CMA USA Vs CIMA: Develop your Roadmap to Global Certification!


Global Certifications have become a new trend these days. Many people are preparing for such certification exams to get global recognition. And why not? After all, it can skyrocket their careers. Most employers ask for certification to prove the applicant's skills while applying for a job, especially in the management and accounting sectors. 
CMA USA, CIMA, and ACCA are some of the popular certifications when it comes to the financial management and accounting field. Thousands of applicants apply for these exams each year and try to clear them. It generates competition among candidates, making it difficult to crack in one go.
Here's when NorthStar Academy (NSA) comes into picture. With this platform, we bring various top courses to help candidates during their preparation journey. Experts at NSA provide full support, including on-time classes, doubt clarification sessions, study materials, and preparation tips, to develop a roadmap for students to achieve global certifications. 
This article provides detailed information on CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA certification courses to let aspirants choose. Let us first give you an overview of these three certifications.

Overview of USA CMA vs CIMA vs ACCA 


Certified Management Accountant or CMA USA is a professional certification to prove an individual's financial management and accounting expertise. It implies a certification holder's knowledge in domains of decision support, professional ethics, financial planning, and analysis control. The exam is conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Candidates who pass the exam can expect job opportunities, including business analysts, cost controllers, financial analysts, chief financial officers, and financial managers. 


CIMA, or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, is a global management accounting body based in the UK (United Kingdom). It offers qualifications and training in management accountancy and related domains. It focuses on developing knowledge in the business and finance field. CIMA certification holders work in the areas of financial reporting, corporate finance, financial and business analysis, treasury and risk management, project finance, etc. Their job is to analyze information, develop strategies and drive sustainable success.


ACCA certification is a professional certification accredited by the accounting body of the same name, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, headquartered in London. ACCA certification holders can secure job opportunities in consulting, fund management, tax filing, advising, and other related domains. These professionals also get international job offers. 

Differences: CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA

The difference between all three certifications depends on various factors, including exam details, qualifications, exemptions, and salaries. Let us discuss them one by one. 

Exam details- ACCA vs CIMA vs CMA USA


The ACCA exam involves 13 papers depending on the core subjects. Each exam is divided into three levels; Applied Knowledge, Applied Skills, and Strategic Professional. The pass percentage for each exam is 50%. 

Applied Knowledge

The level further includes three subjects; Business and Technology (BT), Management Accounting (MA), and Financial Accounting (FA). Students have to pass all these exams to get an ACCA Diploma in Business and Accounting. It is a 2-hour duration exam. 

Applied Skills 

This level includes the subjects; Corporate and Business Law (LW), Performance Management(PM), Taxation (TX), Financial Reporting (FR), Audit and Assurance (AA), and Financial Management (FM). Students are awarded an advanced diploma if they pass all the subjects. It is a 2-hour duration exam. 

Strategic Professional 

This level requires students to pass 4 subjects out of 6. Strategic Business Leader and Strategic Business Reporting are the essential subjects, while Advanced Financial Management, Advanced Performance Management, Advanced Taxation, and Advanced Audit and Assurance are optional subjects. Students are given a Strategic Professional Certification when they pass these subjects. It is a 3-hour duration exam. 


This certification program has 4 levels. Depending on the background of a student, the program level may vary. These levels are; 

Certificate in Accounting Level

It is for graduate and undergraduate students with a non-commerce background. It involves 16 papers based on subjects; Fundamentals of Business Economics, Management Accounting, Financial Accounting, and Ethics, Corporate Governance, and Business Law. It includes four objective exams. After passing the exams, candidates are awarded a CIMA certificate in business accounting. 

Operational Level 

This level is for students who have graduated in commerce (B.Com). It involves 4 exams, including 3 objective-type exams and 1 case study. The topics at the Operational level are Organizational Management, Financial Reporting and Taxation, and Management Accounting.

Management level 

It is suitable for M.A or M.Com graduates. It includes 4 exams (3 Objective-type exams and 1 Case Study). It involves topics such as Project and Relationship Management, Advanced Management Accounting, and Advanced Financial Reporting. Students have to clear all the exams to get a CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting. 

Strategic Level

This level is open for CMA or CA professionals. It also includes 4 exams (3 Objective-type exams and 1 Case Study). The exam focuses on the topics such as strategic management, Financial Strategy, and Risk Management. 


The CMA USA exam occurs in two parts. Part 1 is all about Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics. While part 2 focuses on Strategic Financial Management details. The pattern consists of essay-type and objective-type questions. 75% of the total questions are MCQ type, and 25% are essay type questions. 

CMA USA Part 1 Syllabus; 

  • External financial reporting decisions
  • Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
  • Performance Management
  • Cost Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Technology and Analysis

CMA USA Part 2 Syllabus; 

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Decision Analysis
  • Risk Management
  • Investment Decisions
  • Professional Ethics

Eligibility Criteria/Prerequisites- CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA

ACCA Qualification
A candidate must meet the ACCA eligibility criteria to become eligible for ACCA qualification. 
  • A candidate has to be 18 years old and qualified for a 10+2 exam with a minimum of 65% in Accounts/Mathematics and English. Also, he has to score a minimum of 50% in other subjects. 
  • To achieve this certification, a candidate has to complete a maximum of 13 exams, depending on prior qualifications and experience. He also has to complete the Ethics and Professional Skills module. Along with this, a candidate has to give evidence of three years of work experience within a relevant role. It will take a minimum of three years to complete the ACCA qualification.

CIMA Qualification

The CIMA eligibility criteria are very flexible. It suits every candidate as per the given terms.
  • O-level or matriculation
  • A-level or intermediate
  • Under Graduation
  • MBA degree for fast entry into the CIMA course.
  • Any other professional qualification
A graduate candidate can quickly get all four levels of CIMA in two years.

CMA USA Qualification

Candidates have to meet the eligibility requirements to achieve the CMA USA qualification. The eligibility criteria are as follows:
  • A candidate has to register with IMA. 
  • He must have passed his 10+2 exam and an undergraduate degree from a well-renowned university. The degree should be in the relevant field. 
  • A candidate must have two years of work experience in financial or management accounting within seven years of the date of passing the CMA exam.
  • He must obey the IMA's Statement of Ethical Professional Practice.

Exemptions- CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA 

As far as exemptions are concerned, each certification comes with different exemption criteria. Here are the exemptions of CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA. 
Qualified CMA USA professionals get exemptions of; 
  • IPA Australia (Full exemption)
  • CIPFA UK (Full exemption)
  • ICMA PAK (50% exemption)
  • ACCA UK (3 papers exemption)
  • IFA UK (Full exemption)
  • ICWAI (Full exemption)
  • FIA (Full exemption)
  • CIMA UK (6 papers exemption) 


ACCA provides exemptions depending on the prior education and qualification of an applicant. These can be given across; 
  • Foundational level qualifications
  • Applied Skills and Applied Knowledge exams. 
No exemptions are given for; 
  • Strategic Professional Exams
  • Work experience
  • Any non-updated exam qualification. 

ACCA & CIMA Exemptions

Students who have passed all ACCA exam levels can apply for CIMA exemptions. The applicant might get an exemption from 11 CIMA exams. These include; 
  • Four certificate level exams
  • The operational level integrated case study exam
  • Three operational level exams
  • Three management level exam

CMA USA vs CIMA exemptions 

If a CMA USA wants to apply for CIMA exemptions, he must first enroll in a CIMA training course. CMA USA vs CIMA exemptions are given on two qualifications; 
  • Before 2008 Certified Management Accountant (USA)
  • Certified Management Accountant (USA) from 2009 completion onward

Salaries - CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA

The salary of professionals depends on a lot of factors, including experience, job location, designation, etc. However, overseas jobs look more lucrative due to high packages, but people who want to start their business in this field can practice in India. Below are the salaries of CMA USA vs CIMA and ACCA vs CIMA. 

CMA USA vs CIMA Salary

The average salary of a CMA USA holder in India can be 4-7 lakhs per annum, while overseas, it can be 70,000 US dollars per year. A professional can earn up to 1,30,000 US dollars. The average salary of a CIMA professional can lie around 5-8 lakh per year, while the overseas salary of a professional can be 1,80,000 dollars per year. 

ACCA vs CIMA salary

The average salary of an ACCA certification holder in India can be 6-8 lakhs per annum, while he can earn up to 32,000 US dollars per year. Whereas, for CIMA, the salary is the same as above. 

Comparison table- CMA USA vs CIMA and ACCA vs CIMA

Official Conducting BodyAssociation of Chartered Certified AccountantsChartered Institute of Management AccountantsInstitute of Management Accountants
Exam patternObjective and case study type questionsObjective and case study type questions75% MCQ based questions, 25% subjective type questions
Exam levels3 Levels:
1.Applied Knowledge 2.Applied Skills 3.Strategic Professional
4 Levels:
1.Certificate in Accounting Level2.Operational Level3.Management Level4.Strategic Level
2 Exam Parts
Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
Part 2: Strategic Financial Management
Salary per annum (average)6-8 lakhs 6-8 lakhs5-7 lakhs

Which is better, CIMA or ACCA?

Choosing between the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is a difficult task. ACCA and CIMA are globally accepted certifications that are highly demanded and valuable in accounting and finance. Selecting the certification between these two depends on fit for the job profiles and the candidate's career aspirations. 
CIMA certification is recommended for those who wish to join industries and businesses with an aptitude for commercial and strategic awareness. The ACCA certification is recommended for those wanting to pursue a career in tax, audit, and finance with an aptitude for compliance and numbers. Both the certifications have their advantages and disadvantages in their own ways. Hence, it is up to candidates whose certification they want to choose per their career aspirations.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Can I do ACCA after CIMA?

ACCA is an international accounting credential. The difference between ACCA vs CIMA is that ACCA covers the field of auditing, whereas CIMA does not. ACCA candidates who have passed all the exams are eligible for CIMA exemptions. A candidate will be exempted from eleven CIMA exams. These include:

Three management level exams
Three operational level exams
Four certificate level exams
One operational level integrated case study exam

2. Who earns more ACCA or CMA?

The ACCA certification includes more syllabus than the CMA certification. But CMA is much better than ACCA in terms of salary. A CMA certified with 1 to 5 years of work experience earns an average of US $70,000 per year. While ACCA certified earns an average of US $60,000 per year. Hence, CMA is much more beneficial in terms of compensation.

3. Which accounting qualification is best?

CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA, these three are all global-level certifications. These are highly valuable qualifications in accounting and finance. The best choice between the certifications is based on personal career aspirations. Candidates interested in the business industry can opt for CIMA certification, while candidates aspiring to careers in tax or audit can opt for the ACCA certification. With CMA certification, a candidate can go into the field of management, sales, finance, etc.

4. Which is the hardest accounting qualification?

Comparing the difficulty of CMA USA vs CIMA vs ACCA , CIMA and ACCA, these are somewhat equally difficult. These certifications are high in demand and are respected by employers across the industry. But among these certifications, CIMA is the most difficult qualification. Hence, candidates who wish to earn this certification should prepare well to clear the CIMA.

5. Is CMA accepted in the UK?

CMA is also known as the US certification that is recognized globally. UK management accountants can also study for this qualification. Hence, a CMA certified in the UK can earn an average salary of 35,559 per year.

6. Is CMA valid abroad?

CMA USA is an international certification. This certification is recognized by various countries like India, the UK, China, Canada, and the Middle East countries. A CMA USA-certified professional gets an opportunity to work and settle abroad. In addition to this, candidates will learn about business ethics and practices.


After reading the above information, candidates now have got some idea of which certification is best for their career. All the accounting certifications have their own benefits and application details. Candidates should check these details before applying for these certifications.
At NorthStar Academy, we provide the best training programs for all accounting certifications, including CMA USA, CPA USA, ACCA, etc. Our experts will help candidates to understand every process and concept essential for these certifications. We offer regular support to candidates by conducting online and offline sessions and providing them with revised and well-organized study material. With a passing rate of 83%, we have become the most preferred CMA USA training institute in the country.
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