Professional Accountancy Qualification

The CIPFA Professional Accountancy Qualification (PAQ) is at the heart of our mission to build trust by strengthening public financial management. It delivers world-class public finance management training that focuses on technical competency, ethical principles, sustainable public value, and strategic thinking. The skills and knowledge you develop are fundamental to the core roles and responsibilities of public finance professionals.

Why choose CIPFA?

We offer our students:

  • the only accountancy qualification designed specifically for aspiring finance professionals working in the public services
  • a clear pathway to the internationally recognised Chartered Public Finance Accountancy (CPFA) designation, a status that immediately signals technical competency and public sector expertise
  • a future-ready syllabus includes green finance, environmental reporting and performance measures, big data, data analytics and new technologies, alongside a focus on ethical accounting and audit principles, practices, and methodologies
  • the flexibility of completing the qualification as a levy-funded apprenticeship (for organisations and students in England)
  • expert tuition from qualified and experienced trainers
  • a qualification completed in four clear stages to support progression
  • access to the extensive range of benefits and resources that come with student membership
  • free access to our online Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub, offering immediate, anonymous and direct support when needed
  • continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities to complement your learning, throughout your studies and beyond

If you began studying the CIPFA qualification before 2022, you can access the Professional Qualification (PQ) and International Public Financial Management (IPFM) pages for module and exam information.

What does the qualification cover?

The PAQ is made up of 12 modules which are completed in four stages: a certificate and three diplomas.

Stage Module Assessment 
Pre-learning Ethics  
CIPFA Certificate in Management and Financial Accounting Management Accounting Two hour online exam
Financial Accounting Two hour online exam
CIPFA Diploma in Financial Management and Audit Audit and Assurance Two and a half hour online exam
Business Planning and Financial Management Two and a half hour online exam
Developing Strategy and Data Analysis Two and a half hour online exam, case study
CIPFA Diploma in Governance, Risk and Taxation Business Reporting Three hour online exam
Governance and Risk Management Three hour online exam
Tax and Law (UK and international options) Three hour online exam
Accountancy pathway
CIPFA Diploma in Public Financial Management, Reporting and Business Change Implementing Business Change Three hour online exam
Strategic Public Financial Management Three hour online exam
Public Sector Financial Reporting (UK and international options) Three hour online exam
Strategic Case Study Three hour online exam, case study
Audit pathway
CIPFA Diploma in Public Financial Management, Reporting and Advanced Audit* Advanced Audit Three hour online exam
Strategic Public Financial Management Three hour online exam
Public Sector Financial Reporting (UK and international options) Three hour online exam
Strategic Case Study Three hour online exam, case study

* In the UK, the CIPFA Diploma in Public Financial Management, Reporting and Advanced Audit qualification is available to students working from a CIPFA-approved training employer.

How is the qualification delivered?

Our study options offer unparalleled flexibility. The PAQ combines remote learning with options for face-to-face classes – benefitting students who prefer a high level of interaction with their fellow classmates and tutors, and to those who prefer to work more independently.

Study modes include e-learning, workshops, extensive written materials, mini projects, directed self-study and structured workplace tasks and learning activities. All materials and resources are accessed online via our virtual learning environment.

How is the qualification assessed?

All of the modules are assessed via online exams. The qualification culminates in the final Strategic Case Study module and exam, which assesses the skills and learning from across the 11 modules. There are two exams per sitting, in June and December. There are also additional exams held in March and September for those who go off-programme, or need to re-take an exam.

As well as the exams, you must complete and submit a portfolio. This is a log of practical workplace experience and evidenced skills been recorded over the duration of your studies.

What are the entry requirements?

You must be aged 18 and over and be a graduate or of graduate calibre.

UK students

  • Three GCSEs, grades A-C (or grades 4 and up), and two A-Levels, grades A-C, or accepted equivalent (subjects must include Maths and English at either level)
  • Scottish, Northern and Southern Ireland equivalents are accepted
  • BTEC and SCOTVEC national certificates are accepted
  • Minimum vocational requirement is NVQ/GNVQ level 3, or Scottish equivalent

International students

  • High school diploma or accepted equivalent

We also welcome students who do not meet the academic requirements if you are 21 or over, have your employer's support and have met the equivalent learning and skills to be able to access the demands of the qualification, either formally or through on the job experience. You must also have over three years of relevant work experience.

What are the entry routes?

We offer a number of entry routes to suit graduates, AATs, fully qualified accountants and senior professionals. There are also a number of exemptions available to those with previous qualifications of similar level.

How long will it take to complete?

Full time students will typically spend three and half years completing the qualification, but this may vary depending on prior qualifications and relevant work experience.

Next steps

Contact us

Tel:+44 (0)20 7543 5600
Email: customerservices@cipfa.org