ACA or CIMA? Which should I take?


Hi folks, I’m new to this site. I’ve just joined as I’ve been shown these forums by a friend.

Anyways, I’m a final year student studying for a degree in Accounting and Financial Management and am on course for a 2:1. I did my placement year working in the finance department at an automotive company that would offer me CIMA training if I choose to stay there upon graduation. However, I have been strongly attempting to get a place with a firm of chartered accountants that would provide me with ACA training instead. I have interviewed with all of the big 4 and been rejected and also been rejected by a few mid-tier practices such as BDO, Baker and Tenon. The main reason I have been attempting to go in this direction is because I have viewed CIMA as an inferior qualification, and believe my salary prospects would be greater if I obtained ACA. I am not sure where this perception that I have stems from, but for some reason I have it in my head that ACA is more lucrative.

Anyways, I was looking at this salary checker on and that seems to contradict my opinions of the qualifications.

It says the average starting salary for those who are ICAEW qualified is £36.8k, in comparison to £40.3k for CIMA. People who do CIMA seem to do better for the first few years. After 4 years , CIMA qualified professionals earn £47.3k, their ACA counterparts earn £45.3k. However, after this stage ACA overtakes CIMA. After 5 years qulification, ACA earns £50.1k; CIMA £47.8k. And for those who have been qualified 6+ years, the difference is large, CIMA professionals earn £57.8k, but ACA earns £67.k. This seems to indicate that CIMA is a better qualification to have in the short term, but ACA earns more in the long run. But, could this just be due to the fact that CIMA is a newer qualification and therefore those who have held it for 6+years have not had as much experience and time to earn promotion?

I was wondering if any of you folks who are better informed than I am could provide me with some information. What are the pros and cons of studying each? What are the salary prospects of each? What sort of roles in each area do you have to take on to earn the top salaries? Really, I am at a loss here. I can’t decide what I want to do and what would be best for the future. Any advice would be appreciated.


I think it depends upon your personal preference.

ACA: external audit/financial accounting
ACCA: internal audit
CIMA: managment accounting

As a matter of fact, starting salary for ACA is relatively lower than that of CIMA. As far as I know, the Big four’s (except E&Y who offers ICAS) starting salary for ACA here in London is around 27K/yr, whereas starting salary at investment banks who offer CIMA is around 35K/yr. As you said, however, ACA qualified accountants tend to earn more than CIMA qualified accountants. I would recommend that you ask yourself a question - do you like financial accounting or managment accounting. If you prefer financial accounting, then ACA is the best choice. Accordingly, if you are more comfortable with management accounting, then CIMA is the one that you should choose.

I just graduated with a degree in Accounting and Finance, and I am quite good at financial reporting, so I decided to do ACA.

Hope that helps.


That’s good input. I’d agree with all the above. You should follow the path that you enjoy the most and don’t think only about the money. Also, think long term. Do you want to be an accountant in 10 years time? What’s your long-term career goals and aims? Investigate what possibilities there are in the future for CIMA/ACA qualified people.


Hi both,
Thank you very much for your replies, I have found them useful. Having re-read my post it does give the impression that my only consideration is money, which is not the case (although it is a factor considering that I want to get a return on my investment in going through university). The main problem is that I can’t really decide which area of accounting I like the most. I have enjoyed both areas in my degree so I guess I’ll just send off plenty of applications to both sorts of roles and see what comes up.
Also, I have checked the CIMA website and, because I have a degree in Accounting and Financial Management, I will get exemptions from all 5 of the core CIMA exams, plus 2 of the 9 advanced exams, meaning that I would only have to sit 7 of the 14 exams to become CIMA qualified (obviously I would also have to have the 3 years work experience). Is it possible to get exemptions from any of the ACA exams for having a ‘relevant’ degree? I have looked around the ICAEW website for a bit and can’t seem to see anything…

Ps. I notice that my message has been moved, sorry if I posted it in the wrong place.


Yes, just check out the ICAEW website where you can find a link named “Credit of prior learning”. Just click on the link and follow the instructions, then you will be able to figure out how many exams you dont have to sit.


Thanks very much for letting me know, thats really useful.

I have found that section of the website. I will get exemptions from 3 ACA exams (provided I pass some of my modules which I am still to sit in June with a mark of at least 50%), which are Accounting, Law and Management Information. I could have also got exemptions from the ‘Business and Finance’ and ‘Financial Management’ exams if I have chosen different modules this year, but never mind, I wasn’t aware of that when I was selecting my optionals.

By the way blessedme, you mentioned that you are currently taking ACA. What job are you doing? Are you an auditor with a firm of chartered accountants?


Well, I am not currently taking ACA. I will be taking ACA soon with an accounting firm.


This needed to be said:

There are a few helpful videos on the link and if you want to progress further its your own choice.

Benedix isn’t a holy grail if you have found one then please tell everyone, my question is: have you got a job in investment banking or any other area? I doubt it or you wouldn’t be here, so your in the same situation as lots of people.

I have met a lot of people through Benedix and generated my own contacts from companies such as Barclays capital, Investec, Blackstar asset management and J.P Morgan. NOT DIRECTLY THROUGH BENEDIX!! With the skills learnt and ways of persuasion and influence. These where taught and and shown to me through benedix.

The bit about work experience with a wealth management is true it will form part of a prize for one person on the day.
To be honest i wish i hadn’t already been to one of the days because i could be that person.

Benedix might not add value to your job search especially if you are receiving internships and graduate scheme offers. Benedix is more aimed at how people who didn’t get the 1st from oxbridge and how you can make a difference in the industry for yourself. Do whatever you want just at least get your own information from it.


This is a salary survey published by ICAEW last month. You may be interested.

London offices of Big 4: Newly qualifieds earn £45k plus usual package of pension, private health, travel insurance, car allowance(?)
If the newly qualified goes into the market he would expect £50-£60k plus benefits. Often there will be bonus on top of this. A good candidate (Oxbridge, history of ACA exam passes all at first attempt, some solid work experience with the big 4) could be on a lot more than £50-£60k. There is such a variety of career options it is difficult to talk about average salaries. 10 - 20 years qualified, Big 4 partners remuneration upwards of £1m .Some CEOs on £3m, £4m,£5m or finance director of small aim listed company maybe only on £150k. The sky’s the limit. You make it happen.


Sales pitch or what.

Think enough has been said about Benedix on this forum already.

I wouldnt ever be sucked in by this.


sir can I do cima after graduation?


This is so Good…


Hi there i am new here. Even i’m thinking now why should i go for cima.


Hi All,

I’ve put together an Infographic detailing 14 differences between CIMA and ACA - hope it helps…

I’m a 9 years qualified ACA who has worked with lots of CIMAs in industry…