Accounting Degree vs. ICAEW ACA: What’s The Difference & Which Is For You?

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Study hard, go to university, and get a good job, OK?’ is probably a phrase Malaysian school leavers repeatedly hear. Taking the traditional route to first obtain a university degree before entering the workforce is highly encouraged. But did you know that there are different pathways to a successful career in business and finance?

A smart pathway is the ICAEW Chartered Accountant (ACA) programme that begins with ICAEW’s Certificate in Finance Accounting and Business (CFAB), which is a certificate-level study that thousands of students from 70 countries around the world are taking as you read this article.

As both a university degree and  the ICAEW ACA have their own merits, here are five points for you to consider:

1. Employment & Career Progression

  • University Degree Degree holders generally start their careers on an average around the age of 23 when they find employment with a company. Even if they start out with a slightly higher base salary (in most scenarios)than non-graduate professionals, the real challenge is finding the right job after graduation.
  • ICAEW ACA – The ICAEW ACA programme allows you to start your career journey from as young as years old through the ICAEW Training Agreement with employment in over 180 employers in Malaysia. This means that you will have a head start in your career as you will be employed with reputable organisations. Due to the rigorous training, ICAEW students are typically promoted to senior executive or junior manager levels by the time they complete the ICAEW ACA programme.


2. Earning Potential While Studying

  • University Degree University graduates earn a full-time salary after they complete their course of study and enter the workforce as an employee in either the private or public sector. Paid internships are usually pursued during long university breaks.
  • ICAEW ACA – As a school leaver, if you pursue the ICAEW ACA programme, you will start earning a salary from as young as 20 years old, when you are employed through a Training Agreement with ICAEW’s Authorised Training Employers (ATEs) who would not only cover your examinations expenses (most of the time) but will guide you in completing your programme.


3. Professional Network

  • University Degree University students are part of a network of fellow academics and professors, often times numbering in the thousands. This diverse network is built on intimate connections from regular interactions on a daily basis. Although most universities establish an alumni network for former students to remain connected, it’s worth nothing that it does take some effort to translate these connections to a working professional network.
  • ICAEW ACA – Once you have completed the ICAEW ACA and become an ICAEW member, you will gain access to a global network of 150,000+ chartered accountants who are world-class business and finance experts that work across numerous industries around the globe. You will also enjoy exclusive access to world-leading information resources, technical guidance & advisory services, as well as data insights into your industry.


4. Business Generalist vs. Specialization

  • University Degree Business university students are exposed to a wide range of theories and disciplines, from statistics to marketing, often in controlled classroom settings. They explore various interests in a variety of subject areas, while they cultivate their passion for certain fields that interest them.
  • ICAEW ACA When you pursue the ICAEW ACA, you will be exposed to hands-on learning that addresses key aspects of finance, accounting and business, such as Management Information & Business, and Technology & Finance. Your studies will train you to become a specialist with practical skills and industry knowledge that are highly sought after by employers today.


5. Frequency of Education Syllabus Updates

  • University Degree – Universities generally update the content of their course syllabus on a regulated basis, typically once every three years. They undergo thorough department reviews in order to ensure that students stay up to date with major events occurring in each academic field.
  • ICAEW ACA The content for the ICAEW ACA programme is updated on an annual basis, with input and insights from employers across industries. This includes the latest technical content, laws and regulations for multiple industries, to enable students to navigate the latest industry trends. A combined understanding of the bigger picture and on-the-ground changes empower students with the skills to maneuver changing business landscapes and thoroughly understand financial developments.


Ready to Advance Your Business & Finance Career? Learn More about the ICAEW ACA & Full Scholarships Available!

If you’re considering the ICAEW ACA to fast-track your professional career aspirations and would like to know more about the programme, contact ICAEW Malaysia via:


Related: 5 Reasons Why You Should Pursue a Professional Business & Finance Qualification


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