July 2020

Liz Hulls looks at the relative advantages of both ACCA and CIMA.
So which is best for you?

You’re about to finish your AAT qualification, or graduate from university, or simply contemplating starting out in your accounting career.

Your next choice is to select from an initially overwhelming selection of acronyms: ACA, ACCA, CIMA, CIPFA. You’ve spoken to other accountants and your manager at work to find that the only qualification that they recommend is of course, their own!

Unless you secure a training contract with one of the Big 4, your most likely choice will be between ACCA or CIMA. Each is a wellrespected professional qualification that will boost your earning potential and be highly regarded in the UK and overseas job markets.

So how do you make that choice?

Career path

It is always difficult at an early stage in your career to imagine where you see yourself in five years’ time. If you can currently only envisage working in business or industry, then CIMA is more likely to be the qualification for you. If you would prefer the flexibility of being able to work in industry or practice, or maybe even as a self-employed accountant, ACCA might be more suitable.

Study route

Both qualifications will involve passing many tough exams. Launched in November 2019, the new CIMA syllabus comprises 16 exams (depending on exemptions), three of which are case studies. While the case studies can only be sat quarterly, the remaining 13 exams are on demand, giving you greater flexibility about when to study.

ACCA has 13 exams (depending on exemptions) which, from September 2020, will all be computerised. With the exception of the first four papers, these exams can only be sat quarterly, giving structure to your study, but offering slightly less flexibility.

What will I study?

The CIMA qualification offers modules such as ‘Project and Relationship Management’ or ‘Risk Management’, with the emphasis on managing performance. The new syllabus embraces how the digital world affects finance with management and financial accounting forming core parts.

You will find both management and financial accounting modules within the ACCA qualification and more technical aspects of accountancy. Unlike CIMA, your exams will include both audit and assurance and taxation modules, which offer the potential to specialise in the future.

It is a difficult choice. “I wanted to be able to add value to the existing figures with meaningful analysis and new ideas,” said CIMA qualified Sam Humphreys (Financial Controller, Oxfordshire E-commerce).

Whereas Jack Strudley (Financial Accountant, Oxford Sciences Innovation plc) felt: “ACCA would give me the opportunity to become a more versatile professional with exposure to all aspects of accounting.”

Whichever qualification route you choose, you will be embarking on a challenging path, but the financial and personal rewards will be immense.

Liz Hulls is a director and tutor at Vale Financial Training.