Why students and working professionals acquire an ICAEW qualification

STUDENTS looking to further their studies in accountancy, finance and business may consider pursuing an Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) qualification.  

Aside from opening up a plethora of job opportunities from various sectors, it helps equip students with real-world business skills along with a curriculum that is updated on a yearly basis. 

While obtaining a professional qualification will certainly give students a competitive edge over others, many are under the impression that ICAEW is a difficult path to take and may extend studying time, which puts students off from taking on the course.

Three young Malaysian ICAEW chartered accountants weigh in on the matter by sharing their experience pursuing their ICAEW whilst studying during their tertiary education. 


Sarmila Ramamoorthy, previously an auditor at Mahzan Sulaiman.

For finance and admin manager Sarmila Ramamoorthy, she decided to pursue the ICAEW Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) immediately after secondary school. 

Initially, she was unsure about what field she should study, which led her to attend an education fair to figure out her options.

"I first heard of ICAEW at an education fair and was especially intrigued with the training aspect where we would be obtaining working experience before the completion of the programme itself. It was unlike any other programme that I know of, and that's why I decided to pursue the ICAEW," 

Currently, Sarmila works in a chocolate manufacturing company, where she is tasked with preparing the management accounts, ensuring that the company's cash flow is aligned with their budgeted obligations and expansion plans, as well as improving business processes - leveraging on her experience gained previously from working in audit. 

She believes that her ICAEW training has equipped her with the necessary technical knowledge as well as decision-making and problem-solving skills for her role. 

"These are key qualities that are vital to learn as we scale up the ladder, as it is required to translate the numbers to improve one's business, rather than just understanding the numbers." she said.


Elyn Kuan – Deals, Transaction Services (Financial Due Diligence) at PwC Malaysia

Elyn Kuan, who works in 'Big Four' accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Malaysia, chose to pursue the ICAEW after obtaining a degree in accounting, as she learnt that a professional qualification would provide a greater depth of technical knowledge. 

"I chose ICAEW as it is very well-regarded in the realm of business and accounting. It covers a myriad of topics that goes beyond accounting and finance knowledge, and enhances students' business acumen, preparing them for a variety of roles in the future." 

As taking ICAEW's qualification involves both full-time employment and examinations at the same time during the final Advanced Level, the Multimedia University graduate was able to learn on the job whilst she was studying, allowing her to gain knowledge from both experiences simultaneously. 

In 2017, she won the ICAEW World Prize (The Howitt Prize) for scoring 1st in the world for the Financial Management examination in the ICAEW ACA December 2016 examinations.

"The ability to apply the knowledge on-the-job motivates me and makes me appreciate the learning opportunities.

"The training, along with the exam modules, equips me with the accounting knowledge and agility to see from strategic and commercial lenses. These are key elements required in my role." she said.

Within PwC Deals Advisory, Elyn's role is to perform financial due diligence by looking at companies' historical business performance and telling the 'story' of companies, often from a merger and acquisition perspective. 

"The reader can be a buyer or seller, in which I tell them what the numbers mean and suggest to them what to do next.  Our analysis generally helps clients to decide if the deal is a go or no-go, and determines the final purchase price and negotiation points to protect themselves in the deal." she added.


Foo Yuen Jin, Corporate Restructuring Group at Deloitte Malaysia.

Similar to Elyn, Foo Yuen Jin, an insolvency practitioner at Deloitte Malaysia, took the ICAEW when he came back to Malaysia upon completing his degree, as he learnt more about it during his university studies in the UK. 

"At the time, many teachers recommended ICAEW due to its rigorous training programme in commercial and technical knowledge. Two of ICAEW's advanced level modules, Strategic Business Management and Case Study, gave depth and breadth to my thought process which helps in assessing challenges faced by the business and to communicate them to stakeholders. 

"Besides that, I noticed that many ICAEW members are high achievers, i.e. many are top secondary school students, as well as graduates from top-notch universities or are climbing the corporate ladder at a fast pace," he added.

Aside from learning about the business and commercial aspects of a business, Yuen Jin emphasises how ICAEW trains them to think logically and holistically when it comes to business challenges. 

"The ethics training was helpful to assist us in identifying any threats that may affect our business judgments. For example, potential independence issues by providing multiple services to a client may lead to lack of perceived independence, and ICAEW also provides ways to mitigate them," he explained.

He adds that having an ICAEW qualification is helpful in opening doors to various opportunities in the future, as there are many opportunities to network with senior ICAEW members. 

"Many of ICAEW's senior members are corporate leaders in many organisations — such as the Managing Director of Khazanah, Chairman and CEO of PETRONAS and even managing partners in Big 4 firms."

"ICAEW also promotes constant professional development for all members — including personal development programmes that are free such as 'Do more in a day than you do in a week'. Also, technical knowledge training is available for members, including advanced MS Excel, data analytics and corporate finance modules." he said.


There are many possible routes to acquire an ICAEW qualification in Malaysia. 

Whether it is taking the Certificate in Finance, Accounting and Business (CFAB) route like Sarmila and Yuen Jin immediately after secondary school, or benefitting from exemptions toward the qualification after acquiring an accounting or relevant degree like Elyn, students have the choice to choose their preferred pathway.

Colleges such as Sunway TES, Centre for Accounting Excellence and INTEC Education College are among the institutions that give high school students the opportunity to pursue ICAEW CFAB.

Once students have completed their ICAEW CFAB, they will proceed to the Professional and Advanced Level of the ICAEW ACA qualification. 

For degree students and graduates, they may also take up the qualification during or after their studies, with possible credits for prior learning/exemptions from the ICAEW modules.

If online learning is preferred, students may also opt to pursue ICAEW with KAPLAN Malaysia, as the platform offers plenty of options for online studies. 

Regardless of which method students choose to obtain an ICAEW qualification, they may also apply for the following scholarships to help finance their study: 

To find out more about ICAEW, contact ICAEW Malaysia at +603-2171 6022 or email

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