3 Professional Qualifications You Need for a Career in Accounting and Finance

finance career

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a six percent growth in the demand for accountants and auditors from 2021 until 2031. Meanwhile, it expects a nine percent increase in the overall employment of financial analysts within the same period.

In short, you can expect the demand for accountants to grow steadily within the decade and the need for financial analysts to increase quickly within the same timeframe. Moreover, due to globalization, you should expect a high demand for professionals with knowledge of international trade and finance.

Enroll in an ACCA, CFA, or CIA course and become an accountant, financial analyst, or auditor. Better yet, take all of them, obtain all three professional qualifications, and become the consummate financial professional.

What are ACCA, CIA, AND CFA, and how can you obtain them?

1. Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

ACCA is a designation for professional accountants. It is proof that someone is well-versed in International Accounting Standards, is trained in financial accounting, management accounting, and strategic business leadership, and has at least three years of practical, relevant experience.

Registration Eligibility

To register for the ACCA program, you must have at least two advanced levels (A-levels) and three general certificates of secondary education (GCSEs). Each qualification should be for a distinct subject, and two of them must be English and mathematics.

If you don’t have two A-Levels and three GCSEs, you must have equivalent qualifications.

For instance, a business and technology education council (BTEC) level three subsidiary diploma (qualification and credit framework) – national award 60+ is equivalent to two A-levels and three GCSEs.

Acceptance and enrolment into a university for undergraduate studies will make you eligible for the program, but a high school diploma alone is insufficient for registration.

The ACCA Qualification Structure

Obtaining the ACCA designation requires you to accomplish the following:

  • Pass 13 ACCA exams
  • Complete the ethics and professional skills module
  • Provide proof of 36 months of practical work experience in one or more relevant roles

Exam Requirements

You have to pass:

  • Three applied knowledge exams
  • Six applied skills exams
  • Two strategic professional essentials exams
  • Two strategic professional options exams (select two from four choices)

If you have a relevant professional qualification or a related bachelor’s degree, you can claim exam exemptions and reduce the number of exams you must take.

Ethics and Professional Skills Module Requirements

This 10-unit module will teach you the ethical standards to which accounting professionals are expected to adhere. It also covers strategic professional skills like leadership, team-building, communication, innovation, and data analytics.

Practical Experience Requirements

You must work for 36 months in one or more relevant roles. Your work experience must let you accomplish five essential performance objectives and four technical performance objectives.

You will need to log your work experiences and get them signed off on by your practical experience supervisor.

2. Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

If you are passionate about the value of internal auditing to enterprises and want a career as an internal auditor or wish to become a well-rounded financial professional, get a CIA.

Registration Eligibility

The following are eligible to apply for the CIA program:

  • Someone with a bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Someone with an active internal audit practitioner (IAP) designation
  • An active resident student in their final year in college
  • An active resident student enrolled in an Institute of Internal Auditors or IIA-approved internal audit education partnership school
  • Someone experienced (at least five years) in internal auditing or an equivalent, relevant role — provided they also have a high school diploma, an associate degree, a general certificate of education (GCE), an advanced level (A-level), or any other equivalent qualification

College-level students who apply for the CIA qualification may take the CIA exams but will not get the CIA designation unless they graduate and earn their bachelor’s degree.

The CIA Qualification Structure

The CIA program has two main requirements:

  • Three exams
  • Work experience

You must complete all the requirements within three years of program registration.

Exam Requirements

There are three exams:

  • Part One: Essentials of Internal Auditing; 125 questions, 150 minutes
  • Part Two: Practice of Internal Auditing; 10 questions, 120 minutes
  • Part Three: Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing; 100 questions, 120 minutes

You must pass all three exams.

Work Experience Requirements

The work experience required varies depending on your eligibility level:

  • No work experience requirement: If you apply as an experienced applicant or someone with at least five years of internal audit or related work experience
  • One year of experience: If you have a master’s degree or an equivalent (or higher) educational credential
  • Two years of experience: If you have a bachelor’’ degree or an equivalent qualification
  • Five years of experience: If you have an active IAP qualification

Pro Tip: Apply for the CIA program after earning your ACCA qualification. The IIA waives the educational and work experience requirements for ACCA professionals. So if you have an ACCA, you will only need to sit for and pass the three CIA exams.

3. Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)

The CFA is a professional investment management designation. If you want a career as an investment analyst, become a chartered financial analyst.

Registration Eligibility

To apply for the CFA program, you must have an international passport and any of the following qualifications:

  • Active residency in college or university, 11 months or fewer away from graduation on the day of your first-level exam
  • A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent
  • Professional work experience
  • Four years of combined education and work experience (excluding part-time work) accrued before sitting for the first level exam

If you enroll while you’re still a student in college, you cannot take your second-level exam until after you earn your bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.

The CFA Qualification Structure

You must sit for and pass three exams to earn the CFA designation.

Level I

This is a multiple-choice exam split into two sessions. Each session has 90 items and is 135 minutes long.

Level II

You must pass the first level exam to sit for the second level exam. Undergraduate students are not allowed to take this exam.

This exam is 264 minutes long (four hours and 24 minutes). Twenty-two item sets or vignettes accompanied by multiple choice questions comprise the test.

Level III

After passing the Level II exam, you can sit for the third level exam.

This exam consists of 11 essay sets and 11 item sets. It will be taken in two sessions, each a combination of five (or six) item sets and six (or five) essay sets.

Become a World-Class Finance Professional

If you want to work in finance or accounting, earn relevant professional qualifications.

The ACCA, CIA, and CFA are three such qualifications, and they can certainly turbocharge your finance career.

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