ProfessionalsA Professional accountant in a specified field is a candidate who has (or has acquired) the qualifications specified by the respective professional accounting body for being recognised as a professional in that field.
Acquiring qualificationsAcquiring the qualifications generally involves completing a course of study, getting through examinations at the end of the course, undergoing one or more kinds of practical training.
To become a chartered accountant, a candidate has to take up the chartered accountancy course, appear at and get through the chartered accountancy examinations at various levels, undergo practical training, computer training and management training. Upon completing all these a candidate would be eligible to become a chartered accountant (a professional accountant in field of chartered accountancy).
ExemptionsCandidates with certain specified qualifications may be exempt from one or more such requirements.
A company secretary intending to become a cost accountant would be exempt from appearing in few papers of the cost accountancy course that has to be taken up by candidates intending to become cost accountants.
MembershipCandidates with the requisite qualifications would then be eligible to become members of the respective body. All members of a professional accounting body are professional accountants in the specified field. Some bodies make it compulsory for candidates to take up membership for being recognised as a professional of the specified field. Some make it optional. Only members can play an active role in the affairs of the professional body.
StudentsCandidates pursuing the courses conducted by the professional accounting bodies are the students of the related professional accounting course.
Both Professionals and Non Professionals work at various levelsAccounting is a function that is carried on in almost all the business organisations by individuals either with or without the help of machines (computers). We find personnel working at various levels of the organisational hierarchies within the accounting and other departments (sections). People who are involved in the process of recording information (daily book keeping activities) whom we call accountants or book keepers or clerks or assistants, People who carry on activities relating to processing the information collected by book keepers whom we call accountants, managers, chief accounts etc., People who carry on the analysis of the accounting information who are generally positioned towards the higher levels of the hierarchy whom we call Chief Accounts Officer, Financial Manager etc.
All these need to have the knowledge of and be proficient in the area of accounting they deal with. It would be difficult to demarcate the knowledge as to non-professional level and professional level.
The level at which an accountant is working is not an appropriate guideline for deciding whether an accountant is a professional or not. We may find both professional as well as non-professional accountants at various levels of the organisation.
The depth of the knowledge required by people working in organisations at various levels depends on the level at which they are working, the accounting activity they handle as well as the informational needs of the organisation. We may find professional as well as non-professional accountants with the requisite knowledge and proficiency which may have been acquired through their academic curricula or through work experience.