What’s the Best Option: ACCA or an Accounting Degree?
Accountancy is a very appealing profession. It offers excellent prospects for respected positions, even at entry-level, and a clear career path to CFO responsibilities. Accountants work in every industry and across the globe as well as in Dubai, meaning there are exciting opportunities for all. Accounting credentials can be gained through a degree program or by completing the ACCA exams. What’s the best option: ACCA or an accounting degree?
ACCA or an Accounting Degree — What’s the Best Option for a Career in Dubai?
If you like crunching numbers, have a logical and mathematical mind, and are looking for a solid career, then accountancy could be for you. Accountancy requires in-depth training on many common accounting methods however, there is a lot to learn.
Accounting qualifications can be obtained by either following a degree path or taking the ACCA qualifications. Here, we look at the differences between these two pathways as well as revealing an exciting third option.
What is ACCA?
ACCA stands for Association of Certified Chartered Accountants. Through this industry body, you can be awarded a globally recognized and respected qualification to practice as a certified chartered accountant. The organization was founded in London in the early 20th century and began offering exams soon after. There are now over 200,000 members of ACCA around the world.
ACCA welcomes applications from students who have a good level of secondary or high school education. The exact requirements depend on the country where you completed your secondary education.
If you do not yet meet the requirements, you may be able to apply for a Foundation in Accountancy (FIA) course which will then allow you to move onto the full ACCA qualifications. If you are educated at degree level, you may qualify for exemptions on parts of the course, depending on what you studied.
What are the Key Differences Between the ACCA Qualification and a Degree?
A popular alternative to the ACCA qualification is to get a degree in accountancy. Here, we look at the practical aspects of both and how they differ.
The ACCA Pathway
The ACCA pathway involves taking a series of module-style learning and exams. A total of 13 exams must be passed to achieve the qualification. Exams are held each quarter but students can study at their own pace. Between exams, students study the relevant subject material. They take the next exam when they are ready. The ACCA pathway is incredibly flexible.
The ACCA qualification also requires three years of practical experience in relevant work with accounting management systems. If you already have a position in an accountancy company or department, you can study for your ACCA exams alongside part- or full-time work. You will achieve your full qualification and be able to progress within your company without having to leave your job.
You can study for your ACCA exams or FIA with any of ACCA’s global network of approved learning partners, including with financial training institutes in Dubai. They will offer various options both online and offline. You should be able to find a way of studying for the ACCA exams that suits your needs, situation and lifestyle.
The Accounting Degree Pathway
An accountancy or accounting degree is awarded by a university. All degrees are designed to equip you with a high level of knowledge in your chosen field, and accounting is no exception. An accounting degree is a rigorous academic qualification.
You will study core accounting subjects, delve into the differences between finance, accounting and bookkeeping, and will likely be able to choose some modules to follow your interests. There is usually less emphasis on practical experience than for the ACCA qualification. This is a key difference.
Degree pathways in all subjects are becoming more and more flexible. You do not necessarily need to study full-time on a university campus for effective training. You may be able to study for your degree part-time or by distance learning.
Which is Easier or Faster?
The ACCA qualification is highly flexible so there is no strict time frame given to complete it. Most students undertaking a training program with ACCA courses take around three years to complete it. How long you take will entirely depend on how much time you can devote to study material and how quickly you can grasp the concepts. Seeking excellent tuition will, of course, help enormously.
An accounting degree usually takes three years of full-time study, or the equivalent part-time. You can extend your learning performance, knowledge and expertise by taking a master’s degree, which would add a year’s full-time study to this. As for which is easier, the answer is that both are demanding. Both require many, many hours of diligent and methodical study.
Which is Best for Your Future Career?
If both qualifications are thorough and demanding, how do you choose? It might depend on what you would like to do after you complete the course.
The ACCA qualification involves acquiring technical skills and knowledge as well as practical experience. Employers like the ACCA qualification because its students finish the course very much ready to work as highly skilled chartered accountants.
That said, the experience and kudos of getting a degree are highly regarded, too. While achieving your qualification, you may have studied a broader range of subjects from the world of finance. Having effective training can be a real advantage. The ACCA exams are highly specialized and specifically qualify you to become a professional accountant. A more generalized degree may help keep more options open.
ACCA or an Accounting Degree–Best of Both Worlds
There is no doubt that choosing between the ACCA qualifications and an accounting degree is difficult. Both are highly regarded by potential employers and require similar levels of commitment and study. Thankfully, there is a third option.
ACCA has partnered with Oxford Brookes University in the UK to offer an exclusive degree option for ACCA students. The degree and the ACCA qualification can be studied simultaneously, allowing students to achieve both without too much additional time commitment. To earn a degree, ACCA students must complete their ACCA exams and submit a Skills and Learning Statement.
They will also complete a research and analysis project. Some ACCA learning partners offer a mentoring program to assist students in achieving their degree alongside their ACCA qualification. If you would like to train and work as a highly qualified professional accountant in Dubai but still have the accolade of a UK degree, this is a good training program and an ideal opportunity for you.
AUTHOR BIO Nikhil Vachani is Senior Tutor for Phoenix Financial Training, a leading provider of professional accountancy and finance qualifications throughout the Middle East and India as well as of bespoke finance courses to a wide and varied portfolio of corporate clients. Nikhil is a fellow member of the ACCA and UAECA and has 11 years of experience as a specialist trainer in the areas of Financial Accounting, Corporate Reporting and Taxation across all levels of ACCA.