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  • Finding the tallest giraffe – How to decide which of the top accounting courses is the right one for you.

    Finding the tallest giraffe – How to decide which of the top accounting courses is the right one for you.

    There are several reasons why someone would chose a career in finance and just as many different paths a career can take once it's been started. It is an industry that attracts a wide variety of candidates and the once popular, stereotypical opinion of accountants has been appropriately labelled as archaic and incredibly inaccurate. With the promise of professional stability and substantial financial rewards, accounting is becoming a very sought after career path, making opportunities heavily competed for. As such, when applying for job opportunities it is essential to effectively demonstrate your skills and abilities to prospective employers as concisely as possible.

    One of, if not the most effective method of doing this is through a recognised qualification program, such as ACA, ACCA or CIMA. However for many, this is where the problems start. All three take a lot of time and a heavy commitment to studying and in most cases working a full time job at the same time so it is paramount to fully understand which the best course is for you before starting the process.

    This can be a very daunting decision to make, especially for the recent graduates and younger applicants, as it is generally quite rare to have a fully mapped out career path so early on. For those that do have even a general idea of what direction they want their career to go however, there is some advice to follow.

    CIMA is currently becoming one of the more popular accounting qualifications and provides an unequalled education into management accounts and an excellently rounded introduction to the commercial world of accounting. It is a great starting move for those keen to work in a less corporate style of accounting, generally based within the financial team of a multitude of different businesses.

    However, for those more interested in what some calltraditionalaccounts, including balance sheet accounts and profit and loss, CIMA would not provide the necessary training to the same level as some of the other courses available. This is because the CIMA qualification is obtained whilst gaining exposure to accounts within commerce and industry, based around management and commercial accounting. As such it does not prepare people for the world of auditing or the more technical accounting practices. For this area, the most common approach would be through an ACA course.

    In order to become an Associate Chartered Accountant ACAit is essential to undertake a training contract with an established accounting practice, and entails a large amount of on the job training. It is ideally suited, although not limited, to would-be auditors or independent accountants, providing an unparalleled training in these areas. The ACA is more than just exams. It causesstudentsto apply what they have learned in real business scenarios, meaning that one does not simply leave with a qualification, but also a breadth of experience to back it up.

    Not to be confused with the ACA, the ACCA provides an equally valuable learning experience and is an ideal choice for those who want a broader insight into accounts preparations as well as commercial accounting. Where it differs from the CIMA is that whilst it does not have the same extensive cover of management accounting, it does train students in auditing, a very useful skill for those who simply do not know where in finance they want to end up. On top of this, compared to the ACA it is more centred on industry and the commercial aspects of accounting, but still with the possibilities of practice work.

    And that is essentially it. All three courses have their own merits and benefits and there is no true right or wrong answer when choosing a route to qualification. The professional advice is to figure out what move you'll be making after (and during) the qualification process, and hopefully the decision will make itself.

    However, regardless of the qualification you may choose to study, what is clear is that accounting and finance is one of the most traditional of industry sectors and accountants are always in demand to businesses large and small. Whether it's a large corporate requiring ACA for accounting principles and reporting standards (i.e. IFRS or GAAP) or smaller businesses who require commercial accountants to drive revenue and profitability and maximise efficiencies, high calibre accountants will continue to find opportunities in the marketplace. With a recent surge in confidence in the permanent finance recruitment market across Q2 of this year it looks like a buoyant period which suggests a bright future ahead for those looking to complete their respective accounting qualifications over the coming year and consider the options available. 

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