This article gives you clarity on the most evergreen question for accounting and finance enthusiasts – CIMA vs ACCA – which one would suit you the best?

The emergence of the Finance Function as a Strategic Business Partner in Global Environments

The finance profession is increasingly becoming more and more attractive option to graduates. Hence choosing between CIMA vs ACCA is always a task. The benefits are clear. In an increasingly global financial market, accountancy function has evolved as a multidimensional and cross-functional pillar to help organizations thrive in various fierce and emerging market spaces.

The result is the transformation of the industry of accountants to an industry of highly specialized financial experts. Moreover, progression opportunities within accountancy have never been better with an increasing number of CEOs coming from an accountancy or a financial management background.

Careers cut across many different industries and across many different locations especially in the now globalized environment hence paving a path for global career opportunities. As a graduate, an important step in this direction is to complete a globally accepted and relevant qualification in finance.

Choice of globally relevant financial qualifications – Every student’s dilemma

Graduates looking to embark on a career in finance, often are challenged with the diversity in study options. In this article (a part of the series “Global Finance Careers”), we take a comparative review of the recently popularized qualifications CIMA and ACCA. As a potential student, you must decide the kind of work experience and training you wish to receive as well as the environment in which you wish to work before deciding which qualification would be most suitable.

CIMA – Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

Studying for CIMA will involve passing 17 examinations, although exemptions are available to some of these through various entry routes. Business skills are at the heart of the CIMA qualification, covering business and management accounting subjects, information management, strategy, strategic marketing & management and finance management. The CIMA qualification combines exams at four stages with three years of practical experience. The qualification typically can be completed in 2 – 2.5 years.

The CIMA qualification will further lead to a global qualification Charted Global Management Accountant – CGMA by AICPA. As a Chartered Management Accountant, future roles can be found in managerial positions in both public and private sector organizations worldwide as the qualification is accepted in over 170 countries. CIMA qualified applicants will typically choose careers within the industry in forwarding thinking and strategy based roles.

ACCA – Association of Chartered Certified Accountants

The ACCA qualification also requires 14 examinations to be taken, although a degree in accounting and finance can exempt you from the majority of these. Technical Accounting knowledge is the primary focus of ACCA syllabus. Subjects covered are financial accounting & management, cost accounting & performance management. It also gives you an option to specialize in financial reporting, taxation or auditing. ACCA, like the CIMA, also requires three years of practical experience and can be typically completed in 3 – 4 years.

The ACCA qualification will lead to a career as a Chartered Certified Accountant in the corporate sector, public sector or in public accounting/ audit/ consulting practices. ACCA combines the benefits of traditional accounting skills with a wide-ranging and forward-looking syllabus, which recognizes that financial professionals are increasingly required to demonstrate strategic thinking.

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A comparative look at CIMA and ACCA

The ACCA in comparison tends to be more focused on financial accounting and technical practices of accountancy. Industry evidence suggests that the ACCA will give you a stronger grounding in accounting principles than CIMA but at the cost of management reporting and corporate strategy.

In comparison to ACCA, CIMA combines business acumen with financial management, cost management, and financial management. There is a strong focus on performance management and strategy. CIMA qualification covers more management accounting, more business strategy and more financial strategy material than the ACCA syllabus.

CIMA focuses on the management and strategic aspects of a business, whereas ACCA focuses more on the technical side, such as auditing and tax accounting.
CIMA works together with the company’s management, whereas ACCA usually deals with external parties, such as shareholders and potential investors.

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cima vs acca


CIMA vs ACCA are both international qualifications that are globally accepted and highly regarded qualifications in Finance and Accounting. The right choice between these qualifications can only be arrived at based on personal career aspirations and fit for job profiles.

We would recommend CIMA for graduates looking for a career primarily in business and industry with a flair for strategy and commercial awareness and possessing good interpersonal skills. We would recommend ACCA for graduates looking for a career primarily in practice, audit or tax with a flair for numbers and compliance. But ACCA professionals have to face tough competition from Chartered Accountants (India) if they want to work in India.

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