ACCA vs. ICAEW - Your Options Explored

Here we share some ACCA and ACA student profiles that will help those who have definite goals in mind to put themselves on the right path.

Choosing between professional qualifications is an important decision - that’s a fact, but how you make that decision is as diverse as the number of professional accountancy qualifications out there. 

Some students will research facts, others listen to the experiences of people they trust. Then there’s that group we all envy a little, the ones that throw a dart at a board and commit to whatever it hits.  

We appreciate the uniqueness of all our students, so in this article, we’ll share some experiences that will help those who have definite goals in mind, put themselves on the right path. Afterward, we will share some more important facts for those who need them. That should just about cover all the preferences of aspiring chartered accountants out there. 

Let’s get into the nitty gritty of ACCA vs. ICAEW (ACA).

Which qualification is right for you? The short answer. 

Let’s answer this by peeking into the lives of some aspiring chartered accountants. 

Student 1: Jack, taking over the globe one step at a time

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Student Profile

Meet Jack. An Oxford-educated chap who has carved out a niche for himself as a financial adviser in the city, but now he has financial controller aspirations. He has more than just the Square Mile on his mind though - he’s eyeing international waters, particularly the emerging markets 

Why ACCA is a match for Jack

Global Renown: One can't simply ignore the fact that ACCA-qualified chartered certified accountants carry weight in over 180 countries. Quite invaluable for someone in Jack's position, don't you agree?

International Collab: If Jack should find himself in Shanghai or Dubai, he will benefit from ACCA’s extensive network. Management accounting is a sought-after skill in emerging markets. 

Sector Versatility: With the wide scope that ACCA offers, Jack won’t have to worry that his talents will run dry in one industry. 

Flexible Learning: Our boy Jack doesn’t have to wait to spread his wings. Since Jack can study online with his chosen learning provider and write his ACCA exams online wherever he is, he can book that ticket now and expand his professional skills.


The ACCA qualification could be the ace up Jack’s sleeve. It is fit for a person of his education and career goals.

Could Jack do ICAEW ACA as an alternative?

Nothing wrong with ACA.  It’s a perfectly respectable qualification, but Jack has set his sights on doing his learning apart from his current employer, who is not an ICAEW-authorised training employer. He doesn’t want to enter into a training role and be tied to an ACA training agreement. It’s true that ICAEW is one of the oldest accountancy bodies in the world, with a great reputation, but Jack’s interest in corporate and business law is more suited to ACCA qualifications. 

Student 2:  Amelia, taking life as it comes

Image courtesy of Canva/GettyImages 

Student Profile

Alright then, here’s Amelia. She grew up in the fine city of Norwich and is now living the dream in Islington. She’s a bit of a free-spirit but loves financial management and financial accounting and being smart about her professional development. Amelia’s wondering about tuition fees; it doesn’t feel right to spend her life paying off student loans. That’s not going to work for her.  

Why ACCA is a match for Amelia

Variety is the spice of life:  ACCA membership isn’t a one trick pony. There’s plenty to keep Amelia interested. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants has made sure that they keep things rolling along, from tax to law to management accounting. A bit of everything, really.  

Financial freedom:  ACCA membership fees are reasonably priced and the value you get far surpasses the investment. Amelia will appreciate the vast ACCA network and resources she’ll get for her money.  She can deal with her exam fees as she writes them, which allows her flexibility to change her mind as she fancies. Besides that, Amelia found a great tuition provider that doesn’t cost an arm and a lifetime of debt. She’s chuffed. 

Recommendation, pay attention now

The ACCA professional qualification is the one for Amelia. She may be a free-spirit but with ACCA she’ll pick up a diverse set of skills that will serve her wherever she ends up in corporate finance, forensic accounting, or a financial service company. Go for it, Amelia!   

Will the structure of ACCA suit Amelia?

The ACCA has three levels and an ethics and professional skills module. There are applied knowledge exams, applied skills exams, and strategic professional exams. If Amelia already has 3 years relevant working experience then she’s well on her way to becoming certified within 18-24 months. But if she takes a detour along the way, she has up to 7 years to complete the qualification. 

Could Amelia do ICAEW ACA as an alternative?

The Institute of Chartered Accountants throws some serious weight behind its ACA qualification. One reason Amelia might be interested in ACA is that she can enter into a training agreement with an authorised training principal and complete her 450 days of work experience. That might take some burden off her finances. Also, the wide range of industries that ACA-qualified professionals work in might be appealing to her for the variety. What’s a girl to do? We recommend she stick with ACCA.  

Student 3:  Harry, Cambridge’s finest on the fast-track

Image courtesy of Canva/Minervastudio

Student Profile

Allow us to introduce Harry. A most ambitious gentleman based in Cambridge. Employed at a renowned accounting firm, Harry wishes to join a global professional body so that he can make his way up the corporate ladder. He is currently employed with a large corporate company that is an authorised training employer. His ultimate ambition? To live a good life and attain financial freedom. 

Why ACA is a match for Harry

Prestige and Prosperity:  It has been observed that professionals credentialed with ICAEW command notably higher salaries in the UK. The average member salary globally is £108,000. Good for Harry. 

Elite networking opportunities: The ICAEW boasts a membership comprising influential members of the financial sector, offering ample opportunities for Harry to rub shoulders with the crème de la crème. This not only enables professional development but also opens doors to opportunities in prestigious firms — just the kind of environment where Harry would naturally thrive, allowing him to move rapidly up the ranks. 

In-demand skills: ICAEW's rigorous curriculum not only imparts comprehensive knowledge but also focuses on cultivating skills highly sought after in the business world. Whether it's advanced financial modeling, compliance, or strategic decision-making, Harry will be equipped with a skill set that makes him a hot commodity in the job market.


Higher salaries, accelerated career progression, elite networking opportunities, and in-demand skills — these criteria speak a language that Harry understands. The ICAEW stands out as a singularly advantageous pathway for him. The ICAEW is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious accountancy bodies in the world - an association Harry will enjoy. 15 exams and 450 days of practical experience are all that stand between Harry and a bright future.   

Student 4:  Aisha, Entrepreneur with a Dream

Image courtesy of Canva/GettyImages

Student Profile

Meet Aisha. She lives and works in London. She’s been dreaming about forensic accounting since she was nine - we kid you not. She’s always been smart and had a good head for business. She made her own money from the age of eleven, finding missing neighborhood cats. Sleuthing and facts are her cup of tea. 

Why ACCA is a match for Aisha

Tailored curriculum:  The ACCA’s syllabus plays right into Aisha’s interests and with her current AAT qualification, she can complete the ACCA much sooner with her exemptions. Aisha has used her top notch investigative skills to find a high quality tuition provider and she is loving the interaction with the experienced tutors and other students. She’s learned much more from them about having a business than she thought possible. 

Business Acumen:  Not only does ACCA concentrate on numbers, facts, compliance and audit, but there are also business modules. Aisha can keep her dream of entrepreneurship alive while combining it with her love of forensic accounting. 

Global Reach: Forensic accounting has become a global game. This is especially true for businesses in London’s financial district. With recognition in over 180 countries Aisha can take her business wherever the money trail leads. 


Aisha, keep going with ACCA. If your dream is to run your own business in finance and accounting - it’s the right choice.  

Now that we’ve had a look into the lives of some students, let’s finish off our examination of ACCA vs. ICAEW, by considering career opportunities and benefits.. 

Career Opportunities 

Jobs with ACCA Qualification:

  • Management Accountant: Specialise in financial reporting, budgeting, and performance evaluation.
  • Internal Auditor: Conduct internal financial audits within an organisation to improve efficiency.
  • Financial Analyst: Utilise financial data and trends to advise businesses on their financial decisions.
  • Forensic Accountant: Dive into the investigative side of accounting, particularly useful for litigation matters and fraud prevention.

Jobs with ICAEW (ACA) Qualification:

  • Chartered Accountant: Offer financial advice and auditing services to a range of clients.
  • Investment Banker: Focus on capital raising strategies for corporations, including debt and equity offerings.
  • Tax Advisor: Specialise in providing tax-related services to individuals and businesses.
  • Consultant: Provide specialised advice to improve business performance in terms of operations, profitability, and structure.

Benefits Overview


  • Global Recognition: Widely recognized in over 180 countries.
  • Flexibility: Varied syllabus with opportunities for specialization.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Lower tuition fees and membership costs.
  • Networking: Strong local chapters and an international network.


  • Prestige: High level of recognition particularly in the UK and a reputation for producing strategic thinkers.
  • Salary Prospects: Generally, higher average salaries for qualified members.
  • Quality of Training: Comprehensive on-the-job training requirement.
  • In-demand Skills: Focus on cultivating skills like financial modeling, compliance, and strategic decision-making, making you highly employable.


As you can see, it really matters what your personal goals and ambitions are and which of these two qualifications matches up with your lifestyle and career needs.

VIVA is an award-winning online accountancy tuition provider and an ACCA Silver Learning Partner, with nearly 1,000,000 lecture views to date ad a 4.9 out of 5 student rating on TrustpilotWe know what it takes to get students through their qualifications fast, and cost-effectively. Explore our ACCA courses here!

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