What’s the difference between CIMA and ACCA?

A common question among students who are deciding on what route to take on their studies is “What’s the difference between CIMA and ACCA?” or perhaps even the question “What’s better? CIMA or ACCA?” 

In my experience, there feels like a rivalry between the two qualifications.

When I started to work in finance, ACCA was the more prevalent qualification. Most employers in the UK would recommend their staff to study for the ACCA qualification but it feels like CIMA is becoming more and more relevant (and popular) in the modern business world.

But what is the difference between the two qualifications?

Well, generally speaking the CIMA qualification is designed for people who work in industry rather than practice.

CIMA is geared around management accounting and interpreting financial information to make strategic decisions, whereas ACCA looks more specifically taxation, audit and working in practice as opposed to the operations of a business.

That isn’t too say that one qualification is “better” than the other. That just offer different skills and a different perspective.

Despite the differences between the two accounting bodies there remains a set of core topics that both ACCA and CIMA cover.

– Financial Accounting
– Financial Reporting
– Principles of Business Taxation
– Ethics

Meanwhile, CIMA specifically focuses on Operations Management and Management Accounting while ACCA doesn’t, whereas ACCA looks at External Audit and Advanced Taxation whereas CIMA doesn’t.

This leads to the obvious conclusion that if you want to work in public practice or as an auditor then ACCA is probably the path for you. But if you’re more interested in the operations of a business and interpreting financial information then CIMA ticks the boxes you are after.

There is a useful tool and graphic on the CIMA website (picture above) that illustrates the differences between CIMA and ALL of the alternative qualifications.

It’s well worth a look if you want to see a high level view of what you’re actually studying!

On a more light hearted note, I found this quote on the differences between CIMA and ACCA which sums it up quite nicely “.. with ACCA you look to close loopholes, whereas with CIMA you look to make them.. “

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