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Chartered Accountant Career Guide

How to Become a Chartered Accountant

Chartered accountants, also commonly referred to as CAs or chartered professional accountants, are the professionals that enable businesses, organizations, individuals, and communities to achieve their financial and strategic goals. The demand for CAs is high through industries all over the world. They hold important in every country as business leaders, decision-makers, and trusted advisers. And there’s no wonder why these professionals hold influential positions. Accounting keeps businesses and the flow of capital organized and tethered to a profitable strategy. They also help people and businesses follow the law, evaluate financial performance, keep a budget, avoid audits, and make good decisions with their money.

Some may wonder, how is a chartered accountant different from the more familiar certified public accountant (CPA)? They are nearly identical roles. The difference is that “certified public accountant” refers to those who are certified to work in the U.S., while “chartered accountant” refers to those who are certified to work both within and outside of the U.S.

A woman sits at her dining room table with laptop and financial reports doing her monthly budget. She is smiling at the ease of use as she works on her smart phone banking app to do monthly finances, pay taxes and save money for the future.

What Is a Chartered Accountant?

Chartered accountants are professional accountants who are qualified to take on several specific activities within the spectrum of accountancy. The typical tasks of a chartered accountant include auditing financial statements, filing corporate tax returns, and providing financial advising. To operate as a chartered accountant in the U.S., you need specific credentials that prove you’re qualified to file a business's tax return, audit financial statements and business practices, and offer advisory services to clients, among other accounting activities.

What Does a Chartered Accountant Do?

Chartered accountants are highly educated professionals whose many job functions vary depending on the area of accountancy they practice in. There are four main areas in which chartered accountants work:

  • Taxation: Tax accounting deals with the preparations of tax returns and tax payments by individuals, businesses, corporations, and other entities. This subsector of accounting focuses on income or revenue, qualifying deductions, donations, and any investment gains or losses.
  • Financial accounting and reporting: Financial accounting and reporting (FAR) monitors all education and general funds, designated funds, auxiliary funds, restricted funds, and agency funds. Accountants who work in FAR are responsible for maintaining a high level of understanding of the rules and regulations and providing technical assistance to businesses and organizations.
  • Applied finance: Applied finance is the practical application of financial knowledge and methods. Chartered accountants in this subsector work for businesses and other organizations to form profitable financial models and recommendations.
  • Management accounting: In management accounting, also known as “managerial accounting,” chartered accountants act as consultants by using the financial data of a company or organization to inform smart decision-making and to assist in the management and performance of their control functions.

Accountants can work in any of these four major areas of accountancy, and they might even oversee a corporation or business’s entire accountancy needs, depending on their level of experience.

Chartered Accountant vs. CPA

To work as a chartered accountant, you must attain a specific professional accreditation of “chartered status.” CAs have gained the same education as a regular accountant and typically have the same professional experience within the U.S. but need to obtain specific qualifications to do accounting work outside of the U.S. and hold the “chartered accountant” title. There are several associations acting as governing and accrediting bodies for these professionals, including the American Association of Chartered Accountants, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants, and Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

How to Become a Chartered Accountant

Becoming a chartered accountant requires students to complete education and certification requirements as well as gain work experience. The steps to becoming a chartered accountant are as follows: 

  • Earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting: The first step is obtaining a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a closely related field. Once you have this credential, you can pursue the process of earning licensure and job experience through internships.
  • Apply for and complete an internship: Internships are an important part of your accounting education and often turn into paid, full-time jobs upon completion, especially in large corporations.
  • Apply for a chartered accounting training program: If you’re opting to work as a certified chartered accountant, you’ll need more advanced education than the average CPA. After completing your training program, you can take an examination and earn your chartered accountant credential. 
  • Gain work experience: Typically, foreign employers require chartered accountants to have about three years of work experience. 
  • Build a global network: If you’re interested in working as a chartered accountant outside of the U.S., it’s smart to start building a professional network while completing your education requirements. Research companies abroad that interest you, monitor the positions they’re hiring for, and follow them on LinkedIn to keep abreast of company updates. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to connect with relevant professionals within these companies.
  • Consider obtaining a master’s degree in accounting: While you need only a bachelor’s degree to have a career as a chartered accountant, obtaining a master’s degree will deepen your accountancy knowledge and allow you access to more jobs and competitive salaries. About 72% of chartered accountants hold a bachelor’s degree, and 17% hold a master’s degree.

Best Degrees for Chartered Accountants

Finance – B.S. Business Administration

This online finance program is career-focused so you will gain...

This online finance program is career-focused so...

This online finance program is career-focused so you will gain relevant industry skills.

  • Time: 70% of graduates finish similar programs within 42 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.
  • Courses: 41 courses in this program.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Financial analyst
  • Finance director 
  • Investment banker
  • Insurance agent
  • Accountant

The competency-based model at WGU allows you to move as quickly as you can master the material, and do your coursework on your schedule. Flexibility is key with the B.S. in finance at WGU.

Accounting – B.S. Business Administration

Have a knack for numbers or fine-tuning finances?...

Have a knack for numbers or fine-tuning finances?...

Have a knack for numbers or fine-tuning finances?

  • Time: 62% of graduates finish within 36 months.
  • Tuition: $3,575 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Accounting manager
  • Financial director
  • Vice president of finance and operations
  • Chief financial officer
  • Forensic accountant

Take your first step toward CPA certification and learn how to use GAAP, ledgers, and journals.

Accounting – M.S.

Become better qualified to pursue a greater variety of public...

Become better qualified to pursue a greater...

Become better qualified to pursue a greater variety of public and private accounting positions:

  • Time: 76% of grads finish within 24 months.
  • Tuition: $4,530 per 6-month term.

Some careers and jobs this business degree will prepare you for:

  • Accountant
  • Accounting manager
  • Internal audit manager
  • Senior accountant
  • Other specialized finance roles

This MAcc program is designed to prepare you for the CPA exam and also the CMA or CIA exams.

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What Skills Does a Chartered Accountant Need?

In practice, chartered accountants share many similarities with certified public accountants, but CAs tend to have deeper training in taxation and global regulations. That said, chartered accountants need an expert-level command of the principles and functions of accounting. Chartered accountants must: 

  • Possess general business interest and awareness
  • Be self-motivated and committed
  • Have great communication and interpersonal skills
  • Possess organizational and time management skills
  • Have a methodical approach
  • Be proficient in IT
  • Have strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Be good with numbers

How Much Does a Chartered Accountant Make?

$102,245 reports that CAs earn a base annual salary ranging from $91,078 to $115,424 with an average chartered accountant salary of $102,245. General accountants earn a median salary of $77,250 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), so you have a significant opportunity to earn more by pursuing a chartered accountant career.

What Is the Projected Job Growth?


Recent data from the BLS projects employment of accountants and auditors will grow by 7% from 2020 to 2030 (about as fast as the average for all occupations). This equates to roughly 135,000 job openings for accountants each year, on average, over the decade. While this data doesn’t refer specifically to chartered accountant jobs, it’s a positive outlook for the accounting career in general.

Where Does a Chartered Accountant Work?


Chartered accountants are globally recognized professionals. They often work for multinational companies and corporations in every industry. As a chartered accountant, you can work in a range of public, private, and nonprofit sectors.


Interested in Becoming a Chartered Accountant?

Learn more about degree programs that can prepare you for this exciting career.

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