Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Professional Qualification

Introduction to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) Professional Qualification or Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA):

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) based in the UK is the largest professional body of management accountants. They along with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA – the body that conducts the CPA exam) conduct a highly respected global program called the CIMA Professional Qualification. The focus of this program is not just on management accounting, but also on marrying finance and accounting with strategy and decision-making. This is therefore a course more suitable for people interested in a corporate career as opposed to just public accounting practice.

In order to be eligible to apply for the CIMA Professional Qualification program, you should have done a basic course in business or accounting. For this, you could:
1. Take up the CIMA’s own Certificate in Business Accounting (click here to learn more on this)
2. Do an MBA or a Masters in Accounting
3. Become a CA or a member of the International Federation of Accountants
4. Have any other relevant qualification which exempts you from the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (click here to check if you qualify for an exemption)

The CIMA professional exam consists of 12 exams in total, spread over 3 different levels (Please read below in the section under syllabus). After completing all levels and having the required work experience, you will be designated a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA).

Who should do a CIMA Professional Qualification?

The CIMA Professional Qualification is suited for anybody who wants to pursue a career in finance focusing on accounting, reporting and business strategy. 

A CIMA is apt for you if:
1) You are looking at a management accounting career
This is a straight no-brainer just like the name suggests. If you would like to be involved in the decision making of a firm driven by your financial analysis, this course would very much appeal to you

2) You already have an accounting / CA background
It is a great next step for a candidate already having an accounting background. The concepts learnt in CA or M.Com courses will naturally make it easier for you to assimilate and appear for the CIMA levels

3) You want to improve your resume and role
This qualification proves that you have gone through several levels of study in advanced management accounting and signals to employers that you are good hiring material.

Skills required for CIMA

1) Good base in Accounting, Economics, Mathematics: 
It goes without saying that the candidate would need to be comfortable with accounting. There will also be numerous laws, regulations and accounting standards to memorize. Not only do you need this for the exam, pursuing this course would mean you end up with an accounting career for good, so it is best that you have a keen interest in it.

2) Analytical ability and accuracy:
Number crunching will be part and parcel of the exam as well as this career. CIMA professionals are largely involved in accounting, making reports, analyzing numbers and presenting their analysis to the top management. They cannot afford to make too many mistakes.

3) Perseverance: 
The Professional Qualification comprises of 3 different levels tested across 12 different exams, so one needs to be perseverant and complete all the different tests over a reasonable time period
A lot of candidates have benefited from enrolling in coaching institutes to help them understand tough concepts, manage their study time and practice mock tests. Having regular discussions with a peer group also greatly helps in understanding complex topics.

Career opportunities after the CIMA qualification:

The CIMA professional qualification can put you in the top league of management accountants and even increase your earning potential. Several firms even reimburse or pay for their employees’ CIMA course. As a CGMA designation holder, you would be qualified to work in a wide variety of roles inside and outside the finance function. Some typical roles are:
• Business Analyst
• Forensic Accountant
• Financial Controller
• Group Treasurer
• Project Manager
• Management Consultant
• Financial Manager 

Details of the program:

•  The CIMA syllabus talks about 3 Pillars and 3 Levels. Pillars are nothing but a body of knowledge (could be thought of as a set of related subjects). The syllabus in each of these knowledge areas gets more advanced with very level
   o  The 3 Pillars are:
      •  Enterprise: This set deals with effective strategy implementation
      •  Performance: This set teaches financial tools used for the strategy implementation
      •  Financial: This set talks about the preparation and interpretation of financial reports to make decisions
   o  CIMA also has 3 Levels, which have to be attempted and cleared in the order as listed below:
      •  Operational Level: 
         o  Basic level that will teach you the preparation of financial statements and introduce you to financial analysis tools
         o  On completing this level, you receive the CIMA Diploma in Management Accounting
      •  Management Level
         o  The focus in the second level is on group accounts, project management as well as making pricing and product decisions
         o  On completion, you receive the CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting
      •  Strategic Level
         o  This is the third and final level that focuses on financial strategy formulation, risk management as well as strategic relationship management
         o  To complete the qualification, once the exams have been cleared, candidates have to prepare and submit a ‘CIMA career profile’ for the assessment of their work experience
   o  Once the work experience is verified (minimum 3 years), they become Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMA)

Exam format: 
•  All exams are computer based 
•  There are 9 objective tests (3 for each level) and 3 case study exams (1 for each level)
•  Results for the objective tests are available immediately
•  Case studies will test you on all the 3 pillar subjects of that particular level
•  Case studies are examined manually so the results take time to come

Exam dates:
•  Objective tests
   o  You can take the 9 objective tests on demand and via computer with results available immediately
   o  There is no rigid rule on how many tests to take in a time period
   o  As soon as you pass one, you can move on to the next objective test
•  Case studies
   o  Case studies are available 4 times a year

Exams per Level:
1.  Operational Level:
    a.  Objective Exams:
        1.  Organizational Management (Enterprise Pillar)
        2.  Management Accounting (Performance Pillar)
        3.  Financial Reporting and Taxation (Financial Pillar)
    b.  Operational Case Study Exam
2.  Management Level:
    a.  Objective Exams:
        4.  Project and Relationship Management (Enterprise Pillar)
        5.  Advanced Management Accounting (Performance Pillar)
        6.  Advanced Financial Reporting (Financial Pillar)
    b.  Management Case Study Exam
3.  Strategic Level:
    a.  Objective Exams:
        7.  Strategic Management (Enterprise Pillar)
        8.  Risk Management (Performance Pillar)
        9.  Financial Strategy (Financial Pillar)
    b.  Strategic Case Study Exam

Exam difficulty level: The CIMA exams are moderately tough (not too difficult)
•  The passing rates range from 50-60% and several papers have pass rates above 60%
•  Test takers say that time management during the exams is crucial
•  The vast syllabus can be challenging at times

•  If all the exams are taken and cleared in the first attempt within a 3 years time frame, the fees is ~GBP 1,400 (Do confirm with CIMA website for latest fees)

Interview with Manish Madan, who has cleared CIMA Professional Qualification and is working a global Consulting company

Proschool : Why did you take up CIMA?
Manish : I opted for CIMA as I realized it has a more strategic focus and assists you to be capable enough to make important business decisions in the future. Besides all this, I believe that there are skills that you can only develop through the course of your journey with CIMA

Proschool : How has it helped you?
Manish : I have acquired both technical and soft skills while studying CIMA. Technical skills would include: in-depth knowledge on all subjects, Financial Management, Organizational Management, Cost Accountancy, etc. Soft skills would include: logical reasoning, situation analysis, out-of-the box thinking, and prioritization of options. CIMA has made me understand how numbers play one of the most important roles in business decision-making. These skill sets have helped me throughout my career.