CMA vs CIMA – Which Should You Choose?

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).

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Nathan Liao

Hi, I’m Nathan Liao (aka the CMA Coach)! For the last 10 years, over 82,000 accounting and finance pros came knocking at my door seeking guidance and help. If you’re also aiming to conquer the CMA exam on your very first try—without wasting away time or money—you’ve found your ultimate guide. Dive in deeper to discover more about me and the dedicated team that powers CMA Exam Academy. Click here and let’s embark on this journey together!

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

  1. Hi Nathan,
    Thank you for all your valuable advices . I am ACMA CGMA ( CIMA-UK) & CMA ( India), with relevant professional experience of around 18 years ( age 45+) , would CMA -USA help me for leverage my career .
    Also considering may age can I be benefited by getting overseas jobs after completing USA CMA ( USA, Middle East Australia, NZ, Singapore etc.)

    1. Hi Sudeep,

      An advantage of the USA CMA is that it’s a globally recognized certification. With the USA CMA, you’ll have the skill set to make financial decisions for a company and hold management accounting or executive positions. CMAs tend to have higher salaries.

      Keep in mind that the IMA offers all members the platform where they can find and apply for jobs that are the best match for their skills.


  2. I am from India, Karnataka, I am studing bcom 1st yr so I am confused which professional qualification has more scope for job
    CMA (USA) or CIMA ( UK)
    Kindly suggest me.

    1. Hi Kala,

      Something to consider is that that CIMA is mostly recognized in the UK and the commonwealth countries. The US CMA, however, is a global designation recognized worldwide.


  3. Hi Nathan, currently I am working as an management accountant in Australia. Could you please suggest me, if I should do CMA or CIMA. Thanks shruti

    1. Hi Shruti,

      The CIMA is mostly recognized in the UK and the commonwealth countries. The US CMA, however, is a global designation recognized worldwide. I compare the two certifications in my blog post here

      If you have any other questions, just hit reply.


  4. Dear Nathan

    I understand that the UK accepts CIMA, but does this mean that she does not accept CMA?

    Thank you

    1. Hi Cagla,

      The IMA is making a big push in Europe and it’s becoming widely recognized, and acceptance of the CMA designation is on an upswing.

  5. hi, Nathan Liao …

    I am CMA (India ) Qualified . I want to go to Canada for job . Which Course in Better?
    CMA US —– Certified Management Accountant: shall i get good opportunity with CMA US.

    1. Hi Bhatt,

      The CMA is recognized globally, including in Canada.

      There’s been a lot of interest from accounting professionals in Canada and many of my Academy students are from there too.

      To learn the step to become a CMA, here’s an article that’ll help.


  6. Hi Nathan,
    I am living in Viet Nam where is Southeast Asia, please suggest me which one(CMA or CIMA) can I choose
    Thanks & Regards,

    1. Hi Minh,

      Definitely the CMA, it’s a global certification. The CIMA is mostly recognized in the UK and and commonwealth nations.


  7. Pingback: CMA vs CIA - Which Designation Is Right One For You

  8. Hi Nathan

    I am the resident of India. I am pursuing CMA right now .But now i am confused about my courses .
    I want to know Whether i should do CIMA (LONDON) and CMA Both or only CMA ,if i want to work In India in future

    So please suggest me the most appropriate answer

    Thanks And regards

    1. Hi Nisha,

      Since the CMA designation is very well recognized in India, I don’t think there will be an added benefit from getting the CIMA certification as well.


    1. Hi Roberto,

      The IMA is making a big push in Europe and it’s becoming widely recognized, and acceptance of the CMA designation is on an upswing.

      Brexit has no impact on the value of the CMA designation because the skills CMAs possess is relevant in all business scenarios, i.e. pre or post Brexit.

  9. Hi Nathan
    I just want to find out that after CMA whether I am eligible ti go for US CPA .it’s beneficial for my carrier in USA or not.i am looks forward to settle in USA

    1. Hi Ravikant, According to IMA’s salary survey, professionals holding the CMA and CPA earn more than those who only have one of these designations. But those who hold the CMA alone earn more than those who only hold the CPA license.

      The CPA exam has different eligibility requirements than the CMA.

  10. Hi Nathan,
    I used to live in US but now residing in India. Most of my career has been in US in accounting. I do have a bachelors degree from US university. However, living in India is CMA with any value or am i just limiting myself to work with US companies? Or should i pursue a masters degree?

    1. Hi Raj,

      The US CMA certification is consistently becoming more popular in India, and the knowledge you’ll gain while studying for the exam is very practical and will help you excel at work and become a more valuable employee.

      Besides, according to IMA’s salary survey, holding the CMA in India has an impact on average total compensation, too. CMAs in India earn 136% more in average total compensation than non-CMAs.

      I recommend you to opt for the CMA, it’s a global certification which will always stay relevant.

  11. Hello Nathan,

    i’m from india.i want to settle in what is the best career option for me.CMA,CFA or CIMA.please suggest me

  12. Hello Nathan,
    Could you please help me to chose the course. I live in New Zealand and would like to know which course is recognised and better to study in New Zealand- CMA or CIMA?
    Many thanks.

    1. Hi Minal,

      CIMA is better recognized in New Zealand, because it’s part of the Commonwealth.


  13. hello Nathan ,
    am fresh graduate from business administration/finance specialize am Sudanese live in Suadi arabia but i have chance to move to Australia or UK so i want to choose the right certificate that will help me even i live in sudan , suadi , uk or Australia

    1. Hi Wafaa,

      I recommend you to go for the CIMA, as it is much better recognized in UK and the Commonwealth.

      Best of luck!

  14. 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.

      1. Hey, I am currently a CIMA qualified accountant living and working in the uk. However, I will be relocating to join my partner in the US next year. Will I need a to study CMA or something else to get a job in the US? Or will CIMA be suffice? Thanks in advance

        1. Hi Danni,

          As a CIMA-qualified accountant, you’re already in a strong position skill-wise, but unfortunately, the CIMA qualification is not widely recognized in the US as it is in other countries. The US CMA reigns supreme here from a managerial accounting certification standpoint. Best of luck with your move.

          Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions. Happy to help.

  15. 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.


  16. 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,

  17. 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…….

  18. 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 🙂

    1. Hello Oladipupo,

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


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

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