ACCA vs CMA – Which Is The Right One For You?

It’s no secret that there are plenty of accounting certifications available for you to choose from. The problem is finding one that’s best suited for you and where you want your career to go.

I love sharing these comparisons with you because although I chose to become a CMA, it is not for everyone. So today I wanted to break down the differences between the ACCA vs CMA.

What is the ACCA?

First and foremost, ACCA stands for Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. The ACCA is based in the United Kingdom and operates a single entity just like the CMA. Due to the fact that is based in the UK, this certification is most commonly recognized in the Commonwealth countries.

Application and Qualification Process


Similar to the CMA exam, the ACCA has a fairly low barrier of entry. In order to qualify candidates must have 3 GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education — ie.  high school level) and 2 GCE Advanced levels in five subjects, including Mathematics and English.

For those hoping to become an ACCA and holding a bachelor degree, as long as your degree is from relevant material, you may be eligible for exemption from some or all of the papers at the Fundamental Level.

Where the CMA exam prep is solely up to you, the ACCA actively helps prepare you for the exam by providing candidates with study guides, mock exams and approved learning centers (known as ACCA Approved Learning Partners) where you can study.


The CMA, as you well know, has a low barrier of entry which may be why there is such a low pass rate. Eligibility relies on having any bachelor degree and two consecutive years of managerial work experience.

Exam Content and Format


To become an ACCA you must complete 14 papers in two different levels. This includes 9 Fundamental level papers and 5 Professional level papers. As I mentioned above, depending on your background, you may be eligible for exemption from some or all of the Fundamental papers. Some of the papers are computerized, however not all of them are.

The exam itself is offered only twice a year, in June and December. UPDATE: In 2016 ACCA introduced four exam sessions a year, in March, June, September and December.
Candidates can take it in any of the 170 countries offering it around the globe.


To earn your designation you must pass two exams:

  • Financial Report, Planning, Performance, and Control
  • Financial Decision Making

Both parts of the exam are computerized and you take them at a Prometric Testing facility. Each exam is 4 hours in length total. Three hours is allotted for 100 multiple choice questions, plus 30 minutes for each of the two essays.

In order to move on to the essay questions you must have passed the first part with a score of at least 50%.

ACCA vs CMA Salary

When it comes to salary, the CMA cannot be beat. According to ACCA Global, the average annual salary for an ACCA trainee is approximately £19,300, which is approximately $27,482US. Partly qualified ACCAs earn around £25,800 and finalists earn an average of £30,700 annually. This is approximately $36,737USD and $43,715USD respectively.

On the other hand, the average CMA commands $115,763 as of 2015 and that salary continues to climb. Even at the ACCAs highest level, the average CMA earns over 60% more.

Which is Right for You?

When it comes to a designation it really depends on two factors here, where you want to work and how much income you want to make. Both designations are well respected and growing in global recognition, but the facts remain the same. If you want to work in the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth country, the ACCA may be a better choice. If you prefer to live and work in the Middle East, Asia, or in the Americas and earn a higher salary then there’s no question, the CMA is right for you.

There is no right or wrong answer though. Only you can choose if the ACCA vs CMA is right for you.

If you’ve decided the CMA is right for you and need a hand crushing the exam, let me help. Click here to learn more.


16 Comments on “ACCA vs CMA – Which Is The Right One For You?”

    1. Hi Alan,

      The CMA exam will definitely focus on enhancing your professional edge. The knowledge and skills learned in the CMA exam is also helpful in becoming an entrepreneur such as financial statements analysis, internal control, cost management and performance measurement and evaluation, to name a few.


    1. Hi Nanda,

      ACCA members are allowed to take the CMA exam even without the Bachelor’s degree but there are no exemptions in the exam itself.


    1. Hi Sayalee,

      When you register as a member of IMA, a CMA Exam Support Package will be available in your account.

      Thanks and Regards,

  1. Hi Nathan

    please guide me, i am currently doing cma(us) and want to do acca after that. so i just want to know that whether going in right direction or not and i want to command a good package & place to work is no bar.

      1. First of all thank you for replying
        I just want to increase my chances of employment. Actually i am a CA finalist but i have a doubt whether i would make to CA title or not, based on CA inter and graduation , i am gettng 6 papers exemption in ACCA so i m suppose to clear rest 8 papers and In CA final too i have 8 papers. This is the main dilemma for ACCA vs CA.
        N I am doing CMA so that i can save my career which is at stake right now.

        1. The CMA is a great designation. My advice is not to try to get all at the same time. Start with one, get certified, then move to the next one.

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