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Accountants - Chartered, Certified or Management?

Posted on 16 March, 2014 at 23:31
You may have noticed that there are a few different types of accountant out there and wondered what on earth the difference is between them. The types of accountant that you are likely to see are chartered accountant, certified accountant, management accountant and even public accountant. Or of course you may have just assumed that it is only a “Chartered Accountant” who is actually a qualified accountant which isn’t the case.

In fact, the different descriptions, or designations, are usually an indication of the professional accountancy body that the accountant qualified with. In England, where I originally qualified as an accountant, there are several different professional bodies to choose from, all of which give you a professional accountancy qualification, and the majority of which also offer their qualifications on a global level:

  • CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants Qualified members are given a designation of CGMA or Chartered Global Management Accountant
  • ICAEW – Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales Qualified members are given a designation of ACA or Chartered Accountant
  • ACCA – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants Qualified members are given a designation of ACCA or Chartered Certified Accountant
  • CIPFA – Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Qualified members are given a designation of CPFA or Chartered Public Finance Accountant

Each of these professional bodies has a system of examinations and required professional experience before membership is granted and each body also requires its members to undertake a minimum number of hours “continued professional development” each year.

In Australia there are three professional accountancy bodies:

  • CPA Australia – Certified Practising Accountants
  • ICA Australia – Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • IPA Australia – Institute of Public Accountants

And in New Zealand there is just the one:

  • NZICA – New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants

Other countries will have all also have their equivalent accountancy bodies.

So what is the difference? Well, in simple terms, the difference tends to come through in specialisation. All qualified accountants, regardless of which accountancy body they qualified with will cover certain subjects such as Accounting Standards, Financial Statements, Tax, Business Law etc. However, some accountancy bodies, such as CIMA for example, will have a higher proportion of concentration (exam wise) on management accounting, costing, business finance etc. while others such as ICAEW will have a larger concentration (exam wise) on auditing, taxation and law.

Public accountants have, as their name implies, much more learning toward accounting for public finance and are more likely to work in publicly funded environments such as government departments or district councils.

The professional experience required to gain full membership of an accountancy body (once exams have been completed) will also generally have different requirements between the accountancy bodies in terms of the disciplines for which minimum requirements are needed.

As a general rule of thumb most chartered accountants will have started out working in an accountancy practise whereas most management or certified accountants will have started out in the accounts department of a commercial company. However, career directions can change and over time the different “types” of accountants can become much more intermingled with chartered accountants in commerce and management or certified accountants in practise.

I remember when interviewing a candidate for a position once (in England) I asked her why she had chosen to study with the ACCA. Her answer, I felt, was quite insightful and gave some distinction between the different designations. She answered that CIMA was very industry based, ICAEW was very practise based whereas ACCA was more middle of the road, somewhere between the other two.

So is one type of accountant better than another? While many of my colleagues are likely to argue with me, arguing in favour of their particular institution, the simple answer is no. We are all qualified accountants, regardless of which designation we may hold, and through continued professional development, we are all qualified and capable of doing the work that we do.

Categories: accounting

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1 Comment

Reply Accountants startup business
13:20 on 21 August, 2014 
Valuable information you have provided here about Chartered Accountant.