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How Can I Prepare for Chartered Status?

As the pinnacle of financial proficiency, having Chartered status in your field is an emblem of high standards and expertise in a revered vocation. But what are the steps involved in achieving this?

What is Chartered status exactly?

If you want to achieve Chartered status, you’ll need to build on your existing skills and knowledge of the profession acquired through practical and academic training. Being chartered is the highest level of professional standing in certain professions and demonstrates a mastery of advanced financial practices.

As the benchmark of professional competence, chartered status is recognised across disciplines and sectors. After you pass the relevant qualifications, it’s expected that you will have full and thorough understanding of your field and a commitment to a long-term career in it.

Joining a professional body and achieving their highest status will confirm your professional profile as an expertly qualified industry professional. Minimum requirements usually state a certain amount of existing experience needed to apply and use the designation ‘Chartered’, although this varies from field to field.

Chartered status awarding bodies…

Each financial profession has its own awarding body, and often several, so be wary – the subtle differences in each can be confusing.

For example, CIPFA (The Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy) provides Chartered status, but as a ‘Chartered Public Finance Accountant’, with a specific focus on accountancy in the public sector.

To use the designation ‘Chartered Accountant’ in the UK, you can belong any one of four chartered accounting bodies (the ICAEW, ACCA, ICAS or CAI). On the other hand, the CMI (Chartered Management Institute) is the only organisation that offers the status of ‘Chartered Manager’.

As such, choosing which you’d like to qualify through is key before you start studying for the exams. Most require you to become a member of the body and maintain your membership if you want to continue using their letters after your name and on your business cards. Other organisations require you to have previous advanced qualifications from their body before taking the final chartered exam.

The requirements to become Chartered can be quite specific. To gain Chartered status with the IIA (Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors) for example, you must already hold the IIA Diploma. This is a required step before you can advance to the ultimate stage of Chartered Internal Auditor status.

Likewise, if you want to become a Chartered Wealth Manager with CISI (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment), you must pass a compulsory integrity test before the main examinations.

CISI also requires those looking at becoming Chartered to demonstrate Continuing Professional Development (CPD) by logging 35 hours of additional activities. These could include taking further relevant qualifications, teaching on securities and investments, or even having published articles or reviews on the financial services industry.

So how do I prepare?

It goes with saying that being prepared for the advanced material of the qualifying exams is your first step in getting ready to achieve Chartered status. The demanding and focussed content makes it advisable to start studying early, and reacquaint yourself with subjects at preceding levels of the exams you’ve already passed. Revise and revisit the foundations of your studies and brush up on your skills.

Having relevant work experience that bolsters your qualifications is also an essential part of achieving Chartered status. It’s a long and gradual process that demonstrates your professional development and specialism in your field, which is an essential part of becoming a chartered accountant.

After you do qualify, awarding bodies place a strong focus on continuing your training and maintaining an impressive amount of technical knowledge and skills in a number of areas. Wider awareness of the commercial sector and on-going development are both paramount, as is demonstrable sense of integrity and character.

Being an all-round expert in your field is hard work, but the rewards are greater than just a sense of prestige. Having Chartered status is a badge of professional achievement and experience, which means membership of a renowned organisation, access to great resources and networking opportunities, and ultimately, considerably improved career prospects.

By Nile Davies, AllAboutFinanceCareers.com