ACA, ACCA or CIMA: How do I decide which accountancy qualification to choose?
Deciding what accountancy qualification you should take is a decision that is likely to have important implications for the future of your career. Being fully informed about the options available to you is the best way to ensure you are on the right path to fulfil your ambitions. This article covers the CIMA qualification. It explains the requirements and pros and cons, providing advice on which one will be best suited to you.
CIMA is a professional qualification from the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants that is centred on management accounting and commercial finance. Most people take 3 to 4 years to complete the qualification, although there are examples of particularly industrious students completing it in little over a year. CIMA offers both online and in person courses. It does not provide as strong a foundation of financial accounting as ACA or ACCA, but instead focuses on management accounting functions, such as forecasting, budget-making, variance analysis and financial planning and analysis.
What are the requirements for becoming an CIMA-qualified accountant?
Attaining a CIMA qualification requires passing 14 exams across 4 levels: certificate, operational, management and strategic.
The certificate level consists of 4 exams, with 3 each for the other 3 levels.
It requires 36 months of practical experience.
What are the pros and cons of CIMA qualification for your career?
CIMA’s emphasis on management accounts offers less flexibility for your career path than ACA or ACCA, but means it is the perfect qualification for those seeking to work in a commercial finance role, providing insight and contributing to corporate strategy. Consequently, roles taken by CIMA-qualified accountants are typically less technical and have a larger overlap with business management than financial accounting positions. If you would like a finance role that requires creativity and collaboration with other departments, CIMA is a valuable qualification to have.
An important further consideration is that CIMA qualification means your skills are most useful to a large company with a sophisticated finance function, so this is where you are most likely to find a job. This is a key difference with ACA and ACCA – CIMA does not give you the same broad range of skills, so your options are comparatively limited.
CIMA is a high-calibre qualification that will provide a solid foundation for your career. However, you may find that the alternatives, ACA and ACCA, may be better suited to your goals. Detailed breakdowns of these qualifications can be found here:
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