professional exams

There is a wealth of professional exams that at some stage you may wish to investigate and pursue. Here are details on the following:

    • Accountancy
    • Tax
    • Law
    • Financial services
    • Marketing


This can get confusing, as there are a number of bodies and a number of different qualifications. If you are sponsored by an employer, like one of the big four, they will dictate which exam you sit. Many tend to use ACA. You can also study and sit the exams independently and pay for them yourselves. Most training organisations offer a number of options, which include evening classes and online classes, which are also downloadable. 

You don't need a degree to study for the CIMA exams. You can start at any time studying for the Certificate in Business Accounting, progressing through to the professional qualification. The Cert BA is a qualification in it's own right and also forms a formal entry route into the CIMA Professional Qualification. Once you successfully complete both qualifications and qualify for membership, you will be awarded the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation. You can study full-time, part-time, while working, in a classroom or through distance learning. Or you can begin your CIMA studies while at university and graduate ahead of the competition. If you have a degree, you will have some exemptions. 

You need no qualifications to study for the ACCA - you will simply start at the foundation level. Three GCSEs and two A Levels in five separate subjects including maths and English or their equivalent are required for the professional accountancy qualification. The ACCA Qualification is very flexible. You choose how you study, how often you sit exams and where you do your work experience. They offer a number of options. You can study by yourself or join classes - either full time, part time, weekend, online or distance learning. 

You can study for the ACA after you have completed A Levels, however you need to be in work and sponsored by your employer. You can however gain a certificate in finance, business and accounting with no qualifications and no employer sponsorship. 

This is more a technical qualification and is the first step towards becoming an accountant. It is a level 2 Certificate in Accounting that will arm you with basic accounting skills and knowledge, from costing and double-entry bookkeeping to computerised accounting. This qualification tends to concentrate on accounting and is less broad than the other more professional qualifications.

  • Training Providers - all of the above have a range of approved training providers. The largest and probably the most respected are BPP and Kaplan.


You need a professional qualification (basically in accounting) to apply for this course directly. Otherwise you need to be sponsored by your employer and register with ACA. There are 6 papers in total which are normally sat over c2 years.

In order to study for the AAT qualification, you need to already have passed a number of professional exams. However you can register and study for the foundation qualifications.


In order to become a solicitor you need to complete a law degree and the LPC (Legal Practice Course). If you have a non-law degree then you first need to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) followed by the LPC. Both qualifications are 1 year in length. After the LPC, you will have to complete a training contract with a law firm in order to qualify and practise as a fully trained solicitor. A training contract lasts two years and is comprised of several seats in a number of departments. After completion, the majority of trainees will stay on at the firm as newly qualified solicitors. Law students tend to apply for training contracts in their second and third year of university (and after graduation if previously unsuccessful), whilst non-law students tend to apply in or after their final year of university and afterwards. The reason for applying so early is that many of the large firms offer funding to cover or contribute towards the cost of the GDL and the LPC. 

If you wish to become a barrister, instead of the LPC, you need to study for the Barristers Professional Training Course (BPTC). This is a year long course that is the final step before taking on a pupillage, with a chambers. To be eligible for the BPTC, you need to have either an LLB law degree to a very minimum of a 2.2 standard, or an alternative degree backed up by a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). You will also have to join one of the four Inns of Court before you begin the BPTC course. Applications open in November for the year’s intake, and close in January, although there is a second opportunity through a ‘clearing’ style system that opens in February. All candidates have to complete the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) as a part of their application to be considered for the BPTC.

Law school Providers: a number offer the GDL and LPC. These include BPP, The university of Law, Kaplan, all of which have centres across the country. In addition a select number of university law departments also offer the courses ( eg Nottingham, Cardiff, UWE, Oxford Brookes, Demontfort, Brunel, Lancashire).

Financial Services

There are a large number of professional qualifications within financial services.

This is one of the most respected qualifications in the industry. It provides a strong foundation of advanced investment analysis and real-world portfolio management skills. There are 3 levels and it can take 4 years to complete the programme which also entails 48 months of work experience. There are a number of training providers.

They offer a plethora of qualifications, which also include a number of foundation courses. These include a level 2 award on Fundamentals of financial services and a level 3 award on the Introduction to Investment. You don’t need any specific qualifications to study for these exams.

You can go on to study a diploma in capital markets or a chartered wealth management qualification.

  • CFA – Investment Management CertificateThe IMC

The IMC is the benchmark entry-level qualification into the UK investment profession. It delivers the threshold competency knowledge required by investment professionals involved in portfolio management, research analysis, and other front office investment activities.  The examinations cover the key content areas appropriate for these roles including economics, accounting, investment practice, regulation, and ethics. The qualification is developed, delivered and awarded by CFA UK. There are a number of training providers. There is no requirement for you to have completed any other qualifications prior to taking the IMC.


They offer a foundation, certificate and diploma in marketing.  You will gain exemptions if you have a degree.  You can start to study the qualification at any time, with very few qualifications required to start the foundation course.

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