Studying Accounting

Accredited Finance and Accounting Course List

If you are considering studying accounting you’ll want to know what the different options are and you may have looked at an accounting courses list. It can be intimidating trying to make sense out of the different acronyms for qualifications, professional associations and accounting courses. In this article, we will explain this all in detail and help you navigate the confusing world of CFAS, CAs, SAICA, SAIBA and other names.

The field of accounting includes people in many different roles. Bookkeepers, debtors clerks, financial controllers, financial managers, financial officers, tax accountants, management accountants, budget analysts, chartered accountants and auditors are just some of the job titles held by people working in accounting.

On the lower end of the spectrum, there is less regulation. For example, there are no formal qualification requirements to take on the role of a bookkeeper or a debtors clerk. However, on the higher end of the spectrum, the accounting profession is far more regulated.

There are several professional bodies and each has its own set of examinations and standards. Many of these organisations have different levels of accreditation and do offer some recognition for lower-level accounting practitioners. The academic requirements for entry-level recognition are much lower and sometimes comprise of work experience and recognised prior learning. All of their higher levels of recognition, however, require a Bachelor of Commerce degree with accounting subjects, or an equivalent degree from abroad.

Why accreditation matters

The job title of an accountant is used by a range of people with varying levels of experience, skill and academic qualification. At its most basic, an accountant is someone who works with a company or other organisation’s accounts, keeping track of money coming in and going out.

Now, if just about anyone can claim to call themselves an accountant, you may wonder why you should bother to study for many years to qualify as an accountant. It is for exactly this reason that the accounting profession is self-regulated by a number of professional associations and standards-regulating bodies.

Membership to any of these bodies, such as the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants, allows accountants to claim accreditation. These associations ensure a high level of standards among their members while also keeping members to a high moral and ethical standard.

Under South African law, nobody is allowed to charge a fee for advising on tax unless they are registered with one of the professional bodies. Another area in accounting that is highly regulated is that of auditing. Legally you will need to be a registered auditor with the IRBA if you want to charge a fee for auditing a company’s accounts.

Accredited accounting associations in South Africa

There are many different accounting associations and groups across the world, with many countries having more than one national association. Each of these associations have their own requirements and provide their own accredited accounting and finance courses list. South Africa has the following:

Those wanting to offer tax services in South Africa are legally required to be a registered member of one of the following:

  • South African Institute of Taxation (SAIT)
  • Southern African Institute for Business Accountants (SAIBA)
  • South African Institute of Professional Accountants (SAIPA)
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Institute of Accounting and Commerce (IAC)
  • Chartered Governance Institute of Southern Africa (previously the Institute of Chartered Secretaries of South Africa or (ICSA)

International accredited accounting associations

Looking beyond South Africa there are many international associations for accounting. While all of the basic principles for accounting are the same across the world, there are some areas such as tax which are very specific to a particular country. If you want to work as an accountant in another country, then it would be best to become a member of one of that country’s leading accounting associations. As with our own local associations, accreditation and recognition will require you to successfully pass additional exams to prove your competence.


Here are some common questions and answers relating to studying and becoming an accountant.

How do I start a career in accounting?

To become an accountant you should complete a Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy degree. Graduates then need to gain work experience at a registered accountancy firm. Exact requirements differ between associations, but after about two or three years, candidates will be able to also write the final tests and examinations to obtain full membership of their association of choice.

What are 5 careers in accounting?

Accountants deal with money and transactions. This means their services are needed in any industry involving money and transactions, which is to say all commercial activity. The 5 main areas in which accountants work are auditing, tax accounting, budget analysis, forensic accounting and being a staff accountant for a company.

How many types of accounting courses are there?

There are many different accounting courses available. You can pick up some useful accounting skills through a short introductory accounting course. However, to become a professionally accredited accountant, you would need to complete a Bachelor of Commerce degree with an accounting specialisation.

Which course is best for accounting?

The Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy degree is the best course for accounting.

What is the hardest accounting qualification?

The Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy degree is the highest professionally recognised qualification in accounting in South Africa. A PhD in accounting would of course be more difficult to complete, but it is mostly done by those following an academic career path.

Who earns more CA or MBA?

This is a difficult comparison. Chartered accountant describes both a job title and a professional qualification, while an MBA is just a qualification. Although an MBA might be a job requirement, you will not find MBA as a job title at any company. Generally, CAs have higher starting salaries, while the upper limit for an MBA graduate tends to be higher as they take on managerial and leadership roles. Some of the best-paid people in South Africa and overseas hold both an accounting qualification and an MBA. Click here to see what accountants can earn in South Africa.

What is the highest qualification in accounting?

The answer to this depends on whether the qualification is being ranked academically or professionally. Academically, the highest qualification is a PhD in accounting. Professionally, however, the Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy degree along with the completion of board exams to become a chartered accountant (CA) is the highest accounting qualification recognised in South Africa. Internationally, the top three associations to be registered with are the CFA Institute (chartered financial analyst), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

Is accounting hard?

If you are looking for an easy course, then accounting is not for you. Being a fully accredited member of one of the professional associations carries prestige. Accounting board exams are notoriously difficult and there are many Bachelor of Commerce accounting graduates who have completed their articles but never successfully complete the final association exams.

Is accounting a good career?

Accounting is considered a very good career for several reasons. Most importantly, it is a career that pays well and offers good job security. South Africa has a shortage of accountants and chartered accountants in particular, so your skills will always be in demand.

What jobs are similar to accounting?

There are many jobs in the field of accounting that do not require a bachelor’s degree and accreditation by a professional body. Bookkeepers, financial controllers, debtors clerks and financial managers are some of the roles related to accounting.

Study accounting online at UJ

If you would like to work as a professionally accredited accountant, then a Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy is the way to go. You can study this course online and part-time through the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Take a look at the Online Bachelor of Commerce in Accountancy to see what it covers.

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