ACCA vs. Accounting Degrees

ACCA vs Accounting degrees

Thanks to our ever-expanding global economy, more and more students are showing interest in gaining either an accounting certificate or an accounting degree, in order to pursue a career in  accounting. Accounting certifications include the likes of CIMA, AAT, CA and AAC, but this article will mainly focus on ACCA. So if you are interested in joining the accounting field, but don’t know whether to opt for ACCA or an accounting degree, read this article to help clear your doubts.

ACCA certification and accounting degrees

The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a professional accountancy board that is based in the UK. It is one of the top accounting qualifications in the world and comprises of around 500,000 students and 200,000 members. The ACCA certification consists of three key components, which include:

  • Work experience: In order to be eligible to become an ACCA member, you must possess three years of relevant work experience;
  • Exams: You have to pass 14 exams if you want to join ACCA, but there are certain exams that you may be exempt from, depending on your qualifications;
  • Professional ethics module: The final piece of criteria, in order to be eligible for obtaining membership, is passing ACCA’s Professional Ethics module.

Once you have paid the registration fees for ACCA, you are given access to its online study materials such as past papers, syllabus guide, study hacks, a mobile app and ACCA articles containing key modules and subjects. The syllabus in ACCA is divided into four levels, namely Knowledge, Skill, Essentials and Options.

Obtaining the ACCA qualification provides you with several advantages, such as:

  • Being a member of an elite accounting body;
  • Improving your job prospects around the world, especially having passed the Professional Ethics module which will show your integrity off to companies;
  • Obtaining career support throughout your professional life.

On the other hand, students looking to enter the accounting field also have the option of gaining an accounting degree. Accounting is defined as the procedure of recording, categorising, summarising, analysing and communicating financial transactions that are relevant to any organisation or individual. Accounting degrees can be categorised into two types, namely:

  • Bachelor’s degree in accounting: The bachelors is an undergraduate degree that is offered by universities worldwide and usually takes three to four years to complete. Bachelor of Accountancy (BAC), Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting (BBA) and Bachelor of Science in Accounting (BSACC) are some of the most common bachelor degrees in accounting.
  • Master’s degree in accounting: Pursuing a master’s degree in accounting is usually considered to be the next step after earning a bachelor’s in the subject. These degrees last for one or two years, depending on the university chosen, and learning methods include projects, seminars, case studies, lectures and assignments. Some popular master’s degrees in accounting include Master of Professional Accountancy (MPA), Master of Business Administration in Accounting (MBA), Master of Accountancy (MAcc) and Master of Science in Accounting (MSA).

Course structure

As previously mentioned, the ACCA syllabus is divided into four categories. The subjects taught in ACCA give emphasis to the technical areas of accounting, thus providing you with greater specialised knowledge. The subjects taught in the four categories include:

  • Knowledge level:
    • Financial Accounting;
    • Management Accounting;
    • Accountant in Business.
  • Skill level:
    • Taxation;
    • Financial Management;
    • Performance Management;
    • Business and Corporate Law;
    • Assurance and Audit;
    • Financial Reporting.
  • Essentials level:
    • Business Analysis;
    • Corporate Reporting;
    • Ethics, Governance and Risk.
  • Options: you choose two papers from a total of four in this section
    • Advanced Taxation;
    • Advanced Assurance and Audit;
    • Advanced Performance Management;
    • Advanced Financial Management.

On the other hand, accounting degrees usually include a combination of compulsory and elective modules that are designed to provide you with an all-round learning experience. The electives are usually subjects from related fields that you choose based on your interests. In addition to these, assignments, projects and dissertations are a key part of the overall learning experience. Some subjects in accounting at the undergraduate and postgraduate level include:

  • Cost Accounting;
  • Accounting and Financial Analysis;
  • Tax Fundamentals;
  • Advanced Taxation and Business Strategy;
  • Financial Accounting;
  • Managerial Accounting;
  • Financial Statement Analysis;
  • International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS);
  • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Level of difficulty

There are varied levels of difficulty in ACCA and accounting degrees. As is the case with any degree, accounting degrees require dedication and good time-management skills to handle studies, assignments and projects all at the same time. In contrast, ACCA is known to be more difficult because the ACCA qualification levels become increasingly challenging as you progress through the qualification. However, students have the advantage of obtaining different qualifications while pursuing the ACCA certification.

Career progression

Earning an accounting degree gives you the opportunity to explore different domains such as market research, real estate and investment banking. With an accounting degree, you may have to contend with entry-level jobs once you graduate. On the other hand, earning the ACCA qualification prepares students for careers directly linked to accounting, providing them with greater prospects for better-earning jobs which are higher up the corporate ladder.

If you are a business-minded individual who enjoys number crunching with an attention to detail, then accounting could be the right career option for you. The Toronto School of Management offers a foundation course for ACCA that will help you to become ACCA certified within a few years