Course advice for a newbie please? AAT, ACCA or CIMA?

eccleseccles New MemberUKPosts: 12Registered
Hello,

This is my first post here, so here's a brief outline of my situation that will, hopefully, help you understand where I'm at with regards to accountancy. :001_smile:

My main career to date has been as a sound engineer in the film industry but work has become so unreliable in recent years that it's become impossible to rely on it to support my family. I'm currently working as a lorry driver :thumbdown: (it pays the bills!) but I know that work in the film industry isn't going to pick up so with that in mind it's time to make a career change. I'll be 40 next month and have no prior experience in accountancy - other than enjoying and passing Accounting GCSE at school..... which was over 20 years ago now! (oh dear, that makes me feel old! :crying: ).

At the moment I'm more interested in the management side of accounting and being involved with business making decisions rather than opening up my own business as an accountant. *Stupid question alert!* :blushing: ... Does this mean 'industry' is more for me rather than 'practice'?

What I really need to do is find out which courses and professional body to study with. I came to this forum after a friend who has her own practice recommended I went along the AAT route but after reading more about the different bodies - AAT, ACCA, CIMA - I'm a little confused as to the direction in which I should go. I've read plenty of posts on here, and elsewhere, but nothing has really given me enough information that makes me feel like I can make a fully informed decision as to what I need to do next.

So far I have the following (sometimes conflicting) impressions:
  1. AAT seems to be favoured by a lot of employers for entry level vacancies.
  2. ACCA is more highly regarded than AAT.
  3. Almost all the entry level positions require some prior experience. (Catch 22?)
  4. You need a degree to get into a decent, good-sized company. i.e. - one who will give you study support and exam leave as well as lots of excellent experience.
  5. It's not worth doing AAT if I intend to go along the ACCA route.
  6. From my interest in the management side of things, CIMA might be the most appropriate.
  7. AAT Level 2 is a good place to begin training as it starts with the basics and goes from there.
  8. There isn't any disadvantage to distance learning/self study as opposed to attending college. In other words, passing the exams is all that matters and how you got there isn't really important.
Please excuse me if any or all of them are wrong and feel free to put me right!

So as you can see, I'm a bit lost :blink: and really would appreciate some words of wisdom.

Many thanks.

Comments

  • NpsNps Experienced Mentor Posts: 782Registered
    Hello and welcome,

    I can only assist and give my opinion on a couple of your queries as I'm not working in accountancy (as not able to change jobs just yet), but I am well on my way with regards to the studying.

    I started on the ACCA route but with absolutely zero accounting knowledge I felt that ACCA assumed a little bit of previous knowledge. I wanted to make sure I knew the basics rather than just being able to pass the exams so started AAT to get a proper grounding. I fully recommend this route. I've heard others describe AAT as a waste of time if you plan to do ACCA, but I disagree. I am a graduate, also with a post grad diploma, so consider myself to be academically capable. I still recommend AAT first. If you have the time to study, levels 3&4 are completely achievable in 6 months though the norm is to take anything up to 2 yrs or more. I studied level 2 but did not take the exams and just went onto level 3. Although this gave me exemptions from ACCA F1-3, I chose to study these for a couple of weeks and take the exams anyway. I found this to be excellent revision and satisfied me that I was as prepared as I could be for the higher levels. I sat F6 a couple of weeks ago.

    1. I am due to start job hunting in a few months and I can now claim to have a full accounting qualification under my belt rather than just the first few ACCA exams. I don't know if it will make any difference at all, but I am hoping that it will open up some entry level jobs that may not have been available otherwise (I am expecting to have to start at the bottom!)

    2. Yes ACCA is the higher qualification.

    3. Yes, this is also what I am most concerned about.

    4. I'm sure someone else will be able to give you some info on this.

    5. See above. I did the whole of AAT in 6 months. It would have taken me about the same amount of time to do F1-3 anyway so I see it as just killing two birds with one stone. I feel AAT is better suited for an absolute beginner regardless of your future aspirations.

    6. Again, I'm sure someone more qualified can answer that for you, but I know opinions do differ.

    7. Yes, but if you feel confident about the content, you can do a free skills check on the AAT website and then go straight onto level 3. This is what I did.

    8. Yes correct. I just buy the study guides and revision kits. You can then book the exams as an external candidate. I am self funding so obviously go for the cheapest option. I'm sure this approach wouldn't work for everyone though. I like to think that a potential employer will be impressed with my self motivation, but the truth is, I doubt they'll have much interest in how I gained the qualification! I've found the BPP study texts to be excellent and have never come across a question that I didn't feel was adequately covered. This forum is also excellent if you are stuck with anything.

    I am almost your age, and this was also a concern of mine, but there seems to be plenty of us in the same boat. In my ACCA exam a few weeks ago, I certainly didn't feel particularly old.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to do, I'm so glad I've started down this route as I am thoroughly enjoying it and am quite excited at the change in career direction.
  • eccleseccles New Member UKPosts: 12Registered
    Thanks for the quick reply. It's very helpful and much appreciated. :001_smile:
  • aaron0121aaron0121 Trusted Regular BirminghamPosts: 422Registered
    Hi Eccles welcome to the forum :)

    My advice would be to firstly start studying AAT, as AAT will provide you with a solid base to start your accountancy
    career. Whilst studying for AAT try and start finding some practical work in accounts, as in order to become
    ACCA/CIMA qualified you do need three years worth of experience in an finance related role. If you're interested in
    the management aspect of accounting then yes CIMA will be a better option for you. Bearing in mind that whilst
    studying AAT, you will learn a lot more on whether management accounting is the right option for you, when
    studying the modules financial performance and budgeting in AAT level 4.

    1. Yep I would agree.

    2. Yes ACCA is a chartered qualification, so it would be.

    3. Just depends on the employer, I'm an accounts assistant with no prior experience so it's possible.

    4. In some circumstances yes but some companies may offer you a job with AAT level 3 and 4 under your
    belt and then provide you with the study support for ACCA/CIMA.

    5. It's 100% definitely worth doing AAT before ACCA as AAT will provide you with a solid platform in accountancy.

    6. Yes CIMA I believe would be the most appropriate.

    7. Yes I would advise you to start studying AAT level 2 straight away. However this will give you a guidance on
    the right level to start at http://www.aatskillcheck.org/home.aspx.

    8. Nope it doesn't matter, a pass is a pass :thumbup1:

    Hope this helps a bit

    Good luck

    Aaron
    AAT

    Level 2 - 2010
    Level 3 - 2011
    Level 4 - 2013

    ACCA

    F4 - 2015
    F5 - 2015
    lolidee
  • eccleseccles New Member UKPosts: 12Registered
    Aaron, that's excellent. Thanks a lot. :001_smile:

    I knew I should have posted my questions in here sooner, maybe then I wouldn't have started getting myself quite so confused! :001_rolleyes: I'd started to think that the AAT was more appropriate if I was intending to start up my own business as an accountant but it would seem that it's not necessarily the case. I had no idea that Level 4 of AAT covered a lot on the management side of accounting so getting to know more about it will definitely be a good way to find out if it really is what I think it is.

    Thanks again, you've helped enormously. :thumbup:
  • eccleseccles New Member UKPosts: 12Registered
    aaron0121 wrote: »
    ...this will give you a guidance on
    the right level to start at http://www.aatskillcheck.org/home.aspx.

    Forgot to mention that I did this a couple of weeks ago and it pointed me towards level 2. :001_smile:

    I was fine on the Personal/Office skills; IT skills & Costing sections but I'll not mention the Financial Transactions or Double Entry Bookkeeping parts. :blushing: :wink:
  • Editor of AccountingBitesEditor of AccountingBites Just Joined Posts: 4Registered
    Hi Eccles,

    It looks like Aaron has already given you a good amount of guidance, so how about some motivation.. You say you'er 40 this month, but don't let that slow you down. Have a read of this article of a war veteran who turned accountant:
    http://www.accountingbites.co.uk/2012/09/19/from-an-raf-officer-to-an-accountant-its-never-too-late-to-have-a-career-move/

    Goodluck with your studies!

    Regards,

    Editor, Accounting Bites.
  • eccleseccles New Member UKPosts: 12Registered
    That looks interesting, thanks. :001_smile: It's a shame that the link to the FT article requires a subscription to their website as I would like to have read it.
  • JaffasGirlJaffasGirl Trusted Regular Posts: 387Registered
    Hey just wanted to give a bit of advice from my experience in relation to number four.

    I managed to get a job as a Purchase Ledger Assistant in a medium sized company around 8 months ago.

    I don't have a degree, nor did i have any previous experience. I had not even completed level 2 of AAT (I still had Computerised Accounting to go) and they gave me a chance. I worked hard and they gave me a promotion after four months to Accounts Assistant with a lot more exposure to the accounts side of things rather than processing invoices.

    My company is giving me exam support, they are paying for my expenses (books and exams) and allowing me time off for my exams as and when i need it.

    I think if you can prove that you have a good work ethic and are willing to help whenever you can, you'll be fine.

    In terms of AAT not being equivalent to ACCA in employers eyes, you are probably right. But i would say that at least at my company AAT is considered the best qualification for those in the entry level positions, that said the Revenue Accounting Manager, is 'only' AAT and is absolutely fantastic at her job, and her knowledge is amazing as she has learnt it on the job and not just from a text book.

    Just thought I would give another perspective!
  • NileshladvaNileshladva Settling In Nicely Posts: 22Registered
    Hi eccles,

    I'd just like to say welcome to the forums, I'm fairly new here too and I know how frustrating it is to have so many questions and not get clear answer. If I'm honest, most people on these forums give great answers and really help each other out so rest assured, you've come to the right place.
    So far I have the following (sometimes conflicting) impressions:
    1. AAT seems to be favoured by a lot of employers for entry level vacancies.
    2. ACCA is more highly regarded than AAT.
    3. Almost all the entry level positions require some prior experience. (Catch 22?)
    4. You need a degree to get into a decent, good-sized company. i.e. - one who will give you study support and exam leave as well as lots of excellent experience.
    5. It's not worth doing AAT if I intend to go along the ACCA route.
    6. From my interest in the management side of things, CIMA might be the most appropriate.
    7. AAT Level 2 is a good place to begin training as it starts with the basics and goes from there.
    8. There isn't any disadvantage to distance learning/self study as opposed to attending college. In other words, passing the exams is all that matters and how you got there isn't really important.

    I did a good amount of research before i started AAT, and I'm using the facts and figures that I found during my search.

    1. AAT would be favored by more employers for entry level vacancies. This is probably because AAT is the best possible entry level qualification you could gain, what I mean by that is that AAT offer levels from intro (Level 2) up to a level 4 diploma.

    2. Considering that AAT starts from level 2 and ends at level 4, and ACCA starts at level 4, its only logical that ACCA be more highly regarded.

    3. Luckily sanity prevails and this is false, you do not need prior experience for entry level jobs. I know a person who is currently in the middle of their level level 2 qualification and was given the opportunity to work at just under an accounts assistant role.. and like JaffasGirl said, she had no prior experience yet they gave her a chance, so don't worry too much about getting a job.

    4. What's the point of accounting courses such as AAT and ACCA if they don't allow you to get into a good sized company? In my opinion, a degree is the past and what employers really need is a person who knows their stuff and have it backed up by an accredited organization.

    5. Like i said before, if ACCA starts at level 4. how on Earth do you expect to pass the exams if you know nothing? I don't mean to sound like a know it all, but it's better to build your way to the ACCA through AAT rather than jump strait onto the level 4.

    6. I would agree, CIMA is probably your best option if you want to get into Management Accounting, unfortunately I don't know too much about the levels of entry but I do know that if you do atleast the level 2 in AAT you are given certain exceptions.

    7. Absolutely spot on, I knew nothing of accounting, except that they make allot of money.. and now i'm doing level 2 and can see why! But if you haven't already then check out the skills checker on the AAT site, it will give you a good indication of what level to start in.

    8. Well, sort of.. I am working through a distance learning provider now and there aren't many disadvantages to it.. the only issue someone may have is that if they don't have the motivation, then no-one will be pushing them.. also its not just all about passing the exam, because if you pass it and then in the working environment you don't know what to do.. it almost becomes a waste.

    I really hope i helped you,

    Best of Luck!

    Ps. You are not too old :thumbup1:
  • aaron0121aaron0121 Trusted Regular BirminghamPosts: 422Registered

    6. I would agree, CIMA is probably your best option if you want to get into Management Accounting, unfortunately I don't know too much about the levels of entry but I do know that if you do atleast the level 2 in AAT you are given certain exceptions.

    To get exemptions for CIMA you need to have completed AAT level 4, you will be exempt from the certificate level
    consisting of 5 papers.

    @ Eccles,

    Have you started studying AAT yet?
    AAT

    Level 2 - 2010
    Level 3 - 2011
    Level 4 - 2013

    ACCA

    F4 - 2015
    F5 - 2015
  • eccleseccles New Member UKPosts: 12Registered
    aaron0121 wrote: »
    Have you started studying AAT yet?

    Not yet. I'm looking at getting the Level 2 books as soon as possible so I can start studying in my own time. I can't afford to do a distance learning course as we just don't have £600+ for the fees so I thought if I can get some books, which are a lot cheaper, I can at least start learning now.
  • VentraVentra New Member Posts: 14Registered
    Hi

    I have to agree with everything said previously!

    I changed careers at age 40 to become a Financial Adviser, had to study for CII Financial Planning Cert(5 Exams) CISI Securities Certificate(1 exam) before I could work. And then two years later I had to do another 5 exams to reach Diploma level otherwise I could no longer practice when the rules changed on 1/1/13.

    I then decided having been studying almost constantly for the last 5 years I'd carry on! Accountancy seemed logical given my desire to work with Finance Professionals. The AAT offers a good foundation route.

    What I am getting at is that it is hard to get back on a Study Horse after 20+ Years, so when you do get on it....ride it like hell so that you get to your goal, and when you reach that one keep going and find another goal.


    Bill
    samwh
  • NileshladvaNileshladva Settling In Nicely Posts: 22Registered
    Ventra wrote: »
    Hi

    I have to agree with everything said previously!

    I changed careers at age 40 to become a Financial Adviser, had to study for CII Financial Planning Cert(5 Exams) CISI Securities Certificate(1 exam) before I could work. And then two years later I had to do another 5 exams to reach Diploma level otherwise I could no longer practice when the rules changed on 1/1/13.

    I then decided having been studying almost constantly for the last 5 years I'd carry on! Accountancy seemed logical given my desire to work with Finance Professionals. The AAT offers a good foundation route.

    What I am getting at is that it is hard to get back on a Study Horse after 20+ Years, so when you do get on it....ride it like hell so that you get to your goal, and when you reach that one keep going and find another goal.


    Bill

    Inspiring! ;)
  • GibbyGibby Posts: 9Registered
    eccles said:

    Hello,



    This is my first post here, so here's a brief outline of my situation that will, hopefully, help you understand where I'm at with regards to accountancy. :001_smile:



    My main career to date has been as a sound engineer in the film industry but work has become so unreliable in recent years that it's become impossible to rely on it to support my family. I'm currently working as a lorry driver :thumbdown: (it pays the bills!) but I know that work in the film industry isn't going to pick up so with that in mind it's time to make a career change. I'll be 40 next month and have no prior experience in accountancy - other than enjoying and passing Accounting GCSE at school..... which was over 20 years ago now! (oh dear, that makes me feel old! :crying: ).



    At the moment I'm more interested in the management side of accounting and being involved with business making decisions rather than opening up my own business as an accountant. *Stupid question alert!* :blushing: ... Does this mean 'industry' is more for me rather than 'practice'?



    What I really need to do is find out which courses and professional body to study with. I came to this forum after a friend who has her own practice recommended I went along the AAT route but after reading more about the different bodies - AAT, ACCA, CIMA - I'm a little confused as to the direction in which I should go. I've read plenty of posts on here, and elsewhere, but nothing has really given me enough information that makes me feel like I can make a fully informed decision as to what I need to do next.



    So far I have the following (sometimes conflicting) impressions:


    1. AAT seems to be favoured by a lot of employers for entry level vacancies.
    2. ACCA is more highly regarded than AAT.
    3. Almost all the entry level positions require some prior experience. (Catch 22?)
    4. You need a degree to get into a decent, good-sized company. i.e. - one who will give you study support and exam leave as well as lots of excellent experience.
    5. It's not worth doing AAT if I intend to go along the ACCA route.
    6. From my interest in the management side of things, CIMA might be the most appropriate.
    7. AAT Level 2 is a good place to begin training as it starts with the basics and goes from there.
    8. There isn't any disadvantage to distance learning/self study as opposed to attending college. In other words, passing the exams is all that matters and how you got there isn't really important.
    Please excuse me if any or all of them are wrong and feel free to put me right!



    So as you can see, I'm a bit lost :blink: and really would appreciate some words of wisdom.



    Many thanks.
    Hopefully I can be of some help.

    If I could have my time starting again. I would choose to start from the beginning with AAT. My degree meant I was exempt from certain areas so I jumped right in with CIMA after dabbling with ACA for a year. I loved CIMA, ACA and ACCA was too theoretical for me whilst CIMA as case study, and it is perfect for middle management in manufacturing where I have spent a lot of my career manipulating spreadsheets and analysing margins and costs etc.

    The problem I had was when after redundancy I found myself in much smaller companies where I did not have the staff I had previously and I had to put procedures into place in more traditional environments and some without GRNI control accounts, the horror. This was when I was sent the link for AAT as I had to get involved with posting expenses, producing a GRNI which I had never done before and reconciling petty cash. I had always had other people on hand for these sort of tasks. I have therefore found despite having excellent analysis skills and modelling I was lacking some of the basics which are essential in smaller companies. It has not harmed my career until now I would say. I have worked for SME's and PLC's and the demarcation between job roles can be very well defined therefore in the workplace you may never cover the some of the basics which you will cover with AAT.

    I am currently going back now and purchased some AAT books to go over some of the basics which you will not find on a CIMA course and if you work where I have you will never need these basics as they will be covered by many other people but I seem to be more in demand these days as lead finance within start ups. Also I am finding it quite interesting. When you use large ERP's like Oracle as I have it has so many checks and balances within it there is very little processing and much more analysis so using Sage has been a real eye opener and fits very well with AAT. It does not matter where you are in your career you will need the basics and the higher level skills. Also it does not matter how you get there. My route has become very circuitous. One of my friends and former charge studied AAT and followed a linear progression all the way to FD. That is probably the best way. My route has been all over and there has been no linear method. I have been an Auditor, briefly, Management Accountant, Analyst and Group Financial Controller and now I am involved with start ups. This is currently my second.

    All I can say is I would not be here without CIMA but I may have followed a more linear path had I studied AAT first. I think the basics will make you a better accountant but it depends what you are looking for. I have friends who have no interest in the nuts and bolts but their spreadsheet abilities and working for a huge organisations mean they do not have to. I have been there and done that and those organisations do not suit me.

    I think you have to work where you feel most comfortable and that will then dictate the skills you need.
  • GibbyGibby Posts: 9Registered
    With regards to catch 22 you could try one day a week voluntary maybe? Just a thought if finances allowed. Failing that I think you just have to find the right company. A friend of mine is 50's and just started AAT so in comparison age is on your side.
  • CeeJaySixCeeJaySix Well-Known Posts: 645Registered
    Hopefully Eccles has managed to work it all out in the last 3.5yrs...
    BeccaLouJ9MarieNoelle
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