How to choose CMA vs CIMA UK: which is Best?

If you are a newbie in the field of Finance or have been in the industry for years, then you know about the immense scope in this field. There are endless options available, and it can be a very stressful process to select the right career direction. 
CMA USA and CIMA UK can be excellent career paths to gain global exposure, high salaries, and build a strong network. 
If you are struggling to choose your career option, then let us help you make your decision easier through a deep dive into both courses :

CMA vs CIMA UK - Understanding the key differences. 


Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a certification program in Financial Accounting and Strategic Financial Management. 
CMA USA is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, USA, globally recognized. It targets to impart in-depth knowledge of various aspects of Management Accounting. 
Any professional with a CMA certification can take up various roles from Finance Managers to Cost Accountants to Financial Strategists. They are bound to receive higher salaries and Global exposure than non-CMA peers. 

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is a course that offers training and skills in Management Accountancy and other related subjects. CIMA is a body that is based out of the United Kingdom. 
CIMA distinguishes a Management Accountant from a traditional Accountant and aims to make people aware of the importance of Management Accountants. 
A Management Accountant analyses data forecasts it, makes budgets to help make Management decisions, creates reports for internal use, and helps assess the risk and manage it.

Eligibility criteria

A CMA certification needs to have a bachelors degree and a minimum of 2 years of relevant professional work experience. 
For enrolling in CIMA, the candidate needs to have completed the 12th class and must pass 16 papers. Having done ACCA or MBA exempts a candidate from giving a few papers. After giving all the 14 papers and 3 case studies, a candidate needs to have professional work experience of 3 years to gain the CIMA certification.


CMA includes two pillars :

Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics

External Financial Reporting Decisions-15%
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting-20%
Performance Management-20%
Cost Management-15%
Internal Controls-15%
Technology and Analytics-15%

Part 2: Strategic Financial Management

Financial Statement Analysis-20%
Corporate Finance-20%
Decision Analysis-25%
Risk Management-10%
Investment Decision-10%
Professional Ethics-15%

CIMA focuses on 4 pillars:

Certification Level:- 

Fundamentals of Business Economics, Fundamentals of Management Accounting, Fundamentals of Ethics, Business Law and Corporate Governance, and Fundamentals of Financial Accounting

Operational Level:- 

Organizational Management, Management Accounting, and Financial Reporting and Taxation

Managerial Level:- 

Project And Relationship Management, Advanced Management Accounting, and Advanced Financial Reporting

Strategic Level:- 

Strategic Management, Risk Management, and Financial Strategy

Exam structure and pattern

There are 100 MCQs and 2 essay-type questions for a CMA exam for both Part 1 and Part 2 exams. The total exam time is four hours, with 3 hours to complete the MCQs and 1 hour to finish the essay-type questions. 
For CIMA papers, there is a two-hour, computer-based assessment which can be taken in any of the months (based on the availability of the exam center). The results are announced immediately. 
For the case study questions, you have 180 minutes and the result is announced after a month of the exam. The case study can be taken four times a year, in February, May, August, and November. 

Time investment

A CMA program can be completed within three years from the date of your registration. But an average candidate completes it within 6-8 months. 
Whereas, CIMA can take anywhere between 3-4 years to be completed for all levels to be cleared. 
For CIMA, a candidate has to spend around 35-60 hours on average to prepare for each paper, while on the other hand,  a CMA candidate has to spend 150 hours per part. 

Exemptions in CIMA 

Exemptions for those with CA

A candidate who already holds a CA certification and is a member of the ICAI gets exempted from 16 out of the 17 papers for India. Such a candidate has to attempt only one strategy case study assessment. After the one exam, the candidate needs to have had three years of professional work experience for a CIMA membership. 

Exemptions for those with MBA or ACCA

Those candidates who have an MBA or an ACCA get exemption from writing the first 11 papers of the CIMA UK program. The candidate must pass a CIMA Gateway exam to be eligible for the exemption. Post the exemption qualification; the candidate can directly start from the Strategic Level. Those exempted from certain papers will have to pay exemption fees. 

Job opportunities 

The world of Finance is rapidly growing, and there is a huge demand for professionals, seeking a corporate career. 
With a CIMA UK degree, you could be hired in roles like Accountant, Management Accountant, Accounts Assistance, Business Analyst, Finance Data Analyst, etc. 
On the other hand, a CMA USA holder could get roles like Budget Analyst, Internal Auditor, Risk Manager, Cost Accountant, Finance Controller, etc. 

Salary Trends

The online trends of CIMA UK vs CMA USA only show the average salaries in the country. However, you could earn higher depending upon your company and other qualifications that you bring to the table. 
A CMA holder can earn up to $100,000 per annum as a fresher. This could range between 4 lakhs to 6 lakhs per annum in India. 
A CIMA-certified accountant earns an average median salary of up to 63,000 per annum, while in India, one can earn anywhere upwards of 10 lakhs per annum. 


Both CMA USA and CIMA UK are excellent choices that one can take to develop expertise in finance domains. Choosing any of these courses is bound to lead to high salaries, better job opportunities, and even stints abroad.
The final decision to choose between CMA vs CIMA UK should solely be based on your interest. You need to create a list of every aspect that will be in your favor while making this extremely important decision. To learn more about the courses, you can contact the experts at NorthStar Academy, we will guide all your aspirations to excellence. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which is harder- CIMA UK or CMA USA?

CMA USA has fewer exams, less time required for prep, and lower monetary investment. On the other hand, it would be time-consuming and costly to get a CIMA degree. You will most likely get a CMA USA certification before getting a CIMA UK certification

2. What are the exemptions for someone with a CMA India certification, pursuing CIMA UK?

Someone who is ICWAI qualified (CMA India) is taken directly to the 4th and last pillar of the CIMA UK- strategic level. After the candidate with the ICWAI qualification has cleared the gateway assessment, they can directly take the final level exams. 

3. Is CMA US better than CIMA UK? How are both different?

The skills that CMA offers are Financial Planning, Budgeting, Internal Control, Internal reporting, Decision making, Risk Management, etc. The course enhances the knowledge of a candidate in the field of Financial Management.

Whereas, in CIMA, the target is to understand how the world of finance fits with that of the business and how they correlate. It boils down to what the interests are of the candidate and how much time, money, and effort they are willing to put in. 

4. Should a candidate who has CMA in India go for a CIMA UK?

Both CMA India and CIMA UK are very similar to each other; the only difference is the geographical location of practice for the professional. If you want to open yourself to the opportunity of moving abroad, you should definitely pursue a CIMA. Anyway, there are a lot of exemptions for someone who has done a CMA in India. But it is advised to get some work

experience before going for a CIMA, right after CMA. 
Even if you have no plans of settling abroad, doing CIMA can give you an edge over your peers who do not have a CIMA and can also get you a hike in your salary. 

5. Is CIMA worth it? Which countries accept CIMA and CMA?

Since CIMA is from the UK, it is well-recognized in all their commonwealth countries. Whereas CMA, even though it is globally recognized, only limited people know of the availability of this course outside of the US, Canada, and Australia

It would finally depend on which country you plan on practicing this profession. If youre thinking about the US, then definitely go for a CMA, but if you plan on going to the UK or their commonwealth countries, CIMA is the better option. CMA is more popular in countries like Canada, China, the Middle East, etcetera.
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