Section 3 Professional skills competence areas and learning outcomes

Go to secondary navigation
International Accreditation Guidelines


Professional skills relates to a professionally accredited degree program that must not only produce graduates with a foundation of technical knowledge but also the skills necessary to effectively apply such knowledge when they enter the profession and further their development via membership of CPA Australia.

In assessing a degree for professional accreditation, CPA Australia will expect to see opportunities for students to develop a range of skills prescribed in IFAC’s International Education Standard 3 (IES 3) Professional Skills and General Education. 

Intellectual skills enable a professional accountant to solve problems, make decisions and exercise good judgment in complex organisational situations. The required intellectual skills include:
  • the ability to locate, obtain, organise and understand information from human, print and electronic sources
  • the capacity for inquiry, research, logical and analytical thinking, powers of reasoning, and critical analysis
  • the ability to identify and solve unstructured problems which may be in unfamiliar settings.

echnical and functional skills 

consist of general skills as well as skills specific to accountancy. They include:
  • numeracy (mathematical and statistical applications) and IT proficiency
  • decision modelling and risk analysis
  • measurement
  • reporting
  • compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements.

Personal skills relate to the attitudes and behaviour of professional accountants. Developing these skills helps individual learning and personal improvement. They include:

  • self-management
  • initiative, influence and self-learning
  • the ability to select and assign priorities within restricted resources and to organise work to meet tight deadlines
  • the ability to anticipate and adapt to change
  • the ability to consider the implications of professional values ethics and attitudes in decision making
  • professional scepticism.

Organisational and business management skills have become increasingly important to professional accountants. Professional accountants are being asked to play a more active part in the day-to-day management of organisations. Organisational and business management skills include:

  • strategic planning, project management, management of people and resources, and decision making
  • the ability to organise and delegate tasks, to motivate and to develop people
  • leadership
  • professional judgment and discernment

Interpersonal and communication skills enable a professional accountant to work with others for the common good of the organisation, receive and transmit information, form reasoned judgments and make decisions effectively. The components of interpersonal and communication skills include the ability to:

  • work with others in a consultative process, to withstand and resolve conflict
  • work in teams
  • interact with culturally and intellectually diverse people
  • negotiate acceptable solutions and agreements in professional situations
  • work effectively in a cross-cultural setting
  • present, discuss, report and defend views effectively through formal, informal, written and spoken communication
  • listen and read effectively, including a sensitivity to cultural and language differences.

Competence areas and learning outcomes

With reference to professional skills, listed below are the specific accounting and business competence areas that must be covered in an accounting degree program seeking accreditation by CPA Australia.

CPA Australia will accept accreditation submissions for programs that do not include the competency area of auditing and assurance. However, students must still have the opportunity to study subjects in this areas through their institution.

This competency area may be completed as part of CPA Program studies.

This list does not represent a list of prescribed subjects. In some cases (for example, financial accounting), one competence area will extend over more than one subject. Also, coverage of a particular competence area may be integrated with other areas in one or more subjects.

To summarise

CPA Australia requires the following competence areas to be covered:

Competence area 
 Accounting systems and processes Required 
 Financial accounting and reporting Required 
 Audit and assurance Optional
 Business law Required 
 Economics Required 
 Finance and financial management Required 
 Management accounting Required 
 Quantitative methods Required 
 Taxation Required 
 Information technology across the curriculum Required 
 Ethics across the curriculum Required 

A broad definition of each competence area is provided in the following paragraphs. Appendix 2 provides detailed learning outcomes for each competence area which set out the specific prerequisite competencies that graduates entering the CPA Program will be assumed to have acquired. Whilst they are intended to be indicative only and not to be tightly prescriptive of program content, they will be used by CPA Australia in its’ review of accounting programs for professional accreditation and membership assessments.

Accounting systems and processes

Covers the form and function of financial statements and how financial transactions are recorded.

Financial accounting and reporting

Covers the theoretical principles underlying accounting practice and their application to the preparation and analysis of financial statements.

Audit and assurance

Covers the nature and purpose of audit and assurance and the regulatory and professional environment in which it operates. The area includes an understanding of the role of auditing standards, and their application to the audit process.

Business Law

Covers general legal knowledge relating to the business environment, and an understanding of the responsibilities and risks.
Business law may be undertaken relating to a specific country. However, if the intention is to practise in Australia or New Zealand applicants will be required to undertake an Australian or New Zealand subject, in addition to the one undertaken in the program in their home country.


Covers the fundamental concepts of microeconomics and macroeconomics

Finance and financial management

Covers fundamental concepts and application of business finance and treasury.

Management accounting

Covers an understanding of budgeting, product and service costing, control and performance evaluation, and strategic management accounting. Quantitative methods
Covers the basic data collection, analysis and interpretation of business data.


Covers the fundamentals of the taxation system and its administration.
Taxation law may be undertaken relating to a specific country. However, if the intention is to practise in applicants will be required to undertake an Australian subject, in addition to the one undertaken in the program in their home country.

Information Technology across the curriculum

This topic covers the design of computer-based accounting information systems and their application to solve business problems. Accounting information systems and information technology are important elements in the development of new accounting and business professionals. It is expected that higher education providers will incorporate the use of systems and technology in accredited programs, with an emphasis on:

  • systems documentation techniques
  • business processes and systems documentation
  • systems design, implementation, and operation
  • information systems controls for system development
  • enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems 
  • database management systems, database design, relational databases
  • auditing computer-based systems and the use of auditing support systems
  • computer fraud 
  • using big data in organisations and auditing.
This competency area could be integrated across the curriculum or offered as a separate subject.

Ethics and professional values across the curriculum

An understanding of ethical and professional values and attitudes are important elements in the development of accounting professionals. It is expected that higher education providers will pay attention in their programs to the fundamental ethical values of integrity, objectivity, and confidentiality, as well as professional competence and due care.

Whilst a separate unit of study addressing these issues would clearly be helpful, this is not considered to be essential. However, it is expected that reference to ethical values and principles and their applicability to the accounting profession will be included throughout the curriculum. This is also expected in those cases where there is a separate unit dealing primarily with ethical topics. Independence of thought, and appropriate degree of professional scepticism, and recognition of a responsibility to act in the public interest are also important aspects of an ethical approach.

Contact us

Level 20, 28 Freshwater Place, Southbank
GPO Box 2820 Melbourne VIC 3001

P: +61 3 9606 9606
E: [email protected]