A bachelor of commerce degree is the minimum requirement to get your first job as an accountant. A post graduate degree or certificate is helpful for management positions or specialized financial analysis job.

The three most popular professional degrees in India related to accounting, commerce and finance are CA or Chartered Accountancy (by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India), ICMA or The Cost and Management Accountancy (by The Institute of Cost Accountants of India), and CS or Company Secretaryship (by The Institute of Company Secretaries of India).

As per the prevailing law, only CAs are allowed to sign off on the financial statements of companies. Chartered Accountants are finance professionals who have cleared examinations conducted by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, CMAs are finance professionals who have cleared exam conducted by the Institute of Cost Accountants of India, Company Secretaries are finance professionals who have cleared the exam conducted by The Institute of Company Secretaries of India. The CA equivalent is CPA in the US, Cost Accountant equivalent ICMA, CMA granted by IMA (US). For CS there is no US equivalent although UK has ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators). There are many memorandum of understandings between these professional institutes in India and global counterparts for reciprocal membership recognition which is in accordance with increased globalization.

Only a CA can perform statutory auditing of an Indian company under the Companies Act, 2013. The sub-section (3) of section 148 of the Companies Act, 2013 separates cost audits from standards applicable for audit of financial records and stipulates cost audit be complied with the cost auditing standards issued by the Institute of Cost Accountants of India. Section 14A and 14AA of the Central Excise Act, 1944, related to special audits leading to detailed investigations on companies, put chartered accountants and cost accountants at par. However, according to an income tax office involved in the preparation of now abandoned draft direct tax code, “Especially in direct tax matters, chartered accountants have always had additional rights.” As per Companies Act 2013, it is mandatory for a company to appoint a full-time company secretary in respect of a certain class of companies. A company secretary is responsible for making sure the company maintains mandatory corporate records, improving corporate governance and compliance.

The path to CA after higher secondary is Common Proficiency Test. (CPT), Three years Articleship / Training under a Practicing Chartered accountant, CA Final. One can appear Chartered Accountancy Final examination during last six months of articleship and pass CA final exams of both groups. CPT registration fee is Rs.6,000 and exam fee Rs.500. IPCC registration fee Rs.9,000 and exam fee Rs.1,600. Articled training registration fee Rs.2,000. Final course registration fee Rs.10,000, and exam fee Rs.2,250. The fee for 100 hours Information Technology Training (ITT) Rs.4,000 and 35 hours orientation programme Rs. 3,000. GMCS-1 fee Rs.5,500 to be undergone during the 1st year of articled training & GMCS-II fee Rs.5,500 after completion of 18 months of training. So, in total it costs Rs. 49,350 (additional cost of books and private tuition excluded). There are also post qualification certificate courses for members like Certificate Course on Enterprise Risk Management, Certificate Course on Concurrent Audit of Banks.

Interestingly, there is now also Accounting Technician Course by ICAI for which one can enrol after Class X. One still needs to appear and pass CPT after completing senior secondary (10+2) before registering for ATC. Complete 8 months of study course, 35 hours orientation course spanning over one week, 100 hours of Information Technology Training (ITT), pass ATE (Group I of Intermediate Exam), complete one-year work experience under chartered accountant. The Accounting Technician Course is a stand-alone course by itself which can also be used as a gateway to becoming a CA.

All the three above said professional institutes now also offer BCom and commerce-related degrees for the enrolled candidates. As per ICAI –IGNOU memorandum of understanding dated March 15, 2007, “IGNOU shall launch a specialized B.Com Course majoring in Accountancy and Finance for the students of chartered accountancy course by which exemption be granted in certain common subjects such that these students can improve their learning process by acquiring knowledge in new areas rather than concentrating in the same subject, which are covered in the theoretical education scheme of the chartered accountancy.” At present, there is also Bharathiar University –ICAI and ICAI- University of Madras Joint Education Programme.

For CMA or degree by The Institute of Cost Accountants of India, the cost of prospectus is Rs.250. The fee structure is Rs.4,000 for Foundation, Rs.20,000 for Intermediate, and Rs.17,000 for Final. For Foundation, there are four papers, Intermediate eight papers, and Final eight.  Every student is required to undergo practical training for a period of 3 years on whole time basis to the satisfaction of council.

Just like CA is the flagship course of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, but they have standalone program Accounting Technician Course, so is the case with The Institute of Cost Accountants of India whose flagship professional course is CMA but also now have entry-level Certificate in Accounting Technicians (CAT). The students who have passed/appearing 12th (10+2) examination are eligible to take admission in Foundation (Entry Level) Part-I of CAT Course. The course fee is Rs.8,600. There are two groups.: A) Foundation Course (Entry Level) Part-1 with Fundamentals of Financial Accounting, Applied Business and Industrial Laws, Financial Accounting-2, Statutory Compliance; B) Competency Level – Part-II with Fundamentals of Computers, Filling of Statutory Returns, Introduction to Costing Principles and Preparation of Cost Statements, 5-days Orientation Programme. The internship will be for 3 months from organizations prescribed under the scheme. Further, there are one year diploma courses for CMA members like One Year Diploma in Business Valuation and Post Graduate Diploma in Management Accounting.

The student who would like to join the Course after 10+2 pass or equivalent has to undergo three stages to pursue the Company Secretaries Course i.e. Foundation Programme, Executive Programme, Professional Programme. There are 4 papers in CS Foundation Programme, 7 papers divided into 2 modules in CS Executive Programme, and 8 papers divided into 4 modules in CS Professional Programme. Foundation Programme which is of eight months duration can be pursued by 10+2 pass or equivalent students of Arts, Science or Commerce stream (Excluding Fine Arts). Executive Programme can be pursued by a Graduate of all streams except Fine Arts. Fee for enrolment to CS Foundation is Rs.4,500 and examination fee Rs.1,200. For CS Executive Programme, Rs.9,000 for commerce graduates, Rs.12,500 for CPT passed of ICAI /Foundation passed of ICAI-CMA; Rs.10,000 for non commerce graduates, Rs.8,500 for CS Foundation passed students. CS Professional Programme fee is Rs.12,000 and examination fee per module Rs.1,200. Professional Programme can be pursued only after clearing the Executive Programme.

Like The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, The Institute of Cost Accountants of India and The Institute of Company Secretaries of India have also MOU with IGNOU for students pursuing graduation.

Indian Civil Accounts Service was formed in 1976 as part of reforms in India's public financial management system. The government is in need of trained accountants to look after its departments. For instance, Indian Railway Accounts Service is a Group A central service officers managing the accounts and finance of the Indian Railways. About 10–15 IRAS officers are recruited each year through UPSC Civil Services Examination.

International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) is a globally accepted language for presenting accounting reports, making reports comparable globally. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs has committed to converge to IFRS. One can create a niche in IFRS consultancy, personal wealth advisory, planning for college, retirement, estate planning, etc., forensic accounting,, environmental accounting, etc. V skills certificates under Accounting, Banking, and Finance category should be helpful as the idea is to gain exposure and apply in real life setting by demonstrating to your employer or private clients. Prices are low with Rs.4,000 – Rs.4,500 for most of the 42 courses under this category by V skills and admission is open to all. The fee for Certified IFRS Professional certificate course is Rs.6,000.

Knowledge should be open to all. The good news is that there is now an option even for school leavers to excel in the field of accounting and finance pursuing online courses/distance courses like by V skills.  These courses are aimed to improve grasp on the subject and may not be always recognized by universities or governments.Four years of professional work experience is all that is required to register for the CFA course, one ofthe most respected and recognized investment management designations in the world!

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