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Moving on from AAT to CIMA

AAT and CIMA logos next to a flight of stairs
Katie Collins
By Katie Collins, National CIMA Product Manager Link to Katie Collins's LinkedIn profile

If you are coming to the end of your AAT qualification or have already finished, now might be a good time to think about what your next step could be. Could it be CIMA?

If you have an interest in management accounting, adding value to businesses and looking at strategic level decisions then that is a great start.

Here’s a few things to think about to help you decide if CIMA is the right direction for you.

What is the difference between AAT and CIMA?

The AAT is a Level 4 assessment and CIMA is a Level 7 assessment. This means that it is examined at a higher level and you will need to study at a higher level with more complex studies and questions.

On gaining a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, after finishing your exams and submitting professional work experience, you will be given Chartered status. This means you’ll be a fully qualified management accountant.

AAT is deemed technician level, so on gaining your CIMA qualification you will be more qualified and hopefully able to earn more money while getting more enjoyment out of your work.

CIMA is significantly harder than AAT because you need to know a lot more, and have more experience. AAT is great for the basics, but if you want to go further in an accounting career, then CIMA is the way forward.

With CIMA, you delve deeper into some of the topics you studied in AAT. You explore new studies and skills including: financial analysis, negotiation, project management, and leadership.

If I’ve done AAT, are there any exemptions going on to CIMA?

If you have completed AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting (Level 4) you are exempt from the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, and can start the CIMA Professional Qualification straight away.

If you haven’t completed AAT but hold the AAT Level 2 (Foundation) or Level 3 (Advanced) diploma you can still study for CIMA. You will begin with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting, this is four exams aimed at testing the fundamentals of accounting and business.

When you have completed the certificate level, you then go on to the CIMA Professional Qualification, this is broken down into three levels - Operational, Management and Strategic.

At each level you have three Objective Tests and then a case study exam.

CIMA award the exemptions so if you have any queries on these you should get in touch with them directly.

Need a student’s thoughts on it?

One of our previous students, Tom Kelly, is a Project Accountant and is fully exam qualified with CIMA. He started out as an AAT apprentice with Kaplan, but the last two years have seen him progress to the CIMA qualification and move on in his career.

We spoke to him about doing AAT and then CIMA, and how studying with Kaplan helped him get to where he is now.

What can I do with CIMA?

CIMA is a globally recognised qualification so the world’s your oyster once qualified. As long as you have the professional experience to back up your exams you should be able to command a higher salary, and work in a field that interests you. CIMA students and members work in the NHS, Biffa and John Lewis to name a few.

The CIMA qualification is designed to bring together management accounting (the P pillar of your exams), financial accounting (the F pillar), and studies on businesses and the environment in which they operate (E pillar).

You will study and develop practical skills all employers need. You should be able to work in a wide range of roles from finance to consultancy, business partnering and ultimately Finance Director level.

Interested in CIMA?

If you want to find out more about CIMA, we have plenty of information about it on our CIMA course pages. And don’t forget to check out our study methods, so you can choose the right one for you.

We look forward to supporting you in your next steps and onto your next qualification.

Remember, we are here to support you whenever you need us.