Cima or Acca
Posted by: Patricia Barlow

If you’re looking to gain an advanced accountancy qualification, you might be wondering which qualification is best. CIMA and ACCA are two of the most popular courses for gaining chartered status as an accountant. Both of these qualifications are highly respected and sought after in the UK and globally. With the right qualification, you can go far in your accounting career. But which one should you study, CIMA or ACCA?

Choosing CIMA or ACCA: deciding on your area of interest  

The major difference between CIMA and ACCA is their focus.

Cima or Acca

The decision of whether to study CIMA or ACCA is likely to be based on your long-term career ambitions, as each qualification allows you to specialise in different areas of accounting. Both courses take about the same amount of time to complete and are advanced accounting qualifications. 

If you are looking to embark on a business-focused career, the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting and the CIMA Professional Qualification are a good match. You will qualify as a chartered management accountant, preparing you for a business leadership role. With the full CIMA Professional qualification under your belt, you will be able to take on a broader range of roles in any kind of organisation or industry, helping to shape strategies and make financial decisions.  

As a CIMA member, you could one day find yourself in a top role such as Financial Controller or Managing Director.  

Alternatively, the ACCA Qualification place more emphasis on auditing and compliance. Many ACCA members take on private practice roles, focusing more on financial assessment and compliance than planning and management. As a chartered certified accountant, you will be highly aware of professional values in the world of accountancy, and of the ethical issues that can arise.  

With the ACCA Qualification, you can gain qualifications equivalent to a masters degree, setting you up for a successful career. You could enjoy roles from Personal Banker to Financial Analyst, or even become self-employed with your own accounting practice.

Which accounting career path is right for you?

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    CIMA or ACCA? Your previous qualifications 

    One of the things you should consider before deciding on a course is any previous qualifications you have. If you already have an accounting qualification you may be exempt from some parts of CIMA or ACCA. 

    To begin studying for the first level of the ACCA Qualification, Applied Knowledge, you will need to have at least two A levels and three GCSEs. If you already have a degree from an ACCA accredited university, you may be able to go straight into the ACCA Strategic Professional level. You could be exempt from some exams, allowing you to get a head start on the course.  

    The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, on the other hand, can be started without any previous qualifications. This course is a good basis for the CIMA Professional Qualification.  

    As with ACCA, if you do have previous qualifications, you may be able to start with the CIMA Professional qualification, and even be exempt from some papers. 

    How long does it take to complete CIMA or ACCA? 

    The average time for an individual to complete CIMA or ACCA is three to four years studying part-time around work and other commitments. If you are able to study full time you may be able to finish sooner, especially if you are exempt from any exams. 

    You can find out more about the units on the CIMA or ACCA course page. 

    My career options after ACCA or CIMA 

    When you have completed ACCA or CIMA you will have a great choice of junior to senior level accounting jobs. To become a member of ACCA or CIMA, you will need at least three years’ of relevant work experience. As it can take three to four years to complete either qualification, many learners will already have the relevant experience. With either qualification, you could be earning over £30,000 a year, depending on your experience level and the job you go for. 


    Each qualification is considered to be a benchmark of quality and assurance in accounting. Both hold very different approaches to accounting, so you should think which area of accounting you wish to go into.

    If becoming a management accountant excites you, then you will need to achieve the CIMA Professional Qualification to become a chartered management accountant. Management accountants advise company on key financial decisions that will impact the profit such as investments and expansions.

    For those seeking a career focusing on auditing and tax, the ACCA Qualification is for you. You will become a chartered financial accountant working to ensure a company’s accounts are balanced and report back to senior management on the financial health of the company. You will also advise on areas relating to tax and conduct audits.

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