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Student Insights

5 life skills you’ll gain from ICAEW CFAB

Author: ICAEW Insights

Published: 29 Feb 2024

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As a comprehensive introduction to business and finance, the ICAEW CFAB qualification develops skills and behaviours that will be invaluable during your career. Shaun Robertson, Director of Education and Qualifications at ICAEW, shares his top five.

1 Discipline

ICAEW CFAB will hone your time management skills. For those studying ICAEW CFAB with an employer, your employer will set the pace, expecting you to juggle tuition, revision and exams alongside a busy role. For those studying ICAEW CFAB independently, budgeting your time and staying focused and motivated are even more important. 

Regardless of whether you’re accountable to your employer or just yourself, it’s vital to get into good habits, setting aside regular study time and keeping the momentum going. These are challenging professional exams – ICAEW CFAB is the equivalent of a Level 4 qualification, or the first year of a bachelor’s degree – so as well as a gateway to further study, they can act as a ‘reset’ for your previous academic record, demonstrating that you have the discipline for high-stakes exams.

2 Confidence

With its six varied modules, ICAEW CFAB is a comprehensive introduction to all aspects of business and finance, including areas such as tax and law. Even if you don’t have a background in finance, by the end of the qualification you’ll have gained a solid foundation of knowledge across the key pillars, giving you the confidence to interpret financial data and ‘talk the talk’ of business. 

Many students find that studying ICAEW CFAB opens up areas of interest they hadn’t considered before, so if you’re not sure yet which direction you’d like to go in, it’s a great way to get a flavour of all the different fields before you choose a specialism. And if you decide that ICAEW CFAB is as far as you want to go, you’ll have a level of commercial awareness and business acumen that is sought-after by employers of all kinds.

3 Improved prospects

ICAEW CFAB opens doors. If you’d like to become a chartered accountant but are not yet in an ACA training agreement, it will give you a head start, showing prospective employers that you’re committed to your career choice and capable of meeting the demands of the qualification. If you’re applying for a degree course, it will demonstrate competence, commitment and self-motivation, especially if your academic record has held you back in the past. Best of all, refining your study and exam techniques in this way means you’re more likely to go on to pass other challenging exams in the future. 

ICAEW CFAB is an internationally respected professional qualification, so having it on your CV can help you stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. You may also be eligible for the ICAEW Business and Finance Professional (BFP) designation, a mark of the skills, knowledge and experience you have already gained. If you’re on the lookout for opportunities with authorised employers, visit the ICAEW Training Vacancies hub.

4 Resilience

These exams may be completely different to anything you will have faced in your previous education, so they may not always be smooth sailing. It’s important to try to see any setback as a learning opportunity, and a chance to practise your resilience and adaptability (find out more about how to build your personal resilience). Chances are you’ll know what went wrong – maybe there were gaps in your knowledge or you didn’t do enough question practice – so learn from your mistakes, pick yourself up and try again. Always keep the big picture in mind, thinking about your goal and everything you’ll gain from reaching the finish line.

5 Integrity

Ethics is fundamental to all professions, especially accountancy and finance where you’re dealing with other people’s money and acting in the public interest. While ethics can’t necessarily be taught – it relies upon our moral values and innate sense of right and wrong – it’s embedded throughout ICAEW CFAB, with each module featuring contextual examples to bring the issues to life and help you develop your knowledge and behaviours. 

As well as gaining an understanding of the ethical principles that underpin all business, you’ll begin to be able to identify ethical dilemmas and understand their implications, helping you to develop that all-important questioning mindset and sense of integrity. While you’re not required to complete the Ethics Learning Programme as an ICAEW CFAB student, it’s an opportunity to broaden and strengthen your skillset, especially if you’re planning to apply for the BFP designation.

Thinking of progressing from ICAEW CFAB to the ACA? Read the Student Insights guide on taking the next step.

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