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CIMA Qualifications: Everything you need to know

If you’re looking to undertake more senior accountancy job roles or you want to embark on a career in business finance, CIMA qualifications will help advance your career and get you started. Not only will these qualifications open doors to more senior positions, but they will also help to boost your earning potential considerably.

This article will explain everything you need to know about CIMA, from course details to the types of job roles you can embark on after you have completed your exams. 

Find out more about the CIMA qualifications.

What is CIMA?

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is comprised of over 650,000 members and students, making it the world’s largest professional body offering training and qualifications in Management Accountancy. Whether you want to work in the public or private sector, CIMA qualifications fuse Management Accounting, Financial Accounting and Business, allowing you to work in any area of an organisation from Consultancy to IT. 

As well as being internationally recognised, CIMA qualifications are highly valued by employers and are embraced by all sectors from government services to small enterprises. 

Unlike other accountancy certifications, CIMA is considered to be a high-level qualification that will teach you more than just number-crunching; you will learn how to help businesses make important financial decisions, forecast future achievements/challenges, as well as help to shape and influence their corporate strategies.    

Certificate vs Professional Qualifications 

The full CIMA course is split between two courses; the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting and the CIMA Professional Qualification

The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting is an entry-level qualification and is made up of four key stages: 

  • BA1 – Fundamentals of Business Economics
  • BA2 – Fundamentals of Management Accounting
  • BA3 – Fundamentals of Financial Accounting
  • BA4 – Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance and Business Law 

The Certificate level is ideal for beginners with little to no experience of accountancy or  finance. It will teach you basic accountancy skills from data analysis, forecasting performance, to preparing financial reports.  

BA1: Fundamentals of Business Economics, will not only teach you how to evaluate and forecast consumer/market/economy behaviour, but will also look into the economic and operating context of business; exploring how government economic policy, competition and financial markets can influence an organisation.  

BA2: Fundamentals of Management Accounting, explains how Management Accounting fits within the commercial and public sector, its wider role in society, and explores the position of a Management Accountant within a business. 

BA3: Fundamentals of Financial Accounting will show you how to prepare financial statements for single entities, equip you with an understanding of legislation and accounting standards, as well as teach you how to apply necessary controls for accounting systems, and how to measure financial performance.

BA4: Fundamentals of Ethics, Corporate Governance and Business Law focuses on teaching you the professional standards needed to benefit stakeholders, covering ethical conflict, the role of corporate governance and social responsibility, as well as the legal and administrative framework surrounding commercial activities. 

Once you have completed all four stages of the Certificate level, you will be qualified to move onto the CIMA Professional Qualification, which is broken down into three levels (or subject areas), which are further divided down into three modules. 

CIMA Professional Qualification - Operational Level

  • E1 – Organisational Management
  • P1 – Management Accounting
  • F1 – Financial Reporting and Taxation

CIMA Professional Qualification - Management Level

  • E1 – Organisational Management
  • P1 – Management Accounting
  • F1 – Financial Reporting and Taxation

CIMA Professional Qualification - Strategic Level

  • E3 – Strategic Management
  • P3 – Risk Management
  • F3 – Financial Strategy

CIMA Professional Qualification - Full Package (all 3 levels above)

The Professional Qualification covers various topics, encompassing Risk Management, Financial Strategy and Management Accounting. Unless you have already obtained a foundational qualification in business or accounting (e.g. AAT Level 4, or a master’s degree), you will be required to first successfully complete the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting before you can enrol.   

The Operational level will explain the role of finance in an organisation, how budgets are prepared and implemented, costing methods and techniques, how to prepare basic financial statements, detail who the regulators are, as well as teach you the different types of taxes and issues affecting taxation. 

The Management level will highlight the fundamentals of business models, explain different styles of leadership, cover cost/quality/process/value management, demonstrate how to analyse risks and uncertainties, list the key financial reporting standards, as well as teach you how to analyse financial statements using the International Integrated Reporting Framework. 

The Strategic level covers how strategy is implemented and the foundation of strategic management, explains how to identify, evaluate and manage enterprise risks, highlights different strategic financial objectives and policy options, details the types of funds available to businesses, as well as shows you how to appropriately manage and evaluate financial risk.     

The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting can be completed in around 12 months, depending on how much time you can dedicate to your studies. 

As the CIMA Professional Qualification is more detailed and challenging, it’s recommended that you take your time working your way through the three levels (Operational, Management and Strategic). These Professional Qualification levels can take up to a year each to complete, meaning you can become a CIMA qualified Management Accountant in around 3-5 years of study.    

Why take CIMA qualifications? 

Candidates with CIMA qualifications are highly sought-after by employers and are recognised by thousands of companies around the world. This is because CIMA qualifications equip students with a broad range of desirable attributes including risk management, analysis, planning, strategy and communication skills

By having CIMA qualifications listed on your CV, it demonstrates your commitment to developing your career and shows you have senior-level commercial skills and knowledge; opening the door to numerous finance/business roles in almost any sector. 

Additionally, not only will you have the freedom to work within the UK or abroad, you can choose to work for a single business and be in charge of all their financial decisions (as a Management Accountant), or decide to become a Chartered Management Accountant, where you have the flexibility to work for multiple organisations and clients at a time, similar to a freelancer.  

What’s more, by choosing to study CIMA, your earning potential can increase significantly, with many candidates starting on an average salary of £23,000, with the potential to earn well over £50,000 as they work through the various levels and build their experience within the industry. 

What can I do with CIMA qualifications? 

There are multiple career paths you can take after you have completed your CIMA exams.

Examples of job roles you can achieve after each level include:    

CIMA Certificate:

  • Accounts Assistant: £23,335* 

CIMA Operational level:

  • Junior Financial Analyst: £23,799*
  • Financial Analyst: £40,982*

CIMA Management level:

  • Business Analyst: £43,239*
  • Financial Accountant: £45,619 

CIMA Strategic level:

  • Financial Manager: £52,415
  • Financial Controller: £68,648

 (*Salaries based in London area. Source: Glassdoor Salary Checker)  

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