6 Steps to become a Chartered Accountant in South Africa

Sure, here are six steps to become a Chartered Accountant (CA) in South Africa:

Step 1. Obtain a Relevant Bachelor's Degree

Make sure you get a University Entrance Matric with good marks in Maths and Accounting (these will form the base of your knowledge, and while the actual subject content is not earth-shatteringly useful, the logic and process of thinking are vital).

Step 2. Complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (PGDA)

After completing your bachelor's degree, you'll need to enroll in a PGDA program accredited by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA). This program typically lasts one year and provides the academic foundation necessary for the CA qualification. Enroll at a university for a degree that is SAICA recognized to write CTA (Certificate in the Theory of Accounting, which is also your Honours year). A list of SAICA-accredited universities can be found here.

Step 3. Register as a Trainee Accountant

Upon acceptance into a SAICA-accredited training program, you'll register as a trainee accountant with a registered training office or employer. This is typically a three-year training contract where you'll gain practical experience in accounting and auditing under the supervision of qualified CAs. Complete your degree and obtain high enough marks to enter CTA – then complete CTA.

Some Training offices allow you to complete your Learnership (Step 4 below) at the same time as you study for your degree and CTA. If you choose this step, you can do your degree part-time with UNISA while you complete it.

For your CTA, you can work part-time with UNISA or enroll for after-hours with Monash University. If you choose UNISA, you can take classes offered by various institutions, such as Graduate Achievers or Edge Business School.

Both the degree and CTA are somewhat challenging, so you have to carefully consider whether you can manage this part-time while you work. However, it is attainable if you are willing to put in the extra effort.

Step 4. Pass the Initial Assessment Exams: 

During your training contract, you must pass two sets of Initial Test of Competence (ITC) exams. These exams assess your knowledge and understanding of accounting, auditing, taxation, and other relevant topics.

Complete the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC): After completing your training contract and passing the ITC exams, you'll need to complete the APC. This final assessment evaluates your professional competence and readiness to become a Chartered Accountant.

Register with SAICA and Obtain CA (SA) Designation: Once you've successfully completed all the academic requirements, training, and assessments, you can apply for membership with SAICA and obtain the Chartered Accountant (South Africa) designation (CA (SA)). This designation signifies that you've met the rigorous standards set by SAICA and are recognized as a qualified Chartered Accountant in South Africa. Sign up with a Training Office such as RSM to start your Learnership. If you begin your Learnership at the start of CTA or after CTA, you must complete a 3-year fixed-term Training Contract. This employment contract runs in conjunction with your SAICA (South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) Learnership.

Step 5.

There are 2 board exams. The first is the Initial Test of Competence (ITC). You can write it in the year after you pass your CTA. Universities prepare you for ITC through CTA. The second exam is the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). You become eligible after completing 18 months of your training contract.

Step 6

After completing your Learnership and passing both parts of the board exams, you will qualify as a CA(SA) – a registered Chartered Accountant in South Africa.

Useful Jargon

  • CA - Chartered Accountant
  • SAICA - South African Institute of Chartered Accountants
  • IRBA - Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors (used to be known as PAAB)
  • Trainee - A person who has signed a training contract and is studying toward becoming a CA
  • Training Contract - An employment contract that runs in conjunction with a SAICA Learnership
  • Training Office - A registered training office can offer you a learnership to become a C

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