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CMA vs CIMA: Which is Better? Which Qualification Should You Go For?

cma vs cimaManagement accountants who aspire to work and live abroad are thinking about global qualifications such as CIMA and CMA. How do we compare the two qualifications? Which one is better in your situation?

CMA vs CIMA: An Overview

The CMA qualification discussed here is the one granted by the Institute of Management Accountants, also known as IMA. CIMA, which stands for Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, is a designation from the UK.

Membership and Network

Both qualifications were established a long time ago, but CIMA has a much larger presence with 218K members and students. IMA has around 70,000 members.

Global Presence

In terms of international presence, CIMA traditionally has a more global presence and is well recognized in most places — less so in the US but more so in the UK and commonwealth countries. In recent years, the CMA (now CPA) Canada and CMA Australia are getting more popular in their respective countries so CIMA is arguably less sought after in these countries.

On the other hand, IMA has been actively building up its global presence, notably in emerging countries e.g. China and the Middle East. For now, CMA is well established in China, and is head-to-head with CIMA in the Middle East.

At the same time, CIMA pairs up with AICPA to establish a new qualification known as CGMA. CIMA members can pretty much “pay” to get the new designation before 2015. It remains to be seen whether yet another qualification is accepted by the business community.

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

Mutual Reciprocal Agreements

CIMA has MOU with ICAI in India and alliance in various degrees with other universities and accounting associations. The agreement with CMA Canada is subject to change due to the unification of CA/CMA/CGMA in Canada.

The IMA has a strategic alliance with the ACCA that allows ACCA full members to automatically qualify for the CMA exam.

Educational Requirements

A bachelor degree is required to get qualified for the CMA exam (exemptions given to full ACCA full members). This is not required for the CIMA because the CIMA itself offers a more rigorous program.

Exam Content, Format and Duration

In this regard, CMA is quite obviously more favorable to those who want to get a qualification fast. It is a 2-part exam and most candidates aim to finish within one year. Candidates can take the exam anytime within the testing windows, which opens 6 months out of each year.

In order to become a CIMA, the candidate must pass the 12 papers, complete at least 3 years of qualifying practice, and obtain verification and endorsement from supervisors. It takes a lot more time, effort and commitment.

Exam Costs

Lastly, on cost, since CMA only has two exam parts, the exam fee is substantially lower than that for the CIMA exam. Also, there is little competition in the CIMA review materials and so they are very expensive.

The average cost to complete the CMA program is US$2,000 – 2,500, versus US$6,800 for the CIMA Professional Qualification program.

Conclusion

There isn’t a “better” or “easier” qualification. As fellow reader Gunner pointed out in the comment section, while CMA may look easier with only two parts in the exam, it requires a bachelor degree, vs a high school diploma in CIMA. Or looking at it the other way, because CIMA has a lower entry barrier, it has a more comprehensive exam with more papers and time/effort in the preparation.

A more important consideration is where you would like to work in a longer term. This will help you select the qualification best suited in that region.

More Discussions on the Internet

Here are more discussions on CMA vs CIMA in various article and forums. Some forums are more bias than others, so please use your discretion when reading the information.

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About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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