Top Accounting Certifications in the European Union

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After reviewing United States and Canadian accounting certifications, today we're going to take a look at EU accounting certifications. It would be impractical to cover every single certification available, so we'll simply be highlighting a handful. 

ACCA Qualification

The ACCA qualification is given by the ACCA - the global body for professional accountants. The ACCA is based in the United Kingdom but is generally recognized in all commonwealth countries as well as countries in the European Union. Many countries that don't have their own autonomous organizations will default to the ACCA, which is why the ACCA is considered the CPA equivalent in the EU. 

The ACCA qualification requires three years of work experience and can take up to 3-4 years to complete, thanks to the 13 exams required (though some exemptions are offered). The ACCA exams are offered four times throughout the year at sites all over the world. 

There are additional qualifications like foundational level qualifications that do not have entry requirements, as well as other professional qualifications like: 

CertIA - Certificate in International Auditing

This qualification requires you to be an ACCA member first, as well as have some sort of educational or vocational background in auditing, and then complete an exam. It takes approximately 25 hours to complete and is ideal for someone looking to further their auditing career. 

CertIFR - Certificate in International Financial Reporting

An educational or vocational background in financial reporting is recommended, but not required. This certificate is ideal for accountants and auditors who need to brush up their skills - or who aren't familiar with IFRS. It can take up to 20 hours to earn this certificate, though only one multiple choice assessment is given.

DIPIFR - Diploma in International Financial Reporting 

If you are already a professional accountant or auditor, you are qualified to take this exam - if not, you would need at least 2 years' relevant accounting experience and a relevant degree, as well as 2 years' of relevant experience and an ACCA Certificate in International Financial Reporting, three years' relevant accounting experience, and ACCA affiliate status. It takes between 3 and 6 months to complete this qualification.

While the ACCA qualification is generally accepted worldwide, some countries do have their own accounting bodies and qualifications. Here are a few:

Expert Comptable

In France, the Expert Comptable is the highest level of qualification. The average time it takes to complete and pass all three intermediate diplomas to reach the qualification is four years. In addition to passing all initial exams, there is a 3-year traineeship with a practice firm, as well as the requirement to present a thesis on a subject related to the profession. Two more exams are required to fully complete the process.

Wirtschaftspruefer

In Germany the Wirtschaftspruefer qualification is the highest level and can take years to achieve. In fact, it's so difficult that only about 50% of applicants ever achieve it. However, many do end up as Steuerberaters (essentially a chartered tax advisor) which only takes three written exams and one oral exam. Steuerberater is the first step to trying to reach Wirtschaftspruefer qualification, which is why there are so many more Steuerberaters than Wirtschaftspruefers.

Chartered Accountant (CA)

In both Ireland and Scotland, Chartered Accountant is the standard qualification. In Ireland, the designation is given by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ireland after the recipient passes multiple professional exams while also performing a traineeship with a recognized practice firm. In Scotland, the CA is given by the Scottish Institute and also requires a training contract and a 3-year program combining study with professional exams. 

There are so many more examples out there like the Censor Jurado de Cuentas in Spain, the Auktoriserad revisor or Ggodkänd Revisor in Sweden, and the Bedrijvsrevisor or Reviseur d’Entreprise in Belgium. While the accounting profession has become more uniform around the world thanks to IFRS (and US GAAP moving closer to IFRS), we still have a long way to go before certifications follow suit.