Which accounting certification should you choose – ACCA or CIMA?

One of your aspirations is a career in finance, but you are faced with a dilemma, and that is not knowing or being able to decide which professional accounting certification to choose from. Both accounting certifications – ACCA and CIMA provide you with vital skill sets, but it all comes down to what you want to do with your career. Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) is a body for Chartered Accountants, while Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is a body for Management Accountants. The duration of both certificate qualifications is around 2 – 3 years. 

There are notable differences between both certifications, which are worth noting, before deciding what’s best for you!

  1. ACCA will recognize the skills and qualifications of a Chartered Accountant, while CIMA will recognize the skills and qualifications of a Management Accountant. 
  2. ACCA courses are being organized by the global body of Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, while CIMA courses are organized by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.  
  3. Students who qualify in ACCA will gain skills in accounts handling, taxation and auditing, while students who qualify in CIMA will gain skills and training with regard to management accountancy. 
  4. ACCA subjects are Accounting, Law, Taxation and Financial Reporting, while CIMA subjects are Organizational Management, Project and Relationship Management, Advanced Financial Reporting, Strategic Management and Risk Management. 
  5. Potential careers for ACCA graduates can be in accounting firms, educational and training companies, the FMCG sector, financial services and consultancy firms, whereas CIMA graduates can explore careers in the media, publishing and even fashion, owing to CIMA’s focus on business. 

There are notable differences in examinations conducted by ACCA and CIMA: 

  1. ACCA has a total of 16 courses, of which 14 are papers you will have to submit in the following format: 9 are Fundamental Level papers, and 5 are Professional Level papers, while CIMA is split into 4 levels and each level is set to provide students with essential knowledge and practical skills which will give them an added advantage in any career they choose to be in. 
  2. ACCA question papers are divided into three types of questions, which are objective type, longer type and case studies, while CIMA has a total of 9 exams with which to gain your certificate. 
  3. ACCA exams are held twice a year in December and June, while CIMA exams are also held twice a year, in May and November. 

Why should you consider ACCA as a qualification? 

ACCA is recognized all over the world and even more so by employers who understand and recognize that this is a qualification that has equipped their potential employees with vast accounting skills and practical knowledge. It also trains professionals to demonstrate strategic thinking. 

Additionally, ACCA is known for its flexibility and the core accounting skills provided by it enables students to be an all-rounder, ensuring that they do not have to choose an area of specialization immediately, thus allowing them time to decide on a suitable career of choice much later. 

Why should you consider CIMA as a qualification? 

Widely recognized as a specialist management accounting qualification, CIMA is the most ideal course for students who are steadfast in their choice of career, and who know what field they want to work in. If you are quite interested in business and management, CIMA is a great qualification to pursue. Graduates are also encouraged to veer towards careers where they can demonstrate forward and strategic thinking in their respective roles. 

Additionally, CIMA ensures students that they have a wide range of careers to choose from, whether it is in the financial sector or not. It definitely focuses on business demands and widens career options for its graduates. 


ACCA and CIMA are both internationally recognized accounting certifications that are accepted anywhere, and applauded for the knowledge and skills taught to students to prepare them for their future careers. Deciding on which qualification to embark upon should always be based on which career you wish to pursue, or industry you wish to work in.

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