CMA vs CIMA – Which Should You Choose?

Today I wanted to talk about two of the most notable designations across the globe – the CMA vs CIMA.

As you may know, when you become certified as a CMA in the United States, it is overseen by the IMA – Institute of Management Accountants. In the UK however, this designation is handled by the CIMA, or Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Both the IMA and CIMA have been been around for ages, which is why so many candidates have a hard time determining which designation would be best for them.

Though both are respected qualifications and offer opportunities to those who want to work and live abroad, which one should you choose? Let me break down a few considerations for you.

Education and Other Requirements

Before diving into which designation you want to go for, you probably want to know how much time and education you will have to invest in order to attain it.

Unlike the CMA which requires you to have a bachelor’s degree and pass a 2 part exam, the CIMA requires candidates to pass 15 qualifying exams. In addition to this, candidates must complete 3 years of relevant work experience and receive an endorsement from their supervisors.

The CMA requires 2 years of relevant work experience, but you are able to complete both your exams in one year or less, as the testing windows are open for 2 months three times a year.

In terms of time commitment and effort,  it is pretty obvious that becoming a CMA would be a bit easier. This is not to say that either designation is easier or better, because that isn’t the case.

This brings me to my next point. If you are going to invest years and money into earning your certification, you may want to consider which country you want to work from as this may influence your decision.

Choosing a Designation Based on Location

The CIMA is recognized in many countries, especially those in the UK and commonwealth. Though less so in the US, it still holds a rather strong presence in the global setting.

Over the years the IMA has been growing and extending its global presence, and is now well known in countries like China and throughout the Middle East.

If you wanted to take into consideration where in the world you wanted to settle down and work from, then here is a quick breakdown of which appears to be most popular in certain locations. (Remember, we are just comparing CMA and CIMA, not any other accounting designation):

In the United States and China there tends to be a stronger presence of the CMA. Canada tends to skew slightly more to the CMA as well. In the UK and Commonwealth countries, the CIMA dominates. What perhaps is most interesting is that the CMA and CIMA are nearly 50/50 in the Middle East.

As you can see, where you choose to live may influence your final decision. Regardless of which path you choose to follow you can be certain that it will improve your future career in finances and accounting.

More by Nathan Liao

I love sharing my weekly posts on exam strategies, coaching support and all CMA-related topics for free. If you enjoy these articles, here are some links to other projects I created (and ways you can support my work).

  • CMA Exam Academy: The exclusive online instructor-led course with a step-by-step study plan, personalized coaching and proven study strategies that guarantees you’ll pass the CMA exam
  • Self-Study Guide: Learn how to tackle the exam with this short guide.

As always, thanks for reading,

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13 Comments on “CMA vs CIMA – Which Should You Choose?”

    1. Hi Luigi, I’m very glad it helped 🙂 Out of curiosity, which designation are you going for?

    1. Hello Oladipupo,

      The CIMA certification is recognized in Europe. However, it is not recognized in the US.

      Nathan

  1. hi nathan,
    thank you for giving a valuable information to me.may i know which one gives more opportunity in my future.?? and coming to exam part which one is easy to clear the exam??

    1. Hi Dilip,

      It depends what your career goals are and where you want to work as I wrote in the article 🙂

  2. I want to develop my skills in business,accounting and finance and career goal is to be a entrepreneur or I want to play important role in big firms.i don’t have any dreams to settle down at particular place.if did either cma USA or cima uk I can get more value in future wherever I go?…can I get this skills in cma USA…….

  3. I am confused between the two courses.
    isnt CIMA better than CMA overall because both are in Accounts field.
    And CMA is not even known much by people ?

    1. Hi Tanvi,

      The main consideration to decide from when choosing between CIMA and CMA is your preferred location of work. Here is a summary based on my observation:

      US: CMA much more recognized
      UK and commonwealth countries: CIMA much more recognized, less so for Canada and Australia
      Canada: CPA Canada is the best; CMA slighly better than CIMA
      Middle East: CMA and CIMA have similar standing
      China: CMA considerably more recognized

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

  4. Hi,Nathan i just want to to know can i settle in uk after completion of CIMA from india or it requires 1-2 years of experience in india and after that can i settle in uk in short i just need that how much time it takes to settle in uk on the basis of CIMA

    1. Hi Yash,

      Settling in the UK depends on a lot of factors and honestly, we don’t have an expertise about it.

      Thanks,
      Nathan

  5. Hi Nathan,

    I just want to find out to sitting for CMA exam in USA, do we required any kind to visa .. eg. Visitor visa.

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