Published: 11 September 2023

For aspiring accountants, the decision of which accounting qualification to pursue can be a pivotal one in shaping their future careers. In this article, we will explore the key differences between three prominent accounting qualifications: ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant), ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), and CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). We'll examine the entry requirements, course structures, career prospects, and other essential factors to help you make an informed choice.


Key Differences Between ACA, ACCA, and CIMA


ACA (Associate Chartered Accountant):



ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants):



CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants):



Choosing the Right Qualification


The choice between ACA, ACCA, and CIMA largely depends on your career goals, preferences, and circumstances. Here are some factors to consider:


Career Path: ACA is suitable for those interested in technical financial accounting, while ACCA offers a mix of financial and management accounting skills. CIMA focuses primarily on management accounting and is ideal for those planning to work in industry.


Course Duration: ACCA offers a shorter course duration, typically three years of practical experience, making it a quicker path to becoming a professional accountant. ACA and CIMA may take three to five years.


Entry Requirements: ACCA requires three GCSEs and two A levels, while ACA has similar requirements. CIMA is more flexible and does not have strict entry requirements.


Practical Experience: ACCA and CIMA have mandatory practical experience requirements, ensuring you are job-ready. ACA also requires work experience but with different duration expectations.


Cost: Consider the costs involved, including exam fees, registration fees, and study materials. Some employers may cover these expenses.


Study Methods: All three qualifications offer online learning options to accommodate work and personal commitments.


Industry vs. Practice: Decide whether you prefer working in industry or practice, as this can influence your choice of qualification.


Ultimately, the choice between ACA, ACCA, and CIMA depends on your career aspirations and individual circumstances. These globally recognised qualifications can open doors to various opportunities in the accounting and finance industry. Carefully evaluate your goals and the specific features of each qualification to make an informed decision that aligns with your future career path. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and your choice should reflect your unique career objectives and interests.