How to become a Chartered Accountant | RSM South Africa

How to become a Chartered Accountant

Want to become a Chartered Accountant?

Below is some guidance on the process to pursue this career.

High school

Make sure you get a University Entrance Matric with good marks in Maths and Accounting (these will form the base of your knowledge and, while the actual subject content is not earth shatteringly useful, the logic and process of thinking is vital).


Enroll at a university for a degree that is SAICA recognised to write CTA (Certificate in the Theory of Accounting which is also your Honours year). A list of SAICA accredited universities can be found here.


Complete your degree and obtain high enough marks to get entrance into CTA – then complete CTA.

For your CTA, you can complete this full time at various universities. You can also choose to study part time with UNISA or enroll for after-hours with Monash University. If you choose UNISA, you can take classes offered by various institutions such as Varsity College or Edge Business School, among others.

Some Training offices allow you to complete your Training Contract (explained below) at the same time as you study for your degree and CTA. 

Both the degree and CTA are rather challenging so you have to carefully consider whether you can manage this part time while you work. However, it is attainable if you are willing to put in the extra effort.

Your Training Contract

Sign up with a Training Office such as RSM in order to start your Learnership. If you begin your Learnership at the start of CTA or after CTA you will need to complete a 3 year fixed term Training Contract. This is an employment contract that runs in conjunction with your SAICA (South African Institute of Chartered Accountants) Learnership.

Board Exams

There are 2 board exams. The first one is known as the Initial Test of Competence (ITC). You are eligible to write it in the year after you pass your CTA. Universities prepare you for ITC through CTA. The second exam is the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC). You become eligible once you have completed these three requirements:

  • Passed the ITC exam;
  • Completed 20 months of the training contract; and
  • Completed and passed a recognised preparation course such as APT which is offered by institutions like UJ and UCT that is completed after hours during your training contract

The final step

After completing your Learnership and passing both board exams, you are eligible to register as a CA(SA) – a registered Chartered Accountant in South Africa.

What subjects do I need to become a Chartered Accountant?

You would need to register for the CA stream B Com with subjects in:

Auditing, Financial Accounting, Management Accounting and Taxation. 

These CA stream degrees are SAICA accredited degrees and will be a set curriculum, so these subjects will form part of your degree.

An RSM trainee success story

Michael Steenkamp

Michael Steenkamp joined RSM South Africa in 2001 as a trainee accountant. Michael had opted to study part time and complete his training contract simultaneously. This required immense dedication and plenty of hard work, and Michael successfully completed his training journey in 2005. He worked his way up through the ranks and is currently a Director in the Audit division of RSM South Africa and our Head of IFRS.

Useful jargon


Chartered Accountant (South Africa)


South African Institute of Chartered Accountants


Independent Regulatory Board of Auditors 

Trainee Accountant or Trainee

A person who has signed a training contract and is studying towards becoming a CA(SA)

Training Contract    

An employment contract that run in conjunction with a SAICA Learnership

Training Office         

A firm accredited by SAICA to offer learnerships to complete the training contract requirement to be eligible to register as a CA(SA)