Wondering if anyone can offer an objective opinion on the below:

I’ve been studying towards the CIMA qualification but so far only completed the Certificate Level. Recently I found out that my firm have become ACA approved and I am thinking of switching to ACA. Now seems to be the time to switch as I will get a couple of exemptions at Certificate Level in ACA (3) but not many more if I progress with CIMA.

The main reasons for thinking of switching are that (i) I am unsure what path I would like to take in future and from what I know ACA offers more breadth of opportunities - audit, tax, investment banking, setting up your own business and working in smaller businesses and industries such as museums (ii) the prestige attached to ACA. A lot of websites I have seen say that if you have the opportunity to do ACA - take it.

That being said I have some reservations about switching. I am wondering if the prestige attached to ACA is primarily due to the fact that historically only the Big Four plus accountancy practices could provide training contracts. Now that more firms in industry are ACA approved perhaps things will change?
Also I have heard ACA is considerably more difficult. I don’t want to do something that is going to take me years and years. (I am 29 years old so would like to be qualified sooner rather than later to progress my career. )
Plus - will I be at a disadvantage studying ACA if I am in an ordinary job at present and not on a three year graduate programme?

Any advice/tips would be much appreciated.


Hi Flora,

You are broadly correct in your rationale.
Traditionally, CIMA qualified accountants tend to lean towards more thinking and strategy based roles - covers more management accounting, business strategy and financial strategy. ACA is pretty broad and honestly is seen as more prestigious - and this then means there are more opportunities for ACA qualified accountants, especially in the Big 4.

The prestige attached to the ACA is absolutely to do with the Big 4. In addition, you require 450 days of relevant work experience alongside your exams in order to gain the ACA. So in this respect it is more difficult to obtain, but I wouldn’t say the exams are considerably harder.

Have a think about the graduate programme - you’re issue here is the relevant work experience. To get the ACA you need to be with an approved institute for training, so that they can sign off on your hours of work experience. Find out if your current job is approved? If so you can just complete your exams! If not, I would consider a grad scheme at a Big4. It’s great experience and they pay for your exams!

Good luck! Hope this helps.