For any accounting professional looking to advance their career, the ACCA exams are worth it. As a global qualification, the ACCA is recognised by employers across the world.
If you are looking to take your accounting and finance career to the next level, taking professional exams is the best next step.
But there are several to choose from and it’s a big decision. So, you want to be certain you’re making the right choice.
In this article, we explore one of the most popular - ACCA - and look at the reasons it's woth it and why it may not be for you depending on your career aspirations and circumstances.
A Quick ACCA Overview
The ACCA qualification consists of a maximum of 15 exams, the Ethics and Professional Skills module and the 36-month professional experience requirement.
When you complete the qualification you become an ACCA member and chartered accountant.
This means you join a global community of over 200,000 other members and 500,000 students across 179 countries. It’s a truly global qualification that’s recognised and rewarded by thousands of employers across the globe.
So, let’s look at why that matters for you.
8 Reasons the ACCA qualification is Great!
#1 – Find support wherever you are
The ACCA has a huge global infrastructure, so most aspiring finance professionals will find the qualification is well-supported in their home country.
This is also important because it means the ACCA has a huge global membership body, so you’ll have an in-built community of peers to support you.
Bear in mind that professional qualifications are a big undertaking and sometimes stressful and difficult. Having a community of like-minded peers can make the difference between giving up and sticking out the tough times.
#2 – Access international opportunities
The ACCA opens up a world of international opportunity, and gives you a strong global network.
So you might qualify in Nigeria or Malaysia or Zambia but then choose to build your career in London or New York or Tokyo or Toronto, for example.
If you do want to travel with your career, the ACCA makes that possible.
#3 – Build a better career
The ACCA works with business leaders across the globe to make sure the qualification helps you build the skills, thinking and judgement that you’ll need in the workplace, to add maximum value to the business you work for.
That means the ACCA is a well-regarded qualification, which is very attractive to employers.
For you, this means taking the ACCA improves your CV and boosts your chances of building the career you want, now and throughout your career. If you aspire to senior strategic leadership, the ACCA qualification is a must-have.
#4 – Earn a higher salary
In purely financial terms, the ACCA is worth it because qualifying means you’ll increase your earning potential much more than the cost of the exams.
That’s not to say the ACCA is a golden ticket – you won’t double, triple or quadruple your earnings overnight. But, taking the ACCA does mean you’re worth more to employers and can command a greater salary.
Read more: What do you earn after passing the ACCA?
#5 – Study in a way that suits you!
One key reason the ACCA is good is that it’s so flexible.
You can study full-time or part-time. You can work while you study or not. You can study in a classroom or using online materials. Or, you can choose options papers that align to your chosen career path, or keep your learning broad.
From your perspective, that means you have loads of choice in how you take the ACCA, so you can make the exams fit into your life in the best way for you.
#6 – Get emotional and/or financial support from employers
If you do choose to work while you study, many employers sponsor their employees through their ACCA exams. This means your employer could cover the cost of your qualification.
Even where employers aren’t in a position to sponsor, the ACCA is good because it’s so well-recognised and well-regarded that you’ll, at the least, have the emotional support from your boss.
Your employer knows how important the qualification is – not just to you, but to them and their business – so you’ll get a lot of support on your journey.
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#7 – If you stop halfway, the ACCA is still worth it
The ACCA hope every student will carry on throughout their exams and complete the full qualification, but they also recognise that life sometimes gets in the way.
So, they introduced milestone qualifications along the way. This means the ACCA isn’t all-or-nothing. If you start then stop, the ACCA is still worth it, because you've still gained diplomas that boost your career.
If you complete the full qualification, that’s ideal and you’re a chartered accountant and ACCA member. But if you complete all the exams but don’t complete the other requirements, you’re still an ACCA Associate.
Plus, if you pass the first two tiers of exams, Applied Knowledge and Applied Skills, and your Ethics and Professional Skills module, you gain an Advanced Diploma in Accounting and Business.
So the ACCA is good because you can start now. But if you change your mind later or your circumstances change, you haven’t wasted your time.
#8 – You’ll feel great about yourself
This might seem like an insignificant benefit, but don’t underestimate the power of an incredible sense of achievement.
When you complete the ACCA, you’ll know that you’re one of the elite accounting and finance professionals in the world. You know that you’ve put in the time and effort to achieve something that most other people never achieve.
And whenever you face hurdles in your career or personal life, you’ll know you have that strength in you, to draw from. That’s one of the best things about the ACCA qualification.
It’s not all rosy though – and as you’ll see, there are also three big reasons NOT to take the ACCA.
3 Reasons NOT to take the ACCA
Here’s a few reasons why you might not want to choose the ACCA qualification.
#1 – It's time consuming and you’ll make sacrifices
The ACCA is a big commitment, and it takes several years. And that’s if you pass everything first time, which most students don’t (we’ll come onto that in a minute).
Which means you’ll have to make sacrifices. Especially if you’re planning to work while you study, you’ll often work long hours, then have to make study work around that. As a result your social life can suffer.
If you’re worried about making those sorts of sacrifices – even for the benefits above – then the ACCA probably isn’t right for you.
#2 – The ACCA is stressful
The ACCA is stressful, there are no two ways about it. There are bound to be moments where you’re overly stressed and frustrated, but you’re unlikely to find the ACCA super stressful every day.
However, if you already know you’re susceptible to stress that really impacts your quality of life, you might want to reconsider professional qualifications full stop. Or learn some better coping mechanisms before you enrol.
#3 – The ACCA is hard work
This is a big one. You can’t get something for nothing, and all the benefits above come at a cost. The ACCA is difficult.
Read more: How difficult is the ACCA really?
Pass rates on the earlier papers sit in the 70s and 80s but the later papers can drop into the 20s and 30s. Overall more students fail than pass.
But listen. That’s not just because the ACCA course material is hard. It isn’t easy, sure, because these are professional level qualifications. But it’s not insurmountably difficult. You don’t need to be super intelligent to pass the ACCA.
But you do need to be hard-working, committed and resilient. You do need to learn from your mistakes. You do need to use all the materials you’re given. You do need to practice, practice, practice. You do need to be humble enough to take advice (because yes, your exam technique could probably be improved).
So, the ACCA is good if you are those things. But if you’re not, and you know you’re not, taking the ACCA could be a waste of time.
So is the ACCA worth it?
In our opinion, yes, but only for certain students. If you’re willing to put the work in, make certain sacrifices and work through the occasional tough times, the ACCA is worth it.
Because you might face some setbacks, but you’ll learn from your mistakes and you’ll keep ploughing on. Plus, when you do pass, you’ll unlock fantastic benefits like a global career and higher earnings.
However, if you’re uncertain about committing to the amount of work, or you think you can just coast through the exams, or you aren’t sure you really want this, the ACCA is probably not for you.
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