Skip to main content Skip to search

What is chartered accountancy?

In a complex global economy, talented, ethical and committed professionals have never been more highly valued. Combining unrivalled knowledge, skill and commitment, chartered accountants enable businesses, organisations, individuals and communities to achieve their financial and strategic goals – with rigour, integrity and vision.

Chartered accountants were founders of the accountancy profession and have led its global development. Today they hold influential positions around the world as business leaders, decision-makers and trusted advisers. From the largest listed companies to the most interesting and influential organisations, you’ll find a chartered accountant shaping their success.

What do chartered accountants do?

You will find chartered accountants working in every part of the economy, providing advice and financial expertise that informs the management of businesses and public sector organisations alike.

Many ICAEW chartered accountants become partners or financial directors, with 83% of FTSE 100 companies having an ICAEW chartered accountant on their board. (Source: ICAEW member data at January 2015, FTSE 350 data at December 2014.)

What is the difference between an accountant and a chartered accountant?

By law anyone can call themselves an accountant. The title ‘chartered accountant’ and the letters ACA or FCA, however, indicates that the person has undertaken a minimum of three years in-depth training, passed a series of rigorous examinations in financial management, auditing, business strategy and taxation, and committed to continuing professional development to keep their skills up to date.

Although unqualified accountants are subject to the same laws as chartered accountants, ICAEW Chartered Accountants are bound by the ICAEW Code of Ethics and subject to our disciplinary procedures. They are required to hold a practising certificate and professional indemnity insurance if they offer professional services to the public.

Key areas in which chartered accountants work include:

Public practice

Close to 30% of ICAEW members work within an accountancy firm and provide a range of accountancy and tax services to clients, including business advice, management consultancy and audits. Firms vary in size from the sole practitioner to one of the Big Four multinational accountancy firms.


Accountants are often employed within an organisation using their financial knowledge and expertise to control the management of the business and to help it develop. They can occupy roles such as finance director or fund manager. Currently 43% of ICAEW members work in business.

Corporate finance

Large firms often have specialised departments in corporate finance. Work involves securing finance for company mergers, acquisitions, management buy-ins and buy-outs and capital reconstructions. A job in corporate finance requires skills in negotiation with finance providers, lawyers, researchers and other key professionals.

Forensic accounting

Investigations into commercial fraud, personal injury cases and civil cases often require the testimony of expert witnesses in accountancy. Large firms often have specialised departments in litigation support composed of qualified accountants.