Picking the “Right” Accounting Professional Paper

Which Accounting Paper?

You’ve just graduated from your accounting degree either locally / abroad, the next main aim (if you are planning to work in Malaysia), is to get your title, ‘Charted Accountant C.A. (M)‘. To get that would require you obtaining a MIA (“The Malaysian Institute of Accountants”)  membership. Therefore, unless you are an accounting graduate from a recognized university accounting degree (most government operated local unis, a list can be found here: Refer to Page 19) which grants you automatic MIA membership after 3 years of Chartered Accountant Relevant Experience (“CARE”), you are required to take a program from a recognized professional accounting body (i.e. ACCA, CPA, etc.) or the MIA Qualifying Examination.

Most go for the route of taking it with a recognized professional accounting body, because since you’re gonna need to spend time taking exams, why not take one that has international recognition?

So many choices, but which to pick?

But first, you must ask yourself, what kind of career you are looking into? If you’re into finance, please read no further. Do Charted Financial Analayst (CFA). Or if you’re into management accounting, you might be interested to take Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), rather than those I will explain below.

There are many professional accounting body programs to pick from, but generally these are the more famous programs:-

  • The Institute of Charted Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • The Malaysian Institute of Certified Public Accounts (MICPA) <- their program is called MICPA-CAANZ Programme
  • Association of Charted Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • CPA Australia

Of course, there are more such as ICAI, CICA, ICAI, etc. from other countries, but you get the idea.

The programs are ranked in an order where the company I work for ranks the hardest to easiest. Personally, I think that they are all equally as tough, and as equally valuable. The things that you will learn should be almost similar, with differences due to the country of origin’s legislation and its practices.

I would recommend either ICAEW or ACCA if you pursued a UK-based accounting degree, and CPA or MICPA-CAANZ if you did a Australian based degree. There are pros and cons to each programme though. Here are some (limited to my knowledge only):-


ICAEW is the toughest and longest among the lot. After your degree you have freaking 15 papers to take (credit exemptions is available for those with relevant qualifications), consisting of:

  • 6 Certificate Level papers;
  • 6 Professional Level papers;
  • 2 Advanced Level papers; and
  • 1 Case Study.

You will be required to be bonded to an ICAEW Authorised Training Employee (ATE) via a training contract when attempting the Advanced Level papers and Case Study for a minimum duration of 3 years (Note: This is something I find really annoying. It’s really complicated if you want to switch ATEs, there are a number of procedures to follow if you want to jump ship) if you’re doing the program full-time. If you’re doing it part-time you can be bonded when you start working.

Read also: What after SPM?

However, if you graduated from an Australian-based degree, I wouldn’t recommend going for this option, unless you plan to take almost all of the 15 papers. Previously, I was tempted to take this program, but was then told that I would get only 1/2 papers exempted cause I did an Australian-based degree (Note: I didn’t bother applying for the exemptions, the papers that you might be exempted might be higher. Wasn’t gonna waste money applying.). Sorry, not gonna work and study for 15 papers again. It would take me say, 5 years if I took 3 papers a year? LOL.


Well, I would say that this paper is first and foremost tough because it’s a closed book exam. You LITERALLY have to memorise everything! (I really hate memorising! Hence I did not even consider ACCA.) For ACCA, there are two parts:

  • Fundamental Level (9 papers); and
  • Professional Level (pick 5 out of 9 papers).

An accounting degree from UK, Australia or local universities should give you full exemptions for the Fundamental Level papers. For Professional Level, there are 3 compulsory papers (i.e. P1 to P3, Note: I’ve heard from my friends that P2 is the hardest!). You can take this program full time or part time, without being bonded to an approved institution unlike ICAEW or MICPA-CAANZ. I would recommend this paper if you want the flexibility to jump ship!


Upon completion of this program, you will qualify for memberships to both MICPA and the Charted Accountants Australia and New Zealand. It also has two parts like ACCA:-

  • Professional Stage (4 papers); and
  • Advanced Stage (5 papers).

An recognised accounting degree by MICPA should give you full exemptions for the Professional Stage papers. This is an open book exam! However, to take this paper, you are required to be bonded to an approved institution for at least 3 years. This makes it hard to jump ship. 🙁


This paper is fairly straight forward. It’s an open book exam with 6 compulsory subjects assuming you have a recognised accounting degree by CPA. If not, you might need to take additional foundation papers. But, you need not be bonded by an approved institution.

The choice in the end is up to you

Overall, the ‘famous’ professional paper programs are about the same, just that some requires you to be bonded to an approved institution making it hard for one to jump ship. You still can, but you have to go through a number of procedures to ensure your training contract is successfully transferred from your ex-firm to your new firm. It’s like getting a divorce.

Final advice, take the program that best suits you!

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One Response

  1. Being a Canadian accounting graduate, after lengthy comparison among various bodies I ended up with CPA Australia.

    I took all 5 subjects in 2003 coz it was the last batch with 5 exams before the new syllabus kicking in 2004.

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