ACCA are both prestigious accounting qualifications offering advanced learning and professional development programmes which provide an in-depth understanding across financial accounting, advanced financial management, public taxation, auditing, financial reporting, and strategic management.

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1. What Are the Main Differences Between ACA and ACCA?

The key differences between ACA and ACCA pertain to exams pattern, number of exams, training requirements and opportunities in local and global markets.

The ACA, from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW) deals with the accounting principles of England and Wales and is more appropriate for those working in practice. There are 15 exams over three levels – Certificate, Professional and Advanced. ICAEW has membership recognition agreements with CAANZ in Australia and New ZealandHKICPA in Hong Kong, and SAICA in South Africa.

ACCA status is gained further to completing a bachelor’s degree or post graduate programme and by the completion of 14 ACCA professional qualification exams together with 3 years compulsory relevant work experience. ACCA status allows the qualified practitioner to work as an accountant in 170 countries worldwide including the UK, USA, Canada, South Africa, Germany, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Singapore. The ACCA may be more suited to those working in industry.

2.How Do You Become ACA or ACCA?

To become a fully qualified ACA or ACCA member, you will need to pass a series of exams and fulfil practical experience requirements. Here are the steps you can follow to become a member of ACA or ACCA:

Register as a Student

To begin studying for the ACA or ACCA exams you will need to register with the relevant institute as a student member. These are the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) for ACA or the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants for ACCA.

To register as an ACA student, you will typically need to have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent level of education, although other routes are available if you have completed A levels or the international equivalent, or you have a higher level of education or relevant work experience.

For the ACCA qualification, if you have completed the necessary secondary school qualification or equivalent, you will be eligible for the Fundamentals level of the ACCA Qualification. If you have completed higher education, you may be eligible for exemptions from some of the Fundamentals level papers. Various entry routes are explained in the following diagram:

Study for the Exams

The ACA qualification is comprised of 15 exam modules divided into three levels: Certificate level, Professional Level and Advanced Level, split into six exams in the Certificate and Professional levels respectively and three in the final Advanced level.

For the ACCA qualification it is necessary to pass 13 exams divided into three levels: three Applied Knowledge exams, six Applied Skills exams, two Strategic Professional exams, together with an Ethics and Professional skills module consisting of two of four Options exams.

Fulfil Practical Experience Requirements

You will need to fulfil a minimum period of relevant practical experience requirements in an accounting or finance role. The ACA qualification involves a minimum training period of 450 days which normally takes 3 to 5 years to complete. For ACCA you will need to complete practical training of 3 years. The required training must be completed through an ACCA or ICAEW authorised training employer.

Apply for Membership

After passing the necessary exams and fulfilling the practical experience requirements, you can apply to become a fully qualified ACA or ACCA member.

Maintain Your Membership

To maintain your ACA or ACCA membership, you will be required to meet the continuing professional development (CPD) requirements which are 40 hours per year, pay the annual subscription fee and comply with the Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants.

3. What Is the Cost of ACA and ACCA?

The costs of ACA and ACCA qualifications vary depending on several factors, including the country in which you are studying, the learning provider you choose, and the specific learning path you take. The exam fee is fixed by the relevant institute however the cost of study materials such as books, revision kits and tuition fees of the learning provider varies according to the learning plan of the student.

Exam Fees

The following table shows the current fee structures for both ACA and ACCA exams. In addition to standard exam fees, a late entry fee is also applicable which significantly increases the cost:

4. How Long Do You Have To Pass ACCA?

The timeframe for passing the ACA or ACCA exams varies depending on the individual’s learning pace, dedication, and availability. However, generally it takes 3-5 years to complete the ACA and 3-4 years to complete the ACCA qualification.

For the ACA qualification, students are permitted a maximum of four attempts at each Certificate and Professional Level exam, and unlimited attempts at the Advanced Level exams.

ACCA sets a maximum timeframe of seven years to pass the Strategic Professional exams once you pass your first Strategic Professional exam. If you don’t pass all the Strategic Professional exams within seven years, you will need to re-take the already passed exams to complete the qualification.

There are no time limits for passing any Foundations in Accountancy exams, nor any of the Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills exams as part of the ACCA Qualification.

5. Is ACA or ACCA Difficult To Pass?

The ACA and ACCA qualifications are both considered to be rigorous and challenging programmes that require a significant amount of dedication, hard work, and study. Many students find the exams challenging and difficult, but with the right amount of preparation and practice, it is possible to pass. The Institutes for both qualifications also provide a wide range of resources and support for students, such as study guides, exam kits, and online courses, which are helpful in preparing for the exams.

6. Which Are the Exams That Need To Be Passed To Become ACA or ACCA

For the ACA qualification, there are 15 exams over three levels – Certificate, Professional and Advanced. They can be taken in any order, except for the Case Study which must be attempted last, within the final year of an ACA training agreement and once all other exams have been taken or credit received.


There are six exams at this level that introduce the Fundamentals of Accountancy, Finance and Business. Students may be eligible for credits for some exams if they have studied a qualification recognised by ICAEW. The Certificate Level exams are 1.5 hours each, have a 55% pass mark, and can be attempted throughout the year. The average pass rate for the exam is more than 80%.


The next six exams build on the Fundamentals and test students’ understanding and ability to use technical knowledge in real-life scenarios. The exams can be taken in March, June, September, and December.

The Professional Level exams are 2.5 hours long, except for Financial Accounting and Reporting which is 3 hours long. Each exam has a 55% pass mark. The Professional Level exams are flexible and can be taken in any order to fit with a student’s day-to-day work. The average pass rate for the exams is more than 78%.


The exams at this level present real-life scenarios, with increased complexity and implications following the Professional Level exams. The Case Study tests all knowledge, skills and experience gained so far.

The Advanced Level exams can be taken in July and November. They are fully Open Book. The Corporate Reporting and Strategic Business Management exams are 3.5 hours long. The Case Study exam is 4 hours long. Each has a 50% pass mark. The average pass rate for the exams is more than 80%.

For the ACCA qualification, there are 13 exams which are divided into three levels: the Applied Knowledge Exams, Applied Skills Exams and Strategic Professional Exams.


The three exams at Applied Knowledge level provide students with a broad introduction to the world of finance and develop essential understanding and techniques in accounting. Exams consist of multiple-choice questions and can be completed in as little as 9-12 months. The average pass rate for the exams is 69%.


There are six exams at this level. These exams build on existing knowledge and understanding and develop the strong, broad, and practical finance skills required for future strategic professional accountants in any sector or industry. The average pass rate for the exams is 52%.


The Strategic Professional exams prepare students for future leadership positions. They develop strategic vision teaching a unique blend of technical, ethical, and professional skills. Students can specialise in areas that best suit their career ambitions. Students must complete two Essentials exams and choose two of the Options. The average pass rate of the exams is 40%.

7. Do Big4 Prefer ACA or ACCA?

The ACA qualification, along with its Scottish equivalent, the CA, is the favoured option for the Big 4 accountancy practices, as well as several other top 10 accounting firms. The qualification gives a broad accountancy qualification which brings in both financial and management accounting, as well as tax, business strategy and leadership-based skills.

The ACCA qualification is broad in its remit, like the ACA, but with more practical applications. Covering many of the same areas, including basic accounting, tax, auditing, treasury and more, it is a practical introduction to finance, whereas the ACA is significantly more principles based. The ACCA looks at how the various aspects of the qualification apply in real world scenarios, whilst the ACA teaches principles that its users need to problem-solve, albeit at the expense of real-world application guidance.

8. How Much Does an ACA and ACCA Earn?

The career opportunities and earning potential for individuals with the ACA or ACCA qualifications can vary depending on several factors, including the individual’s level of experience, the country and industry in which they work, and the specific role they hold.

The starting salary for newly ACA qualified accountants in the UK is around £40,000-£50,000 a year, and this can increase to £60,000-£80,000 or more depending on experience and level of seniority.

For ACCA, the starting salary for newly qualified certified accountants in the UK is around £35,000-£45,000 a year, and this can increase to £60,000-£80,000 or more depending on experience and level of seniority.

It should be noted that these are approximate figures, and actual earning potential can vary greatly depending on location, experience, skill set and other factors.

9. Conclusion: Which Is Better ACA or ACCA?

In general terms, both qualifications are highly respected and can open doors to a wide range of career opportunities, including roles in public accounting practice, private organisations, and government. Deciding whether to choose between ACA and ACCA depends on personal choice and career path.

Those aspiring to be a FTSE-level CFO are more likely to come from a Big 4 background, which means an ACA qualification, though it’s hard to say whether it’s the qualification or the training provider who put them there.

Those looking to specialise in broad practice-accounting roles are more likely to be ACCA qualified with the breadth of practical application that it provides. Although in many countries an ACCA cannot sign off audit reports because they need the local certification.

The ACA is international, but it does not necessarily give the authority to sign off accounts in different countries. For this to be so, it is ordinarily necessary to be a Chartered Accountant in the respective country – with the focus on the accounting and statutory laws of that country.

The following all have their own Chartered qualifications:

ACA in England, Wales & Northern IrelandCA in ScotlandCPA in USACPA in CanadaCA in IrelandCA in Australia, CA in New ZealandCA(SA) in South Africa. Stb and WP in Germany, Expert-comptable, DSCG, Commissaire aux comptes, DEC, Certificat d’aptitute in France, NivRA, Administratie Consulent in Netherlands, Certified Public Accountant, Licensed Audit Expert, Licensed Auditor in Switzerland, Reviseur d’entreprises, DAP (Diplome d’aptitude professionelle), Experts-Comptables in Luxembourg, Dottori Commercialista, Revisore legale Del Conti and Esperto contabile in Italy, and Biegły rewident in Poland

It is also important to keep in mind that earning potential and career opportunities are not the only factors to consider when making career decisions, and that other factors such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, and personal and professional development opportunities should also be considered.

To find out more about a career in accounting, please visit our resources page, or search for Accountant roles here.


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