If you do not work in the financial services sector, then you are unlikely to know the difference between a chartered accountant and an accountant. You might even confuse one for the other, or come to the conclusion that the terms can be used interchangeably. The truth is that there are significant differences between the two titles which extend to the level of education, expertise, specialisation, job scope, and career prospects.
If you are looking to work in business or finance, planning to become an accountant in the near future, or if you just want to expand on your professional knowledge, then it can be useful to understand both the similarities and key differences between the two occupations. Read on to find out more.
What Are The Similarities?
All chartered accountants start off as accountants. They are educated and trained in keeping and interpreting financial records for businesses and individual clients. Their roles and responsibilities include ensuring accuracy of financial documents, creating financial reports, preparing tax returns, evaluating financial operations, and offering advice on profit optimisation.
Both accountants and chartered accountants must possess strong attention to detail, be meticulous in their work, and require skills like data analysis, business acumen, and a strong foundational grasp of mathematics.
What Are The Differences?
To put into simple terms, a chartered accountant is an accountant who has gone through much higher levels of training, education, and certification.
An accountant can be anyone with an educational qualification in accounting. A chartered accountant however, is recognised the world over as having studied accounting to a high level, and is accredited by professional accounting bodies such as the ICAEW. Their designation indicates to potential employers that they have the requisite up-to-date technical knowledge and professional competencies to fulfil a broader and more demanding range of tasks than regular accountants.
How To Become A Chartered Accountant?
Chartered Accountants must undergo rigorous training through a chartered accountant course that involves passing a series of examinations with modules that cover business, finance, law, tax compliance, auditing, and corporate reporting. They also need to have 450 days of practical and relevant work experience with an authorised employer or training principal before they can qualify as chartered accountants. Thus, they are fully equipped with the skills to stand out from the competition, and possess the ability to value-add to their future employers.
What Do Chartered Accountants Do?
While accountants generally go on to specialise in areas such as tax, bookkeeping, or audit, chartered accountants are qualified to take on specific, more complex activities beyond the regular job scope of accountants. These tasks include forensic accounting and corporate financing.
Chartered accountants work with senior management to ensure companies make sound, strategic financial decisions and advise on long-term financial planning matters like mergers, acquisitions, and capital restructuring. Hence you are likely to find chartered accountants working in more corporate environments for larger companies, across a diverse range of industries.
The title of a chartered accountant is a protected term. To use the designation you must have demonstrated to a professional accounting body that you have a high level of specialised theoretical knowledge, and years of work experience that qualifies you to work as a chartered accountant. Valued for their learning, financial education, and insight, chartered accountants are highly sought after for their expertise all around the globe.
If a career in financial services appeals to you and you are wondering about how to become a chartered accountant, you have then made the right first steps by learning about the occupation.
ICAEW offers the Chartered Accountant qualification, the ACA, for budding accountants looking to take on one of the most prestigious professional development programmes available. Contact us today to learn more about how you can be a part of the programme and find out how you can advance your future career prospects.