The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers offers a range of ICB bookkeeping courses. You can start after grade 10 by beginning with the Junior Bookkeeping Course, and work you way up to two levels higher than matric (NQF 6 level).
To understand the ICB bookkeeping courses, you need to consider the following:
- Why study Bookkeeping?
- Can I study ICB Bookkeeping courses if I don’t have Matric?
- The difference between Bookkeeping and Accounting Courses
- The different levels of study with the ICB
- The different courses that makes up the ICB Financial Accounting Programme
- Foundation Level
- Intermediate Level
- Upper Intermediate Level
- Advanced Level
- What qualifications do you get?
- Study further after completing your programme
- Subjects that are the same across more than one ICB course
- The role of your college and the role of the ICB – who does what?
- How does Home Study or Distance Learning work for these courses?
Why Study One of the ICB Bookkeeping Courses?
In South Africa bookkeeping and accounting are scarce skills. That means that both industry and government recognise that we have a shortage of bookkeepers and accountants. The government body for qualifications in the financial sector, FASSET, has done a study on scarce skills in 2015. From that study they published their Scarce Skills Guide 2015.
FASSET is the SETA for Finance, Accounting, Management Consulting and other Financial Services. In their scarce skills guide they identified the following as scarce skills:
- Trainee Accountant
- Finance Manager
- General Accountant
- Accounts Clerk
- Payroll Clerk
- Debt Collector
These are all positions for which ICB bookkeeping courses will prepare you properly. Your bookkeeping qualification will ensure that you are always in demand. It is a great career that can take you to the highest level in an organisation.
The scarcity of bookkeeping skills also impacts government departments. All government departments have accounting and bookkeeping divisions. And they work every year to get a “clean audit”. To get a clean audit means that they need well-trained, qualified, committed and experienced bookkeeping and accounting staff and managers.
As a qualified bookkeeper or accountant, you will always be in demand. Either in private business or in a government department, which can include both municipalities, as well as larger national government departments.
Can I study ICB Bookkeeping courses if I don’t have Matric?
The ICB bookkeeping courses start at NQF level 3. And they go up to NQF level 6. Matric is at NQF level 4. So these courses are accessible for students who do not have matric. You start at an academic level below matric. And if you keep on studying, you will end up with a qualification two levels above matric.
The ICB bookkeeping courses are developed to be accessible for students who must work and study at the same time. With distance learning, you can study an hour every evening. You now have five exam opportunities per year, so as soon as you are ready for an exam, you can go and write that exam. In this way, you can do your course step by step.
As you progress with the programme, you will get recognition at the different levels. After completing the first four subjects, you will already get your first qualification from FASSET, and your first ICB Programme Certificate.
The difference between Bookkeeping and Accounting Courses
Bookkeeping and Accounting are two sides of the same thing. At the entry level, it is called bookkeeping. In bookkeeping you are busy with the accurate recording of all the transactions of a company or department. You make sure that all income and all expenditure are properly recorded.
Once you have moved a few steps up on the ladder, you start reporting on the bookkeeping information, and you start analysing the information. At the level where your job becomes more complicated, because you are also reporting and analysing the business financial information, we start calling it Accounting.
So an Accountant is a senior Bookkeeper. And a Bookkeeper is a junior Accountant!
The different Levels of study with the ICB
The ICB bookkeeping programme is divided into different levels. Inside each level can be one or more courses. The programme is divided into four levels, as follows:
- Foundation Level
- Intermediate Level
- Upper Intermediate Level
- Advanced Level
As you complete each level, you will get recognition from the ICB for the ICB bookkeeping courses, in the form of an ICB Programme Certificate. As you complete the different courses inside the levels, you will get recognition from FASSET in the form of your formal qualification from FASSET. I shall explain the different levels, and the courses inside each level, in detail below.
The different Courses that makes up the ICB Financial Accounting Programme
The ICB Bookkeeping / Financial Accounting Programme is broken into four levels. Inside each level is one full qualification. As you progress up the ladder of qualifications, you will see the names of the qualifications change from Bookkeeping to Accounting.
The ICB Financial Accounting Programme consist out of four different levels, each with a FASSET qualification inside it; as follows:
- Foundation level – National Certificate: Bookkeeping (NQF Level 3)
- Intermediate level – FET Certificate: Bookkeeping (NQF level 4)
- Upper Intermediate level – National Diploma: Technical Financial Accounting (NQF level 5)
- Advanced level – National Diploma: Financial Accounting (NQF level 6)
In the ICB, we refer to the Foundation and Intermediate level courses, as ICB bookkeeping courses. So that will be these two qualifications:
- National Certificate: Bookkeeping (NQF Level 3)
- FET Certificate: Bookkeeping (NQF Level 4)
Accounting courses in the ICB are the higher level courses that we find at Upper Intermediate level and Advanced level. So that means these two courses:
- National Diploma: Technical Financial Accounting (NQF Level 5)
- National Diploma: Financial Accounting (NQF Level 6)
The foundation level is the starting point for most students. If you did not do that well at school, or you failed matric, or you have not studied for many years, then the foundation level helps you bridge the gap and get back into studying.
Academically the level is NQF 3. That is the level below matric, so we know that students with Grade 10 (Standard 8) will be able to cope with the academic level of the work.
You do not need any previous accounting or bookkeeping knowledge if you start at this level. And you need to be at least 16 years of age to be accepted onto the programme.
To complete this level you must pass four subjects. The recommended time to complete this level is 12 months. Distance learning students can take up to 18 months.
The intermediate level are for students who have successfully completed the foundation level. It is your second step on the ladder to becoming a Financial Accountant.
To enter this level, you must have passed the foundation level. That means you must already have your National Certificate: Bookkeeping to enter this level.
To complete this level you must pass two subjects. Many students complete this level in six months. Distance learning students can take up to nine months to complete this level.
Upper Intermediate Level
AT this level you move from Bookkeeping to Accounting. If your dream is to become an Accountant, then this level will get you there!
To enter this level you must have passed the Intermediate level. That means you must have your FET Certificate: Bookkeeping to gain entry to the Upper Intermediate Level.
To complete this level you must pass two subjects. The recommended time of study is 6 months. Distance learning students can take up to 9 months to complete this level.
This is the top level of ICB studies. Here you will gain your National Diploma: Financial Accounting (NQF Level 6). To enter this level you must have passed all the previous levels. So that means you must be in possession of your National Diploma: Technical Financial Accounting.
To pass this level you must successfully complete four subjects. Students usually take around 12 months to complete this level. Distance learning students can take a bit longer, of course.
What qualifications do you get?
At the different levels you get different qualifications. You get your qualifications from FASSET. And you also get certificates from the ICB for every level that you progress.
The qualifications are named as follows:
Foundation Level Qualification
National Certificate: Bookkeeping (NQF Level 3)
Intermediate Level Qualification
FET Certificate: Bookkeeping (NQF level 4)
Upper Intermediate Level Qualification
National Diploma: Technical Financial Accounting (NQF level 5)
Advanced Level Qualification
National Diploma: Financial Accounting (NQF level 6)
Study further after completing the ICB Financial Accounting Programme
The ICB offers five different fields of study. Thus far we have discussed just one of these fields of study, being: Financial Accounting, or Bookkeeping.
The other fields of study are:
- Public Sector Accounting
- Business Management
- Office Administration
The different programmes have many subjects in common. So once you have completed one programme, you might find that you can achieve another qualification by just doing the subjects that do not overlap.
For example, three of the first four subjects in each of these programmes are the same. So if you have passed the four subject for your Bookkeeping programme, you have also completed three of the four subjects you need for the Public Sector Accounting programme. So by adding that one subject, you qualify for another complete qualification.
Study further after completing your programme – Other Courses
The ICB has recognition agreements in place with a number of other professional bodies. So, depending on what qualification you have completed with the ICB, you can get credits towards qualifications with these bodies.
Here is a list of some of the bodies that will recognise your ICB qualifications as counting towards some of their programmes, as well as towards membership of these professional bodies:
Institute of Accounting and Commerce (IAC)
South African Business Accountants (SAIBA)
South African Institute for Tax Professionals (SAIT)
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
Note: You will have to apply to these professional bodies. And they each have their own set of entrance criteria and rules.
The role of your college and the role of the ICB – who does what?
When you sign up for one of the ICB bookkeeping courses, your college or academy provides you with the study materials, marking, tutoring and all the help you need to prepare you for the exam. Your college helps you complete your Portfolio of Evidence. And will keep on pushing you, so that you complete the course successfully and in a reasonable amount of time. We keep you working, studying and motivated!
Then you write the exam (and hand in your Portfolio of Evidence) with the ICB. The ICB oversees the quality of the programme. They accredit the course providers, to ensure that students get good training and has a real chance of passing the exams.
How does Home Study or Distance Learning work for these courses?
Depending on your college, you might do your course via distance learning, home study, part-time study, or online study. These are all different versions of studying at home, with the help of a college and a tutor that guides you through one of the ICB bookkeeping courses.
The best colleges will ensure you get the right study material, bit by bit, and sent with a courier. So that your study material gets to you quickly.
Studying ICB bookkeeping courses via distance learning is for people who cannot attend classes. So if you stay far away from a campus where they offer ICB courses, then you should consider distance learning.
Distance learning means that your course provider sends you books and study notes. And then helps you study over the phone, or email or some online system.
Home study is for students who cannot go to classes. Many of our students have to work to earn a salary in the daytime, so they only get to study after hours and on weekends.
The ICB courses were developed so that you can study them from home. The study material is friendly and will guide you through the work step by step. When you use the study materials, you will “hear the voice of the lecturer”. The lecturer has been written into the course materials.
When you need a friendly voice to discuss your studies, you can call the college. Or you can engage with fellow students and your lecturers in our online study groups. This is where you can learn the most… seeing the questions of other students, and how the tutors answer those questions.
If you need to speak with your tutor one-on-one, you can also do that. The online study groups also allow you to have private conversations.
Another way that these courses take into account the needs of a home study students, is that there are five exam sessions in 2017. So if you cannot make an exam session, you know that another opportunity to write that exam will come around in three months or less. You can also use the multiple exam sessions every year, to progress through your course faster than the other students. As soon as you are ready to write an exam, you will be close to the next exam session.
Part-time study is for students who can attend some classes, but not many. So you might go to a class in the evening or on a Saturday. And then study from home the rest of the time.
Online study means that a lot of your interactions happen on the internet. With our online study groups, we have created a chat-group environment where you can learn from your tutors and from other students.
You will also have access to the ICB Learner Portal. This is a fantastic tool which lets you manage your ICB studies in one convenient location. You can read the step-by-step guide to the ICB Learner Portal to find out more.
ICB Courses at Unisa
Students often ask if they can study ICB Bookkeeping at Unisa. This is especially students who want to go on and study a degree later on.
Unfortunately, Unisa does not offer any of the ICB courses. If you plan to study a degree at Unisa, make sure you check with them if they will accept any of your ICB studies for academic credits or for entry onto their degree programmes.
Each university has its own rules. So if you plan to study further at a university, make absolutely sure you understand how they will recognise your prior studies. Most universities will not give you academic credits for other studies. They usually just want to see your matric certificate. Yes, I know this does not make sense!
ICB Course Fees
Your ICB Bookkeeping course will entail a number of costs. So make sure you understand all the different things you will have to pay; before you register for the course. Some of these things are:
- College fees with your accredited training provider. Also known as course fees.
- Textbook costs. Remember to check what books you will have to buy for your course; and if your college includes these books with your study fees.
- Exam fees. Also, when you register for the exam you will have to pay your student registration fee to the ICB.
- ICBA Student Membership fees, if decide to join the ICBA. We recommend that you join them as soon as you can.
The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers and Accountants (ICBA)
The ICBA is a professional body that offers membership to students studying ICB bookkeeping courses. Initially, you can only become a Student Member. But as soon as you have completed your first qualification, you will be eligible for Professional Membership.
This means you get to use a professional designation behind your name on your business card. In this way, you show your coworkers and your clients that you are serious about your profession and that you are recognised as a professional by the ICBA.
The different qualifications lead to different designations. So be sure to find out more about the ICBA early on in your studies. This is a great way to enhance your CV and your professional status.
Last updated: March 26, 2019