Accounting professionals in the UAE who have a certification from a professional body are among the highest paid in the Middle East region, with annual salary levels averaging at $61,768 (Dh226,846) or roughly Dh18,900 a month, according to a survey conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) in late 2015.
We spoke to Gareth Clayton, Deputy MD at Charterhouse, a talent acquisition firm in the UAE and he encourages accounting professionals and job-seekers to keep studying towards any of these professional accounting and finance qualifications.
"In the current competitive and globalized labour markets, they are quite often the competitive advantage, which allow applicants to get ahead", he added.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
Getting a chartered accountant qualification might look cumbersome and time-consuming, but this will give you a huge and permanent career boost if you are in the UAE. ICAI has chapters in the UAE, enabling its qualified members to practice in the country effectively. The longer your relevant experience is, the higher your pay and growth opportunities get.
Chartered Accountancy takes three to five years to complete including exams and requisite experience. Common Proficiency Test or CPT is a preliminary qualifying test to assess your commerce and accounting abilities. You can attempt CPT after graduating from school (grade 12). CPT exams are held twice a year. Graduates are exempt from CPT and can go straight into the intermediate program.
Integrated Professional Course Certification (IPCC) is the intermediate program of CA and has two subject groups. The IPCC exams are held twice a year. After passing the first group, candidates must complete three years of on-the-job training as article or audit assistants (articleship). Candidates can then attempt the final exam during the last six months of articleship, after passing both IPCC exam groups.
2. Certified Management Accountant
CMA - Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business (US)
Becoming a certified management accountant is usually to get one’s accounting career to the next level and therefore, is highly preferred by people at mid-level positions. The course study and exam formats are suitable for working professionals which heightens its appeal to people who do not want to quit their jobs to get a degree. For Indian expats who get CMA outside of India, you can apply for and get membership in the Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICAI), previously known as ICWAI.
Any graduate can apply for the CMA program - which has two exam parts and a two-years relevant experience requirement. For fresh graduates, you can apply for and start the CMA program. Meanwhile, work in a relevant accounting position towards the experience requirement.
Alternatively, if you already have two or more years of continuous experience and are currently working, you can use that as your relevant CMA experience when you apply. This means you can get certified in under 12 months. The two exam parts can be taken as single parts or together. Exams are held during three testing windows annually.
3. Chartered Certified Accountant
ACCA - Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (UK)
ACCA is similar to the Indian CA in terms of subjects tackled and difficulty levels. It is also quite close in terms of professional scope and job prospects in the Middle East. However, unlike CA, this gives you more room for part-time study and is therefore a great choice for working professionals.
The program has a foundation level before the actual ACCA qualification. A candidate fresh out of school or who has had a long break from studies must start at the foundation level which touches upon the basics of accounting. Completion of this level qualifies the candidate to work in junior-level positions before they move on to the ACCA qualification. If you take three additional specialist exams with a year of relevant experience, you get a Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) qualification. The actual ACCA qualification has up to 14 exams (depending on exemptions based on courses taken previously) and has a three-year experience requirement.
4. Chartered Global Management Accountant
CIMA - Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK)
CGMA is a popular accounting course focused on management and cost accounting. As with IMA, CIMA also provides online learning and self-study help for candidates who want to learn as they earn.
There are two levels to becoming a CGMA along with a three-year experience requisite which can be from before, during or after your CGMA attempt. The first level is a foundation-level certification for those with little or no accounting experience. Relevant degrees or experience can get you exemptions at this level. Once that is done, you can move on to the CIMA professional qualification level. You can apply for exemptions here as well if you have the relevant qualification or experience.
5. Master of Business Administration (Finance)
Nowadays, MBA has become a basic qualification for employees in the accounting and finance industry. So much so that mid-level executives and managers, who have bachelor’s degrees in commerce, pursue MBA to give them a professional edge. While distance and correspondence MBA courses are aplenty, make sure to take your degree from an accredited university. You can also consider taking a year off to get an executive MBA from a reputed university, which is focused towards working professionals with an intensive one-year program.
Any graduate can take up an MBA course. Correspondence courses involve online or weekend classes with yearly exams. Traditional MBA courses require you to pass a qualifying test, like Common Admission Test (CAT) in India or a university specific admission test.
Gareth Clayton, who specialises in finance and accounting roles at Charterhouse, said, "Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is a great course as well but it tends to be more investment focused, linking towards financial planning and corporate finance based coverage."
Through an email interview with Guides, Gareth remarked, "The ACA under ICAEW is also highly regarding and should not be missed out; this qualification is replicated under the Australian, Indian, New Zealand, Pakistani and South African affiliated bodies".