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.


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53 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.

    1. Hi John,

      It may be due to the fact that CMAs tend to hold higher positions in a company and employers see them as more capable of holding an executive role.

    1. Hi Fatah,

      It depends on which country you want to work in. For the United Kingdom or a Commonwealth country, the ACCA is a good choice since it’s better recognized in these countries.
      CMAs thrive mostly in the Middle East, Asia and Americas.

  2. Hi Nathan,
    I need your help, I have started in 2011, I still have 7 more papers remaining to complete (2 knowledge and 5 professional papers), i feel its a lot of studies and papers. i halted ACCA in 2013 when i couldnt clear F9 papers.
    Rightnow in 2017, i havent done any papers past 4 years. i want something short and can be done earliest, based on my research CMA paper seems suitable, what is your advise on this subject matter of my case, should i pursue CMA ??

    1. Hi Mohamad,

      Yes, you’re right, the path towards the CMA certification is comparatively short; you can become a CMA in less than a year. Read here for more information on how to become a CMA.

      And if you have any other questions, please let me know.


  3. Thank Nathan, I will check your blog on becoming CMA
    Is the CMA certification of any value in Canada?

    1. They have their own certification in Canada which is better recognized there. If you plan to build your career in Canada, then I recommend you to choose theirs over US CMA.

      Best of luck!

    1. Hi Akhib,

      Yes, of course. You’ll have 7 years after passing the CMA exam to fulfill the education and experience requirements. Click here to learn more.


    1. Hi Akhib,

      The designation chosen should be based on the career path that you want to take. That’s the best choice.


  4. Is the CMA certification of any value in Dubai?
    I’m from sudan Khartoum and I’m planning to do CMA and hopefully want to start studying? But was not sure that does dubai have any value for this certificate?

    1. Hi Somil,

      The CMA certification is highly recognized in the Middle East, especially in the UAE. I’m also observing an increasing number of candidates from UAE taking the CMA exam, so that’s a strong indicator that CMAs are in demand there.


  5. Hi Nathan,

    I am Bcom Graduate and working as accounts manager in one BPO managing month end close and B S reconciliations. Please suggest which one is better for me CMA or ACCA?

    1. Hi Mubashir,

      I believe the CMA would fit you better due to your management experience.

      Click here to learn more about the CMA certification.


  6. Thanks a lot Nathan. Can you suggest good institute in Hyderabad can to prepare for CMA?


    1. I don’t really know any institutes in Hyderabad, but I can recommend this online coaching course.

      The video lectures a pre-recorded to allow you to watch them at your convenience. This course also includes a test bank with thousands of retired CMA exam questions, CMA review textbooks, a 12-week step-by-step study plan and unlimited 1-on-1 coaching – just all you need to succeed on your CMA exam.

      Hit me up if you have any other questions.

  7. I’ve a bachelor degree in management/finance, I’m currently preferring to take my CMA Part 1 test, I’m traveling to the U.K. Next year, will my CMA be accredited there? , also I want to know what are the best professional certifications for my finance career?

    1. Hi Safaa,

      If you plan to build your career in the UK, then I recommend you to opt for the CIMA certification instead. Click here to learn more.


  8. Dear Nathan,

    Thanks alot for the answers.

    I cant decide between cpa acca and cma. I am holding BA in Business Administration and have 3 years experience as commercial director. But i still feel like i have less understanding of accounting..i need something to confirm my knowledge!

    Thank you

    1. Hi Nazan,

      If you want to work in auditing, then you should go for the CPA, but if you find management more appealing, then the CMA is the right fit for you.

      ACCA is great if you plan to work in the UK or commonwealth countries.

      To learn more about the CMA designation, please click here.

  9. As I read, Passing rate of CMA all over the world is very low…. and i have cleared my intermediate last year with per-engineering and right now I am doing B.Com, and now I want to do CMA simultaneously So should I go for CMA ?? and if yes so when I can start it ??
    I am form pakistan

    1. Hi Alishan,

      With the right set of study tools and about 6 months (3 months per each part) of intense studying, you should be able to pass both CMA exams on your first try. I’ve helped hundreds of CMA candidates pass the exam via my coaching course and I believe it could help you too, check it here.

      You can start your preparation whenever you’re ready. The next exam window will be in January-February, so you may still have time to prepare and appear for the exam in the upcoming testing window.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  10. Hi!
    Wanna ask you ,if its good for me to enroll in ICMA(Pakistan ) for CMA ??tell me about the professional degree of this institute ? I’m position holder of ICOM and ICMAP have given scholarship to me , so is it good for me to chose CMA for further studies ??

  11. hy Nathan plz tell me that if I do CMA from ICMAP (institute of cost management accountants of Pakistan ) and then go to America for a job , can it becomes a hurdle for me to get a job because it is a Pakistani certification.

    1. Hi Muhammad,

      Unfortunately, the Pakistani certification is not recognized in the USA. If you plan on moving, then it’s best to pursue the US CMA. Click here to learn more about how you can obtain it.


    1. Hey Nadeem,

      CMA actually stands for Certified Management Accountant. You can learn more about this designation here.

      Feel free to reach out if you have any other questions. 🙂

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