Options, issues & locations

Postgrad Choices


The decision to complete a postgraduate course in accounting is very much a personal decision and asking graduate trainees will get you strong and varied answers. These sections will talk you through the three options (direct entry, PDA and Masters) highlighting the many factors to consider (such as cost, college lifestyle, professional exam exemptions, studying impact, desire to earn a decent wage etc.) when making your decision. The initial transition from full time study to full time work and part time study can be a difficult one and it is typically of personal preference whether students would rather conquer this early or avoid a set of exams and only have to deal with it for the FAEs.

Direct Entry

Starting your training contract directly after your undegraduate degree appeals to many students who have had their fill of college and are ready to start earning a living for themselves. Depending on your degree background many direct entry candidiates will have all three sets (CAP1, CAP2 & FAE) of exams to sit and so this must be a key consideration in your decision.


  • Finish with college – independence
  • Start earning a wage
  • Experience of professsional exams from the outset (and not just at FAEs)


  • Finish with college – lose the lifestyle
  • Longer training contract (3.5 years)
  • More exams to complete while working
  • Difficulty of adjusting to full time work as well as exams straight away
  • Hard for non accounting graduates given that its a whole new concept

Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting (“PDA”)

The PDA programme is an excellent starting block for students with little or no accounting background (and/or no CAP1 exemptions). Instead of starting your training contract straight away and being forced to get up to speed with a whole new area as well as work full time this extra year in college gives you time to focus on getting a good grasp of the foundations (and gain exemptions from your CAP1 exams) in a more relaxed environment (that is until it comes to exam time!!)

It should be noted that many firms now offer sponsorship for students to complete a recognised (i.e PDA or Masters in Accounting) postgraduate degree prior to joining the firm. The sponsorship typically (not for the more expensive course(s)) covers the tuition fees for the year and some firms also offer laptops, book allowances and living expenses. This is an important area to research prior to your application/interview as it will be a likely question.


  • Extra year in college – lifestyle
  • Year to gain good foundations in core principles
  • CAP1 exemptions


  • Another year of college – funding?
  • Full time work delayed a year


There are now five PDA courses recognised by CAI in Ireland;

 InstituteCourse Link
Dublin City UniversityDCU
NUI MaynoothNUIM

Dublin Institute of TechnologyDIT
Galway Mayo Institute of TechnologyGMIT
Waterford Institute of TechnologyWIT

Masters in Accounting (MAcc)

Completing a MAcc will give a student full exemptions from the CAP2 exam session leaving only the FAEs to be completed during their contract (unless you are in Tax, where you have tax specific exams to complete also). The content, intensity and sturcture of the MAcc course can vary by college but the majority do require a dissertation to be completed during the summer months (typically due by July) as part of the course.

Note: It is imortant to note that you can only be admitted to a MAcc course if you have FULL CAP1 exemptions. If it is the case that you have some, but not all, CAP1 exemptions from your undergrad course you should look into the possibility of completing the rest of these exams as an external student in the autumn sitting of the CAP1 after  your graduation before the MAcc begins. CAP1 External Student Form


  • Only one set of professional exams (FAEs)
  • Extra year in college – lifestyle
  • Possibility of firm sponsorship
  • More time to get involved work & also have break for first year of training contract to get “settled in”
  • Useful in tax where you would typically have another set of exams to complete also
  • 3 yr contract
  • Masters students typically get higher salary in first year


  • Extra year in college – funds situation
  • Gap year before FAE and ability to jump back into study
  • Many say easier to come through CAP1s, CAP2s as have all CAI notes & experience of professional exams
  • Many masters courses not tailored to case study approach of CAP2 exams


There are now eleven MAcc courses recognised by CAI in Ireland;

 InstituteCourse Link
Dublin City UniversityDCU
NUI MaynoothNUIM
University College DublinUCD
University of UlsterUUJ
Dublin Institute of TechnologyDIT
Letterkenny Institute of TechnologyLYIT
Athlone Institute of TechnologyAIT
University College CorkUCC
Dundalk Institute of TechnologyDKIT
Waterford Institute of TechnologyWIT


Not sure what exemptions you get? Check out CAI’s exemption checker