So You Want To Be a Chartered Accountant?

stack of audit papers

A couple of months back, I had attended a talk organised by Young Corporate Malaysians (YCM). I was particularly fascinated about attending this particular talk, as it features Tan Sri Wahid Omar, who is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant.

The #1 advice that Tan Sri Wahid Omar had shared during his final slide (pic related) was in the pursuit of professional qualifications. Hence, it occurred to me (by way of suggestion from a personal associate of mine – Adam Malik) that I could share on the subject and available pathways towards the attainment of professional qualifications – and decided that I would.

In particular, I’ll be sharing on the route of attaining the Associate Chartered Accountant (ACA) of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales (ICAEW).

Firstly, let’s get over why should we even consider professional qualifications?

  1. International recognition & prestige – professional qualifications are considered to be more recognised than degrees, due to the high standards upheld by the issuing bodies. An increasing number of people with degrees take up professional qualifications to remain competitive in today’s job market.
  2. Job security & study leave – in obtaining a professional qualification, you are required to complete a certain number of years working with an employer. Should you be pursuing a qualification on a part-time basis, most employers are more than happy to provide you with sufficient study leave. Employers are happy to have employees who take personal initiative to improve themselves.
  3. Relatively lower cost – if you were to enrol in an internationally recognised university, the costs of enrollment is considerably higher (assuming no scholarship is available) as opposed to a professional qualification. Also, there may be sponsorship opportunities available in return for years of service with generous and willing employers.

There are two general routes in which you may consider beginning your pursuit of the qualification:

  1. School leaver route – Under this route, you will need to study and pass the papers required on a certificate level known as ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (ICAEW CFAB). It will take a minimum of 1 year to complete the certificate level before you can move onto the professional level qualification.
  1. Degree route– There are many private and foreign universities all over the world. You may choose any degree program depending on cost, prestige and how the program is structured. If you intend to pursue a professional qualification after your degree, then I strongly recommend you look at available Credits For Prior Learning, to ascertain that your university, degree, and subjects taken will grant you exemptions from some of the examination papers needed to obtain your professional qualification.

One of the most challenging areas in pursuit of the ICAEW ACA program is that you are required to secure an ICAEW training contract with an ICAEW approved employer. The training contract will be for a minimum period of 3 years (or longer – 6 years in my case), of which you are required to serve the said employer.

Related: UpClose with Mark Billington, ICAEW Regional Director

The ICAEW training contract will spell out your responsibility as an employee and your employer’s responsibilities too, which covers the following main areas:

  1. Leave policy for examinations
  2. Duration of contract
  3. Your Qualified Person Responsible for Training (QPRT)
  4. Sponsorship of training costs (if any)
  5. Consequences of a breach of the training contract

Once you’ve secured your ICAEW training contract, you’re officially an ICAEW trainee. To qualify as a full fledged ICAEW member (i.e. able to use the ACA designation), you are required to fully adhere to the four areas below:

  1. Examinations: This is probably the most difficult part of making the cut to be an ICAEW member. You are required to pass 15 examination papers, which comprises of various subjects
  2. Structured Training in Ethics: As professionals, ethics is a key component which we are required to uphold in our lines of work. ICAEW places a heavy emphasis on ethics training. This is done via ethics sections being incorporated in examination papers as above, and also online ethics training – which you will be then expected to present to your Qualified Person Responsible for Training.  are integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behaviour.
  3. Initial Professional Development: As an ICAEW Chartered Accountant, you are also required to take the initiative to upskill yourself to ensure that you obtain sufficient exposure to develop skills which are expected as a full fledged ACA. There are 3 levels of professional development areas which you are required to fully document and discuss with your Qualified Person Responsible for Training, minimally on a 6-month interval (a shorter interval may be ideal – depending on time available). Your employer may then assign relevant work to ensure your professional development is sufficient and up to the standard required by the ICAEW.
  4. Evidence of Technical Work Experience: You will also be required to meet a minimum number of qualified working days, and be able to provide full documentation (time sheets or any other relevant document) to substantiate your claim. Following meeting all 4 criteria’s required as mentioned above, you may then submit your application for membership which has been signed off by both your Qualified Person Responsible for Training and yourself – at the end of your training contract.

Voila – you’ll get your membership acknowledgement via email and after a couple of weeks, receive your hard earned Certificate of Membership – approved by the Members of Council and CEO of ICAEW.

Consider checking out other accounting bodies such as ACCA or CIMA or CPA (feel free to Google “professional accounting qualification”).

If you’re keen in considering a career in finance, you could consider the Chartered Financial Analyst (“CFA”) professional qualification.

I wish you all the best in your pursuit of professional qualifications!


Disclaimer: This is an Opinion Article and it only reflects the views of the author and not the company or institution that may be associated with the Author. This article also does not have any intention to undermine or attack certain individuals or parties.

Written by: Roshann Mathiahlagan

Roshann is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant with corporate finance experience in a Fortune Global 500 company, 6 years of auditing experience in a Top 6 accounting firm and starred in a Malaysian national TV programme which aired for 3 seasons.

This article is published on with the writer’s consent and originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can read it here.

Feature Image is CC0 License: Free for Commercial Use, No Attribution Needed



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