Potential accounting students often raise the questions - what is the best accounting body and what are the differences between certain bodies. Not as simple a request as the uninitiated may think.
It is hoped this thread will provide a forum to answer these questions.
If providing information you could be detailed i.e. ACCA Vs CPA or more ambitious and include a greater range.
I would include the Technician bodies i.e IATI, AAT and CAT as being among the professional bodies. IATI Vs ACCA etc is a frequent enough request.
Bear in mind no matter how detailed or objective you think you are there will be others out there that may disagree.
I know there are other bodies out there, but if we keep to those that are most relevant to Ireland this would include ACCA, CAI, CIMA, ICPAI, IIPA and AAT, IATI and CAT. I've excluded tax on purpose as this is a separate concern.
Please note that the moderators will police this thread with the view to keeping it as fact based as possible and away from opinions
I may add my own input here, but for now feel free to post your advice/experiences.
I’ve given my shot at this below. I’m an ACCA so I’ll start with these and make some comparisons with the other bodies where relevant, and also set out what I know about the other bodies under their own headings.
ACCA has over 140,000 members and over 400,000 students in over 170 countries. There would be over half as many ACCA members in Ireland compared to CAI members, but now has almost twice as many current students than CAI.
ACCA considers itself a global body, but are missing some key reciprocal agreements in Anglo countries, such as the US, Canada and Australia where the CAI have better agreements with its sister organisations. ICPAI also have a reciprocal agreement with CPA Australia. <personal opinion alert> I think this is because ACCA are set up in these countries and would be seen as competitors rather than partners.
ACCA members and Students would be found in small and medium sized practices, but are slowly breaking into some of the big four. ACCA members would also be found at all levels of industry, but most top jobs would remain with CAI members <personal opinion alert> possibly due to historical legacy.
The ACCA exams along with CIMA’s would be rated as among the hardest. Rates are lower than CAI’s exams. Its not unusual for final audit paper to have a lower than 30% pass rate at an individual sitting.
ACCA has for a number of years allowed options in the final stages of its qualification. Broadly speaking there is the traditional audit route or the Management Accounting route (similar to CIMA’s qualification).
ACCA students study in third party colleges, whereas all CAI education is done in-house; they are the college essentially. So you can only do the CAI academic programme through their own internal education. ACCA rate colleges as ACCA approved, ACCA Gold Approved, and ACCA Platinum Approved. There would also be other non approved colleges that offer ACCA lectures.
Teaching Council of Ireland recognise ACCA (and ICPAI) for the purposes of teaching three subjects to leaving cert level. Business Studies, Economics and Accounting. CAI are only recognised for Business Studies and Accounting.
Annual membership fee approx €200 euro approx a third of CAI and ICPAI fees.
Studying costs are borne by student whereas CAI students (excluding "Flexible Option" / Chartered Business Route) have these fees paid for them. <MOD NOTE: Many CAI students don't have their fees paid for them. If they are under a training contact, yes they do; if they are in the Flexible Route, they may or may not, depending on where they are working.>
ACCA students require 3 years approved experience (one of which can be before joining ACCA, but 2 years must be after joining).
ACCA, CAI, CPA and IIPA members can receive a practice certificate or audit certificate if they receive the relevant approved experience.
ACCA qualification has been rated at HETAC level 9 (same level as masters degree).
Designation: ACCA for Member and FCCA for Fellow – can call themselves Chartered Certified Accountant
The oldest accountancy body in Ireland with over 23,000 members. 3,500 are based abroad.
Chartered students can either enter into a training contract or go into the Flexible Option, where no contract is required at any stage.
ACA would be considered the premium designation, although somewhat diluted since ACCA members became chartered (see below paragraph on chartered satus) in the 90s.
It has excellent reciprocal agreements in the UK, US, Australia and Canada with only tax and legal papers required to get membership of local premier bodies in US, Australia and Canada.
ACA’s will be found in small, medium and the largest practices as well as in industry.
ACA students enter into contracts with ACA approved firms (practice or less usual, industry) and cannot become members until a certain amount of time has elapsed - from 3.5 years to 5 years depending on whether you join as a graduate or school leaver.
<MOD NOTE: This is partly true, as while the majority of students are in practice under contract, about 20% would be in the Flexible Option for CAI, where there is no training contract requirement. These would mostly be found in Industry.>
ACA also provide their students with mock exams before sitting the real thing.
ACA qualification has been rated at HETAC level 9 (same level as masters degree).
Designation: ACA for member and FCA for Fellow – Can call themselves Chartered Accountant.
An Irish based accountancy body with over 5,000 on its books (including members and students).
It’s members would mostly work in practice with small and medium sized practices, with some working in industry.
CPA is not a member of the CCAB (like ACCA, CAI, and CIMA), but are members of the CCAB-I (as are ACCA and the CAI).
CPA would not have as much recognition in practice as ACCA or CAI or in industry as CIMA, ACCA and CAI as evidenced by required qualifications in job ads being considerably more often ACA, ACCA or CIMA (if industry) or simply CCAB.
CPA Ireland has an excellent reciprocal agreement with CPA Australia.
The CPA designation is the most common in the world, but CPA Ireland has no connection with, say, the US CPA.
Study is done at third party colleges
Designation: CPA for Member and FCPA for Fellow – Can call themselves Certified Public Accountants
Mostly found in industry – has more than 80,000 members and over 90,000 students worldwide.
It is a very highly thought of qualification in industry scoring excellently in salary surveys.
Would be relatively rare in practice, as its syllabus concentrates less on audit and more on costing and management accounting.
Study is done at third party colleges.
Designation: ACMA for Member and FCMA for Fellow – can call themselves Chartered Management Accountant.
A fully recognised accountancy and audit body in Ireland, with members and students totalling in the hundreds.
It would not have nearly as much recognition as would ACCA, ACA or CPA accountants.
It prides itself as catering to the accounting needs of small businesses.
It gives generous exemptions to students with prior learning.
Designation: AIPA for member and FIPA for Fellow – Can call themselves Incorporated Public Accountant.
Accounting Technicians (AAT, CAT and IATI)
These are Accounting support staff and would be trained to prepare accounts up to trial balance level. Quite a number of people studying these courses do so with the intention of taking membership exams of the ACCA, CAI, CIMA and CPA.
AAT is mostly in the UK, and less so now in Ireland. It is sponsored by the chartered bodies in the UK except ACCA which dropped it in the 90s to start up its own CAT technician brand. IATI is sponsored by the CAI in Ireland.
While a terminal qualification in its own right, it would be considered more of a stepping stone to further qualification.
This is not without debate on boards.ie when it comes to choosing an organisation, so may be helpful.
ICAI (now CAI) were, along with its sister organisations (ICAS and ICAEW) among the first accounting bodies to receive a charter (recognition) from the UK monarchy. This is what chartered means. They have since been able to use the designation ACA (although ICAS were first and can use CA).
ACCA and CIMA received their charter in the last few decades, and are equally chartered. And can call themselves ‘chartered’, but cannot call themselves ‘chartered accountant’ as it is taken, and must call themselves as described in the paragraphs above.
EXCELLENT BODY INFO - See link
This answers a lot of queries people have on the accountancy bodies in Ireland. Student info starts on page 20, ends page 27, but the membership info in the first twenty pages is also excellent.
Brilliant thread smcgiff, and thanks for such an in-depth post.
I read on here that the CAI changed their examining method recently and it is now much tougher and the pass rate has dropped quite a bit, so would this still be the case, especially if we were to ignore the audit paper and the P6 exam, which I think i'm right in saying you don't have to do?
Yip - have heard the CAI pass rates have dropped, but from very high levels. This is some years back, but it was not uncommon for 90% pass rates. I don't think they've dropped back to ACCA levels yet though.
I'll give some thought to setting up a sticky comparing pass rates going forward from the different bodies.
I have just been doing some research, and if you do decide to make a thread on pass rates this may make your life a bit easier.
These are the rates for ACCA
I couldn't find anything for CAI, but this is the ICAEW pass rate, I'm not sure how strongly they relate to each other. The first link is for up to 2008, the second for 2010.
I'm shocked at the difference.
Thanks - would be interesting to see what the CAI results are going forward to see if there is a marked difference with prior CAI results.
I'm sure our CAI student posters will help us out with the info.
Excellent thread SmcGiff, really answers alot of the questions that arise on this board and hopefully new students will look at this post before posting their queries on a potential institute choice.
I'm CAI (well will be when i'm admitted next month) and my two cents on the exams are that for when I did my exams (2007, 2008 and finals in 2009) the pass rate was considerably higher than ACCA and it could be said that we had the easier exams (still very tough!!) but that has all changed since the implementation of the new syllabus.
The pass rates have dropped dramatically since the new syllabus was introduced with the Cap1 (what was really introductory accounting at the old prof 2) being at a very high difficulty level for first year exams with the pass rate being much lower than what i came across when i was doing the exams. This has been seen again in the new Cap2 with pass rates much below what was being achieved in the old Prof 3. And the new FAE that is being examined this year will be even worse id say with no requirement in the questions and it up to the student to answer on what they think the issues are. I would say that the difficulty of the new CAI course needs to be highlighted as many students may look up historic pass rates when making their decision and think they will be fine but will find that the new exams are beyond what they are capable of especially when they are studying whilst being locked into a 3.5 year contract.
Other than the exams, i think that you have hit the nail on the head with all the points on the CAI.
The main drawback for the CAI was that you were locked into contract for the 3.5 years (typically but could be more or less depending on your previous college experience) but the introduction of the elevation programme has removed this burden......if you can afford the fees yourself over the three years
Would I be correct in thinking the burden is put off, as while you can complete the exams outside a contract you cannot become a CAI member until you've spent your time in contract?!?
Yes that is correct. You can do your exams first and get your experience later with the Elevation programme. you still have to do the 3.5 years of experience but the institute can allow up to 18 months of previous relevant work experience against this 3.5 years on application
Quick question. I work in the private sector with an US Multinational company in a marketing role. I'd like to understand what are the barriers for me in getting an accountancy accrediation. Above you mention that one can study for CAI exams without being in a contract. You pay for your own study, but must eventually enter a contract and serve your time before becoming a full member. Can you get work off an accountancy firm part-time to serve your time assuming one gets the accrediation?
With ACCA and CPA part time work would be accepted, however it would be prorata and therefore it would take a lot longer than 3 years to build up enough experience. Not sure about CAI - I don't know if you can enter part time contracts.
CAP 2 pass rate was 35% this year. What was ACCA's equivalent? I doubt it was this low. I doubt NASA's new program for rocket surgeons has a lower pass rate. CAI is a joke.
ACCA's results will be out on the 23rd I think - should be interesting.
Not sure if this is the right place to ask but I doubt this warrants a thread of its own..
Im signing up to the ACCA exams. But my current employer will not be paying for the exams. I will be paying for the first few myself and then hope to get a job in a relevant accounting position.
Can I sign up to the exams without mentioning my employer? I work in life assurance so its not exactly related to accounting thus why they would not pay for my exams.
Absolutely - Although CAI have a similar route now. Good luck
Is it not the case that a huge proportion of CAI candidates are from the bigger accounting firms? And that they get substantial study leave before exams, whereas candidates for the ACCA exams are by and large funding their study leave from holidays and unpaid leave. The few that I know doing ACCA work either in the likes of PNC or Statestreet, or in a manufacturing industry and get very little time to study. Therefore it would surely follow that the CAI should have a higher pass rate even allowing for the difficulty level being the same?
That may be a factor alright, but most ACCA students I know built up their holidays and used them for study. I know I did, but appreciate this still would not equal CAI holidays. However, I'm not totally convinced it would have made much difference to me - I probably would have treated the first number of weeks as holidays anyway, as I seemed to study more as time pressure built.
I think there could be a sticky dedicated to comparing the differences students in each bodies have to go through to become qualified and I'll give some thought to this when I get a chance.
I quite agree with you on this one.... i lost my contract last yr after writing SFMA 4 times! so I switched to ACCA this yr and passed F5 & F9 first time (SFMA is split into two with ACCA - one differentiating factor)
Judging from my experience with ACA lectures... I believe they stretch for weeks on end with a lot of content but no depth so you end up with volumes to study but no proper understanding of what you are studying!!! The institute should really think more about the quality of lectures instead of the extra cash earned from repeats, revision classes,etc... it puts a lot of strain on students
I've added more info to the second post on this thread (see added link). There's really excellent info on ALL the bodies in the Republic of Ireland. I learned a lot from this...
I'm from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (the Institute). I think it's important for students to also be aware of the global opportunities that exist, even though they are based in Ireland.
Two professional accounting bodies which you've mentioned ICAI + ICAEW are both members of the Global Accounting Alliance (GAA). The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia is also a member of this unique alliance.
What are the benefits:
Due to reciprocal arrangements between 11 GAA member bodies, it means your Chartered Accountant qualification will be recognised if you are keen to work overseas.
“No matter which of the GAA Institutes is your home, you will be welcomed by any or all of the other GAA Institutes wherever your work takes you”, said Garry Muriwai, Founding Chairman of the Global Accounting Alliance.
For more information on member support, read:
Hello and welcome,
Not quite the purpose of this thread, but can you tell us what a CAI qualified accountant would need to do to become a member of the Australian chartered institute?
First the requirements to become a non practicing member, and also as an auditor.
Very comprehensive mcgiff, fair play.
On the above however, shouldn't there be a personal opinion alert? Its a questionable statement. Lower pass rates don't always indicate a tougher exam. ACCA would generally have a lot of students who have taken different routes to their qualification, so while many CAI students are fresh from their accountancy degree , this may not be the case for many ACCA students. Also, the best students in accounting degrees will have been recruited by the big4, where the vast majority will be doing CAI.
Add to this other factors, such as that there is more study leave for CAI exams, and more mature students (so with greater distractions etc) do ACCA and it provides other reasons why pass rates may be lower.
I know its human nature for people to promote their own experience as being the toughest (and I'll admit to being no different!) but from anecdotal evidence (I've friends who have done ACCA and siad the finals weren't too bad) CAI seem tougher.
Possibly, you didn't question when I said the CAI was the premium designation, but considering the scandals this could be in doubt. Also, lots of people mention ACCA and CIMA being the toughest - so it's not only my, but common, albeit not universal, opinion.
I've heard the quality of ACA students debate before - You'll see from the link above showing that most ACCA students have degrees. Also, by the time ACCA students get to the final stage they are past degree level ability, yet the final level pass rates are still very low.
Also, the current CAI pass rates which you may be aware of were drastically down - how do these pass rates sit with your assertions?
While the Big 4 may want the best students, it doesn't necessarily mean that the best students want to go into Big 4 - That's CAI practice blinkered thinking ACCA, unlike CAI, does not concentrate on practice and so allows an alternative route.
I doubt you're right about mature students - from what I understand they do very well when they go back to education and presumably the same applies with accountancy.
Finally, while CAI students get better holidays, they get them in block which may not be the best, but further it's somewhat if not entirely cancelled out because Big 4 students work considerably longer hours.
Now, as I've said the perceived difficulty of the CAI is up for debate considering the new pass levels. It will be interesting indeed.