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Should I study ACCA or CIMA?

A close up headshot of a man looking at CIMA logo

The question of whether to study ACCA or CIMA is a common one that we get asked, and it's not an easy one to answer. Both qualifications are highly respected in the world of accountancy and both can lead to exciting and successful careers.

So, how do you decide which is right for you? We'll explore some of the key differences between ACCA and CIMA so that you can make an informed decision about which route is best for you.

If you choose to study ACCA

The globally-recognised ACCA qualification is great to have if you’re aiming to attract the big leagues in the field of accounting and finance. Benefitting from its international standing, the ACCA certification can open up a whole host of exciting opportunities across a range of industries.

Plus, if you've got ambitions to work overseas, having an ACCA certification could really enhance your employability prospects. So when it comes to preparing yourself for the competitive world of accounting, it’s worth considering ACCA with its boundless potential within and outside the professional practice.

If you choose to study CIMA

CIMA has been at the forefront of driving the next generation of finance and management professionals. With a focus on disrupting and improving traditional financial management strategies, CIMA offers its members diverse opportunities to develop skills beyond what is taught in the world's leading business schools.

From developing a better understanding of accounting standards and regulations to utilising an expansive suite of investment analysis tools, CIMA members have access to an extensive network of industry experts and resources.

The key differences between CIMA and ACCA

Both CIMA and ACCA are two popular qualifications for aspiring accountants. While both offer well-renowned teachings that open up incredible career prospects in accountancy, there are some key differences between the two.

CIMA has set modules that you are required to complete before qualifying. This is often heavily focused on management accounting and corporate finance roles, while also offering a great focus on real-world applications.

ACCA has the flexibility to choose options at the final level which allows those who work in more practice roles to concentrate on their chosen area. With ACCA, you can concentrate on financial reporting, audit, and taxation along with the option to choose the advanced financial and/or performance management modules.

It can be argued that ACCA will allow you to keep your options open for a bit longer. But with CIMA, you will find yourself in the perfect position to go into management accounting in industry settings.

Both qualifications require hard work and dedication. However, by really understanding what each qualification has to offer, you can decide which pathway best suits your goals.

An insight into ACCA-qualified career paths

With the full ACCA qualification, you can pursue a diverse range of career paths and unlock doors to a wealth of exciting opportunities. There are so many options available as ACCA will open the door to jobs in any sector such as banking, investments, insurance, or consulting, to name a few. Think of it as the opportunity to explore job roles from IT consultancy and assurance to international tax services.

Average ACCA salary (Hays, 2022)

When considering the salary, it is important to note that economic factors and other considerations, such as your level of experience and the job role, will be noted. However, the Hays Accountancy & Finance Salary Guide 2022 indicates that an ACCA-qualified professional can expect to earn between £38,000 and £48,000 per year in the UK. Depending on the experience, you can earn up to £100,000 and beyond!

An insight into CIMA-qualified career paths

CIMA is the world’s leading and largest professional body of management accountants, specialising in finance, accounting, and business-related subjects, so obtaining the qualification will make you well-positioned for a range of career paths. After receiving your CIMA certification, you can move into senior roles in financial management, corporate consulting, and even entrepreneurship. Whether you’re interested in a career within a large organisation or aiming to create something entirely new with small businesses, the expertise developed through studying for this certification will support all types of endeavours.

Average CIMA salary (Hays, 2022)

Again, when it comes to the average salary, this will differ depending on your experience, region, job title, and other factors. However, the Hays Accountancy & Finance Salary Guide 2022 indicates that a CIMA-qualified professional can expect to earn between £34,000 and £50,000 per year in the UK. Similar to ACCA, with more experience and factors such as a more responsible job role, you can expect to earn much more.


With so much to consider, it can be difficult to decide which one is the right choice for you. It all depends on your career ambitions as to which one will provide you with the best credentials and the biggest advantage in the workforce.

In a nutshell - ACCA can be considered as more diverse in the accounting and finance field, whereas CIMA focuses much more on management accounting and finance. But both qualifications have much to offer so it’s worth taking the time to research the modules and teachings to make sure that you’re making a well-informed decision.

Talk to professionals in the industry who have already gone through the process and listen to their advice, or take a look at what our Kaplan learners say. 

With both having a highly respected reputation within the accounting industry, whichever you choose will eventually lead you down a path of success. All that matters is that whichever way you choose, it should be personalised for meeting your unique goals.

Still uncertain?

Have a browse through our CIMA and ACCA course pages and take a look at the modules to see what you will learn to assess how it will benefit your career aspirations.

For more information, you can also contact our Student Services Team by calling 0161 259 7400 or via email:


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