ACCA or CIMA for a chartered accountant qualification??

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ACCA and CIMA qualifications can elevate your career, but which is the best option for you?

There is an easy way to solve the ACCA or CIMA dilemma – and the answer lies with you.

Just ask yourself which direction you’d like your career to take. Both ACCA and CIMA qualifications are highly respected and can help you secure some of the most sought-after chartered accountancy roles. But they each have different strengths and you may find one suits your career aspirations better than the other.
Let’s look at the main differences between ACCA and CIMA to help you decide.

Why choose ACCA?

The ACCA qualification can help you gain a deeper understanding of the technical side of financial accounting. It provides a thorough grounding in the core accounting principles – and often leads to roles in taxation, compliance, auditing and assurance.

Employers seek out ACCA candidates for their strong understanding of finance and exceptional reporting skills. ACCA also ensures you have everything you need to set up as a self-employed chartered accountant – so if you see yourself running your own practice in the future, this could be a great option.

Why choose CIMA?

CIMA, on the other hand, is associated with the business side of accounting. It’s a good choice if your aim is to lead a finance department or provide management accounting consultancy.

The CIMA course emphasises decision-making and strategic leadership skills. It’s designed to help you respond to the financial challenges faced by organisations in a fast-changing business environment.

Career options include business analysts, project managers, and financial controllers. With enough experience, you may be on track to become a chief financial officer or a financial director.

What do I need to start ACCA and CIMA, and what do the courses cover?

ACCA offers various entry points, based on previous qualifications and work experience. If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll come in at Foundations level. ACCA then moves through three further levels – Knowledge, Skills and Professional – and the syllabus focuses on financial reporting, taxation, auditing, assurance, law, ethics and professional standards.

For CIMA, if you’re new to business or accounting studies, you will first need to work towards gaining the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting. This will then enable you to progress through the three Professional stages – Operational, Management and Strategic. With a focus on developing business skills, the CIMA syllabus will teach you about subjects such as managing costs, analysing risk, performance management, and financial strategy.

How long does it take to complete ACCA or CIMA?

Time-wise, there’s not much to separate the two courses. To fully qualify, ACCA and CIMA candidates must pass a series of exams (13 for ACCA and 16 for CIMA – although if you already hold relevant qualifications, you may be exempt from some of these), and complete three years of supervised accountancy experience. So if you can manage your work and studies simultaneously, you can complete your qualifications in three years.

Can I study ACCA or CIMA online?

Yes, Eagle is an approved trainer for both ACCA and CIMA, and you can study towards your chartered accountancy qualification with Eagle distance learning courses.

Eagle’s distance learning study method is more flexible and cheaper than classroom study. It also allows you to schedule your study around family, work and other life priorities.

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