How to Become a Chartered Accountant. Becoming a Chartered Accountant (CA) is a challenging yet rewarding career decision. This designation demonstrates that you have mastery in accounting. As well, this profession can offer excellent job prospects on a global scale, desirable starting salaries, and job flexibility. As well, Chartered Accountants work in a wide range of industries, from the financial sector to private businesses to public service. The track to becoming a Chartered Accountant requires that you obtain a solid education and professional training, and that you pass qualifying examinations.
Getting an Education in Chartered Accountancy
Choose a path.
There are a number of different paths you can take under the heading of Chartered Accountancy. Some of these include Chartered Accountant (Audit), Chartered Certified Accountant, Chartered Management Accountant, Chartered Public and Finance Accountant. These vary depending on the training emphasis you have, size of organization you work for, whether you work in management, and so on.
- Ask yourself questions about the type of professional career you’d like. For example, what size firm would you like to work for? Do you want to have a private practice? Do you want to work for nonprofit organizations or for-profit businesses?
- As you get more training and experience, you’ll get a better idea of the aspects you like and don’t like.
Get an undergraduate degree.
Enroll in a four-year accredited university program. Aim for a degree in accounting, economics, or business. If you already have an undergraduate degree, it doesn’t necessarily matter if your degree is not in one of these subject areas. You will, however, need to take extra classes to hone your skills in numeracy and other accounting-related subjects.
- Get good grades in your classes, especially in any math- or business-related classes.
- Alternately, some professional organizations will accept a 2-year accounting associate degree as a foundational education for an aspiring Chartered Accountant.
Take courses in subject areas pertaining to accounting.
If you have an undergraduate degree in a subject area unrelated to accounting or business, enroll in classes on accounting or economics at a local college. Courses might include accounting, taxation, finance, auditing, and statistics.
Enroll in a chartered accountant prep program.
Some accountancy programs offer programs that prepare you to start a CA training program. These programs give you education in specific subject areas to build your numeracy skills and other areas.
Enroll in a chartered accountant training program.
In a CA training program, you will take classes to build your competencies in key subject areas, such as finance, taxation, financial accounting and law. These courses may be offered in person or online.
- Some training programs, such as the program offered by Chartered Accountants Ireland, consist of courses that prepare you directly for the examinations. For example, in Ireland, you will register for the Chartered Accountant Proficiency 1 (CAP1) exam, which covers Finance, Management Accounting, Financial Accounting, Taxation, and Law for Accountants. The syllabus for the course describes the learning outcomes and weighting for the course’s exam.
- Some programs are offered for working professionals who already have jobs and who have experience in the financial sector. Check with your local organization to learn more about the options for working professionals
Getting Professional Experience
Apply for a professional experience placement.
A core requirement of the Chartered Accountant is to gain three years of professional experience with an approved employer. These employers are usually accounting firms or financial firms that are registered with the CA professional association in your region.
- Search for placements in your region by checking with your CA professional association.
- Apply for placements in your industry of choice.
- If you want to work for an organization that is not authorized, you may be able to register your manager as someone who is authorized to evaluate your performance and growth. Check with your CA professional association to see if this is an option.
Work in a professional placement for 3 years.
Once you have been hired in your placement, you will work in this organization for 3 years in order to gain experience in the company. Some placements rotate you through different divisions of the company so that you gain exposure to several different lines of business.
Submit a report of your professional competencies.
As you progress through your professional training, keep track of your achievements and competencies. At the end of your 3-year program, you will need to submit an evaluation of your competencies.
- In some regions in Britain, this is called an Achievement Log. In Canada, it is known as the Record of CA Qualifying Experience (RQE).
Get additional professional experience.
If you are living in a country where you are not a citizen, you may need to get additional experience in that country to qualify to become a Chartered Accountant. Some of your home country experience will likely count towards your qualifications, but getting experience in the local context will be useful and possibly necessary.
Taking the Qualifying Exams
Schedule your exams.
Some regions will test you incrementally. When you finish one phase of your education, you will be tested, and then you will progress to the next phase. There will also be final comprehensive exams, which often are three-day testing sessions.
- In Ireland, for example, you will take the Chartered Accountant Proficiency 1 (CAP1), Chartered Accountant Proficiency (CAP2), and the Final Admitting Examination (FAE). The CAP1 covers Finance, Management Accounting, Financial Accounting, Taxation, and Law for Accountants. CAP 2 covers Audit & Assurance, Strategic Finance & Management Accounting, Taxation and Financial Reporting. The FAE is a comprehensive final exam.
Study for the exam well in advance.
Do not try to wing it by coming into your exam unprepared. Also, don’t cram for the exam, thinking that you will absorb and retain all the information the day before the exam. Make a study plan that builds in plenty of time to study, working about a month out from your exam date.
- Find a study partner to help you study. This could be someone else who is also taking the exam, or it might be someone who is already a Chartered Accountant.
- Many work placements will give you some education leave so that you can take time off work to study for your exams.
Take practice tests online.
There are a number of practice tests for Chartered Accountancy exams available online. Check to make sure the practice tests are for your region and your exam, as the tests do vary from region to region.
Confirm the time and location of your exam.
Make sure you know when to arrive for your exam. Be sure to check out the location where you will be tested. Map out your route for getting there so that you can arrive early and get settled before the exam starts.
Get a good night’s sleep.
The night before your exam, be sure to get a good night’s sleep. Get about 7-8 hours of sleep. Try to relax as much as possible. If you are having trouble getting to sleep, try listening to some calming music.
Eat a good breakfast.
Fueling your body with a healthy breakfast will help you maintain focus and concentration throughout your exam.
Take the qualifying examinations.
Different countries and accountancy organizations have different examination formats, but all require that you pass an evaluation to become a Chartered Accountant.
- There are different score minimums that you must attain; for example, you must achieve a minimum of 50% on your exams in Ireland in order to pass.
- In Canada, for example,you’ll take the Uniform Evaluation, which is a three-day, national exam that tests you on your competencies in responding to business simulations.
Joining the Professional Field
Become a member of a recognized accountancy organization.
Your region will likely have a professional organization for Chartered Accountants. Once you have gained your professional experience and you have passed your examinations, you are eligible to become a member of this organization.
Comply with your organization’s standards.
Once certified, chartered accountants are monitored and supervised by their home institute, and must comply with all rules and standards established by these organizations to retain their certification.
Apply for jobs.
Polish your resume, including your new training and certification as a Chartered Accountant. Send your resume and a cover letter to accountancy firms.
- Alternately, you might be hired on permanently at the company where you had your professional placement.
Find a mentor.
Locating someone who can serve as a mentor as you build your career can be helpful. This person might be a former supervisor or another contact you’ve made in the field. They can help you determine strategic career paths, help you connect with other professionals, and give you career advice.
Network in your field.
Build your professional contacts in your field by networking with other Chartered Accountants. Join LinkedIn and other social media sites to connect with professionals. Attend networking events held by your professional association.