What's your next step? ACA, ACCA or CIMA ?

Ryan Kuhn 14.07.2016

As a consultant specialising in part qualified Accountancy and Finance recruitment I am regularly asked what route should be pursued in relation to further Accountancy qualifications.

This question is asked by postgraduate students, AAT studiers and also accountants who want to pursue their qualifications later on in their career.

The most recognisable qualifications from both industry and practice employers are that of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). This post will summarise the alternative options for each qualifications:

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

The ACCA qualification is commonly accepted to recognise a wider variety of accountancy skills and focuses on the technical financial aspects of accountancy. ACCA studiers will tend to pursue careers within practice, audit and tax whilst many Finance Directors and Financial Managers will also possess this qualification.

In order to complete this qualification, studiers will be required to complete 14 examinations and gain three years relevant practical experience however any individual with an accounting or business related university degree or AAT Diploma Level 4 will be exempt from some modules.

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

The CIMA qualification is a specialist management accounting qualification which is primarily focused at individuals who want to pursue a career within a senior management position. The CIMA qualification will focus on the strategic internal reporting side of accounting as opposed to the technical financial side.

In order to complete this qualification studiers will be required to complete three levels which comprises of 12 examinations, pre requisite entry requirements consists of either; CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (5 Examinations), an accounting or business university degree or AAT Diploma Level 4.

Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

The ACA is prescribed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW). This qualification is only offered to individuals employed by an ACA approved institute for training. An accountant who wishes to pursue this qualification will look to a career within the world of private practice. An ACA qualification has mass similarities to that of the ACCA qualification however with more of an external focus. The ACA qualification is considered prestigious within the accountancy world and is a highly sought after qualification from the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms.

In order to complete this qualification studiers will have to be employed by an approved institute. The qualification consists of 15 examinations as well as 450 days practical work experience, this tends to take between 3-5 years.

In conclusion all three qualifications are highly reputable within the world of accounting and senior managerial positions will often require a professional qualification in order for you to be considered for the position. However, as each option follows a slightly different path, it is essential that you fully assess your career aspirations before selecting and undertaking the most appropriate qualification. Once you commence your studies aim to ensure they are completed within 3-5 years and that you’re gaining relevant work exposure and progression simultaneously, this will ensure you maintain a competitive edge in the job market.

If you have any further questions regarding what qualification you should pursue, or you would like advice on offering study support to any of your employees, please contact me via the details provided below. 

Ryan Kuhn's picture
Consultant | Financial Services Operations, London
rkuhn@morganmckinley.co.uk