Is studying AAT a better route to Accounting than University?

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Is studying AAT a better route to Accounting than University?

For your next step, you may be considering a job in finance. Accounting or Bookkeeping specifically, but how exactly do you enter this profession?

It can be a tough decision, especially if you’re still determining exactly where you want to go next with your career! When choosing how to study accounting, there are many factors to consider.

Like many other industries, the myth exists; gaining an education in your field is best found at university. Yet, there has been a constant rise in students successfully choosing alternative routes.

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), is an educational body. They offer an excellent gateway for students to understand accounting principles and practices.

AAT specialise in globally highly-regarded accounting and bookkeeping courses. These can be studied at home, as well as at an educational institution such as a college. The courses provide a flexible option to get your qualifications in your own time, with the assistance of various study materials available online and support from experienced tutors.

In this blog post, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of each option to help you make the best decision for yourself.

AAT is an accessible route into accounting

Beginning your career in accounting often can seem like the journey of the unknown. On top of this, those beginning a career change into accounting presume it may be a daunting prospect. 
Which option will give you structure and direction in career growth?
AAT provides a flexible learning approach that allows space for creative problem-solving that develops professional skills. Whereas University offers the skillset of independent learning & facilities to study from.
AAT has increasingly become the desired option for many; students progressing from higher education, career swappers and those long-time unemployed. Unlike university, there is no application process to begin your AAT qualifications. A broad barrier to entry, means those passionate about an accounting or bookkeeping career, aren’t blocked from accessing the skills they need.
Students entering from non-traditional backgrounds can access the necessary foundation of accounting skills, through both AAT and University. Yet, there are differing entry requirements to begin these studies;
Studying for AAT requires no previous qualifications. The structure of the courses gives a steady and recommended elevation in skillset. Level 2 Accounting and Bookkeeping provide an introduction to various calculations & terminologies present throughout the field. This is an excellent way to gain structure in Accounting and Bookkeeping.
Depending on your university of choice, there are various entry requirements. Entry to university usually balances on how many UCAS points you have. Your educational qualifications get converted into UCAS points. Your qualifications will be the deciding factor in what university you study at. There will be limited availability of Universities based on your past A-Level or BTEC studies.
For Universities, there is a specific window when applications must be submittedSimilar to school timetables, courses at University work in cycles. With term time starting in September and running until May/June. To register for University you must fill out a UCAS application. This will contain your qualifications & a short personal statement. A personal statement is your pitch to a university. Here you will tell them why you want to study at their establishment. A UCAS application has a submission deadline of January.
AAT, on the other hand, has no cycle of study. Courses begin when you choose. If you decide to study at a college, they may impose a schedule for your studies. However, when you study with a training provider, more flexibility is available. Resources and support become available straight away.
University is accessible for many due to the range of universities across the UK. There are over 160 to choose from. This accessibility becomes limited when other factors are considered.
How close is your preferred University?
Can I access the campus via public transport/car?
How much will the transport cost over 3 years?
With AAT as previously mentioned, you can study at home or at a college. This for the majority removes many barriers and hurdles to balancing your studies. Many online colleges and training providers run online classes. Live classes, give you the opportunity to have an interactive exchange with tutors. Thus, still providing a full learning experience. Of course, some still prefer in-person learning which can be accessed at a college. A college would then pose the same location considerations as a University.

Can you earn as you learn?

Studying to upskill yourself is a journey that in the long term, reaps rewards. In the meantime, there are sacrifices that can come with partaking in education. Generally, the sacrifices boil down to two elements; time and finance. 
When studying at university, a full-time course spreads across 3 years at a cost of approx £9000 a year. Studying full-time may allow you to work around your course on a part-time basis and also on weekends. 
Or, with AAT, you have the potential to learn through self-study. Your studies can work around both part-time and full-time employment. Self-study is often more flexible as you will have the freedom to dictate how much studying you take on. 
The main factor here is how much time can you dedicate to studying. We all have to balance family time and other engagements in our busy lives. Also, finances! What is the best investment for you? How can you support yourself financially?
Working and studying is a dream combination. It gives you the opportunity to earn money to support yourself whilst studying. 
The freedom to learn and study with AAT is you can do it as quickly or slowly as you wish. You are in full control of when to book your exams. Moreover, the unique opportunity to earn as you learn is crucial in today’s job market. You can bolster your experience in the industry by taking on roles as you progress through the levels. A great way to gain invaluable experience by learning on the job!
Most levels of AAT Accounting and Bookkeeping can be completed within 6 to 12 months. Combining this with prices of under £1000 for a level, it is simple to understand why AAT has emerged as a fiercely competitive alternative to a university degree.

The AAT qualification is well respected in the industry

An AAT qualification is a valuable asset to many people looking to begin a career in accounting. It’s a great place to start, and there’s a lot of freedom to study as quickly or as slowly as you wish. Unlike University, it doesn’t require a minimum of three years, either. 

Upon completing your studies, you will become an AAT member. Becoming an AAT member has many benefits. Such as discounts on textbooks and events by employers, to a range of exclusive learning resources. Furthermore, a key advantage of the AAT qualification is its global recognition; it leads to a wide variety of accounting jobs across the world. 

Moreover, if you wish to progress onto further qualifications down the line, AAT will come in handy by providing a strong foundation.

The potential of AAT, leads to many outcomes from jobs in public practices, industry and finance roles all over the world. Going beyond this, depending on the level achieved, further technical qualifications become much easier for those who chose to continue studying.

University may not be for everyone

University may be popular but it’s also a big investment to make. With hefty fees ever growing in the UK, at £9000 per year, it’s no surprise people are rethinking if university is for them or not. 

University brings its own set of challenges compared to AAT studies primarily from a Training Provider. University is based on set schedules for lectures, assessment deadlines and exams. Although set deadlines push students and offer structure, it also leads to a great deal of stress, especially since their schedules are not very flexible.

Balancing university studies with work and family life can feel overwhelming. With student loans and fees, university courses require commitment, skill and dedication to earn that degree. There is still help and support out there if you do choose the university route, but it’s different than going down the AAT path. Support from tutors and other staff compared to AAT is very different – the latter can have a team of experienced tutors on hand ready to help with any question you have. 

Managing university schedules with part-time work can be extremely difficult forcing many students to choose either work or university as one has to suffer 

To each their own – while the university may be popular, it’s certainly not for everyone.


If you’re not sure university is for you, or if you’re looking for an alternative to the traditional route, then AAT could be perfect for you. 

Choosing AAT as your route into accounting offers many benefits compared to university degrees. The freedom to study part-time whilst working in your new profession is one factor we believe is potentially the best benefit. The qualification is also well respected in the industry, making it a great option for those looking to start their career in accounting. On top of this, the difference in price and required study time is key to anyone motivated to get their studies underway whilst not having to take out huge loans to complete a degree. 

Here at Training Link, we’re an award-winning AAT training provider and we can help you get started on your journey into the world of accounting. So why not get in touch today and find out how we can help you achieve your dream career?

See how our students have achieved succeess in AAT here.

Check out our courses here.

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