Which ICA qualification is right for me?

Written by Dave Robson on Monday August 17, 2020

"What qualification should I do and at what level?”

This is the question we get asked the most. Although you can find out more by signing up to one of our free online Briefing Sessions, the guidance below will help to get you started.

Essentially, there are two main pieces of advice we normally focus on when discussing ICA qualifications:

  1. Select a topic you are interested in – this could be a personal or professional interest.
  2. Understand the time commitment required to complete a qualification, especially at Diploma level, for which you will need to increase study hours put in around assignment submission dates.


Anti money laundering (AML) is one of the most popular areas of study within our current programmes. This is reflected in recent job opportunities, no doubt driven by ongoing regulatory scrutiny and media interest. Only recently, Commerzbank AG (London Branch) was fined nearly £38 million by the Financial Conduct Authority for failing to put adequate AML systems and controls in place.

Regulatory compliance is arguably a broader and more general subject, covering areas such as regulatory approaches, culture, ethics and corporate governance. Compliance professionals not only navigate a complex regulatory environment but also add a key commercial perspective. They enable business to be conducted in the right way and help firms achieve success by using systems and controls to ensure effective risk management.

The ICA Financial Crime Prevention programmes focus on ‘non-AML’ financial crime, with a strong emphasis on fraud, along with anti-bribery and corruption, e-crime and more.

What level should I choose?

In terms of content, ICA Certificates provide a strong foundation-level understanding of the key concepts and issues involved. Flexible, affordable and accessible, some students complete a few certificate courses to see which topics they’re most interested in studying further at higher levels. The courses are assessed through an online multiple-choice exam that can be taken at any point throughout the course, so you can choose to study them in a condensed timescale if that is something that appeals to you.

ICA Specialist Certificates provide a deeper dive into key areas of risk in your business or particular industry sectors. These courses are a great way to build upon your existing knowledge and boost your personal development. They are also assessed through an online multiple-choice exam.

ICA Advanced Certificates and Diplomas will support practical work and also expand your knowledge and skills. You need to bear in mind, however, that as the academic level increases, so does the breadth and depth of the material, and the difficulty level/volume of the assessments. Advanced Certificates take 6-9 months to complete and are assessed through written assignments.

ICA Diplomas are our flagship qualifications, recognised globally as a benchmark of competence, and although they are designed for experienced professionals, they can also be undertaken by those who hold a degree or a few years’ experience and are looking to gain advanced skills and global recognition. Diplomas take 9-12 months to complete and are also assessed through written assignments.

If you feel able to make the financial and time commitments to the Advanced Certificate or Diploma, then you may be interested in going directly to one of these higher levels. It is important to remember, however, that the level of commitment in terms of study is commensurate with your existing knowledge i.e. the less prior knowledge/experience you have, the more study time you will likely need to put in.

This is only a quick guide to some of your options and how to frame your decisions. You can find a much wider list of qualifications and member benefits on the ICA website, including areas such as Sanctions Risk, CDD and Cybersecurity qualifications.

What next?

In summary, you should consider the time and cost implications of each programme – we will be happy to discuss this with you to make sure whatever you choose fits in with your schedule, budget and career ambitions.

All ICA courses can be studied online with Advanced Certificates and Diplomas providing the opportunity to attend virtual classrooms, share best practice and network with other delegates. Whichever ICA path you choose, we’re sure you’ll find it interesting and rewarding.

Good luck with your studies - we look forward to receiving your application.

Find out more about our next available courses.

[1] FCA, ‘FCA fines Commerzbank London £37,805,400 over anti-money laundering failures’, 17 June 2020: – accessed July 2020



Please leave a comment

You can leave the name empty should you wish to remain Anonymous.

You are replying to post:



Email *

Comment *

Search posts

View posts by Author