What's the Difference Between a Chartered Accountant and an Accountant?

Here we collate and simplify all the information you need to understand the difference between a chartered accountant and an accountant.

Are you wondering what the difference is between an accountant and a chartered accountant?

It’s not always easy to choose when exploring career options in accounting. You may grapple with numerous questions about which is better for you and what sets these roles apart. 

To help answer your questions, we’ve articulated all the information you need in one place. Let’s gain an understanding of the difference between these two dynamic roles to make an informed decision.

What is a Chartered Accountant?

Chartered accountants (CA) are highly qualified financial professionals who offer specialist accountancy services, such as applied finances, financial and reporting, management accounting, and taxation. 

Tax filing and financial statement auditing are some of their vital responsibilities. They are in high demand globally for their ability to provide valuable financial insights to businesses and people.

What is an Accountant?

The primary role of an accountant is to keep financial records, provide reports on business performance, prepare for an audit and help with financial planning. 

Their daily tasks include a wide range of activities, for instance, issuing invoices, managing salary and payroll, reconciling bank statements, handling tax-related matters, and analysing data provided by bookkeepers.

As an accountant, you can choose to further your studies and specialise in areas such as taxation, forensic accounting, costing, or any other area of personal interest. This helps open up numerous career paths for you to pursue.

What is the Difference Between a Chartered Accountant and an Accountant?

To reach the status of a "Certified Chartered Accountant," this is what you need to do:

  • Pass a series of exams and complete three to five years of practical work experience to get professional accreditation. 
  • Once qualified, you can become a member of respected professional bodies such as ICAEW or ACCA. 
  • However, when part of a reputable professional body like ICAEW, they require chartered accountants to hold professional indemnity insurance. This offers protection to both clients and you in case of unintended mistakes.
  • Moreover, chartered accountants are bound by the ethical codes established by their respective professional bodies. And if you fail to follow these guidelines can result in the termination of membership. 

On the other hand, no specific qualifications are required to use the title of a regular accountant. You can become a certified accountant by studying through AAT (Association of Accounting Technicians) or gaining knowledge and experience through professional practice. 

Regardless of your path, a certified accountant must adhere to FRC Codes (Financial Reporting Council), which outline their responsibilities and obligations.

In short, the term "accountant" has a broader scope, while becoming a "chartered accountant" involves meeting strict examination and experience requirements, as well as adhering to professional standards and codes.

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How to Become a Chartered Accountant

If you want to become a chartered accountant, here are the following steps you need to follow:

  • First, you must decide whether you want to earn a relevant undergraduate degree. However, having a bachelor's degree can be helpful because it shows a higher level of qualification and knowledge in the field.
  • To become a chartered certified accountant, you need to complete a professional qualification offered by a recognised professional body. These include ACCA, CIMA, AAT, and ACA.
  • After enrolling in the course, complete a series of accredited exams in areas such as auditing financial statements, business strategy, and taxation. These exams are generally undertaken after a minimum of three years of training.
  • Additionally, acquire three years of work experience by working with diverse clients and industries. You must get the approval of a professional body governing chartered accountants for this practical experience. 
  • Engage in yearly professional development training to stay updated with the latest advancements in financial accounting practices, regulations, and industry trends. This continuous learning helps you maintain your skills and knowledge to a high standard.
  • Lastly, follow the professional standards and requirements set by the professional body. This means holding professional indemnity insurance, which protects both the chartered accountant and their clients in case of unintentional errors. 

How to Become an Accountant

To become a certified accountant, below is a step-by-step guide:

  • Although many study options are available, we highly recommend an internationally recognised course with AAT. As a beginner with no prior qualifications, start with the AAT Level 2 Foundation Certificate. From there, you can move on to the  Diploma in Accounting (Level 3) and the Diploma in Professional Accounting (Level 4).
  • Gain real-world professional experience. Join internships, trainee positions, or entry-level accounting roles.

Related: ACCA versus AAT: What's the Difference?

What Are My Career Opportunities?

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Career opportunities for accountants and chartered accountants can vary in terms of scope. Here are some key points differentiating the career paths of these two accounting professions:


This profession offers a wide range of opportunities and paths to explore. Some of the common careers for accountants are:

  1. Certified public accountant
  2. Management accountant
  3. Tax accountant
  4. Forensic accountant
  5. Financial analyst
  6. Auditor
  7. Budget analyst
  8. Cost accountant
  9. Internal auditor
  10. Government accountant
  11. Investment accountant
  12. Consulting accountant
  13. Non-profit accountant
  14. Risk analyst
  15. Financial planner

Chartered Accountants:

Compared with certified accountants, a CA has a much higher designation and many more job opportunities. 

Here is the list of career opportunities you can note as a chartered accountant:

  1. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  2. Financial controller
  3. Audit partner
  4. Tax consultant
  5. Investment banker
  6. Financial analyst
  7. Management consultant
  8. Forensic accountant
  9. Risk manager
  10. Financial planner
  11. Corporate treasurer
  12. Mergers and acquisitions advisor
  13. Internal auditor
  14. Financial reporting manager
  15. Finance director

Salary Expectations 

Salaries vary widely according to your job title, qualifications and location.  For an entry-level accountant position, you can expect to earn £20,000.

The country’s average salary for accountants at £30,000. [1]

For a comprehensive guide to salary expectations for CIMA and ACCA students, please read the relevant articles.


If you're considering a career in finance and want to reach the peak of the accounting field, becoming a chartered accountant may be the ideal road for you. However, a job as an accountant might be a good place to start if you want to work in a more general role. 

Ultimately, the decision depends on your goals, level of interest, finances and time restraints.

However, regardless of your chosen path, the first step is to enrol in an accredited course. VIVA provides you with the highest standard of accredited online CIMA and ACCA tuition and will soon be adding AAT and CMA to that list.

Over 10,000 students have already chosen VIVA as their trusted tuition partner. Register free today to join our mailing list and to sample our award-winning courses, and start your journey in the exciting field of finance!

Article Resources:

1 - https://www.payscale.com/research/UK/Job=Accountant/Salary

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