A question I get asked often by candidates is, 'which qualification is best to get into professional accountancy'. Two of the most popular courses to gain the full Chartered Accountant status are CIMA and ACCA, both highly respected and globally sought-after routes. However, which one is the right one for you to study?
The major difference between CIMA and ACCA is their focus. Your decision needs to be based on your career ambitions, as both qualifications allow you to specialise in different areas of accounting. Both courses take about the same amount of time to complete.
If you are looking to focus your career on business, the CIMA route would be a great match. This will give you the Chartered Management Accountant Qualification and allows you to take on highly commercial roles in any kind of organisation or industry, looking at strategies to make financial decisions.
After you qualify, you could reasonably expect to gain roles such as Assistant Finance Manager; Assistant Accountant; Accountant; Financial Manager; Finance Analyst with progression likely to get you to Financial Controller or CFO.
The ACCA Qualification, however, places more of an emphasis on auditing and compliance with many working in practice roles, looking at financial assessment and compliance rather than the commercial forward-thinking parts of accountancy. You would qualify as a Chartered Certified Accountant, and your focus would very much be around the professional values in the world of accountancy.
This qualification is equivalent to a Master’s degree, which will set you up for a successful career. You could enjoy roles varying from Financial Analyst, Audit & Compliance to Tax, Financial Accountant. Alternatively, candidates will often become self-employed, setting up their own accounting practice.
My advice would be to research both in detail using the available online resources.
One thing that is not in doubt is that it takes a unique variety of skills and characteristics to excel in a finance career and many candidates are unaware how many different roles and job opportunities exist within the finance sector. Finance is such a broad area with so many routes to choose from and you have to unpick the puzzle to work out what is right for you. I know candidates in finance that spend 100% of their day buried in spreadsheets running models, and they love it. I also know candidates in commercial finance that spend most of their day Business Partnering with the stakeholders making recommendations, and they love it!
Choose well and you will have a highly successful and enjoyable career.
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