Studying for CIMA will involve passing 14 examinations, although many degrees provide exemptions to some of these. University of Bath research suggests that a CIMA qualification covers more management accounting, more business strategy and more financial strategy material than the ACCA syllabus. CIMA qualified accounts will typically choose careers within industry in forward thinking and strategy based roles. I would recommend CIMA for graduates looking for a career primarily in business and industry.
The ACCA in comparison tends to be more focused on financial accounting and technical practices of accountancy. The ACCA qualification will also require 14 examinations to be taken, although a degree in accounting and finance or similar can exempt you from the majority of these. Industry evidence suggests that the ACCA will give you a stronger grounding in accounting principles than CIMA but at the cost of management reporting and corporate strategy. We would recommend ACCA for graduates looking for a career primarily in practice, audit or tax.
Those of you who have been applying for graduate schemes with the ‘big four’ will undoubtedly be aware of the ACA qualification. The ACA requires 450 days of relevant work experience and 15 examinations. Whereas anyone can study for a CIMA / ACCA, you can only study for the ACA if your employer is an approved institute for training. For this reason we find that ACA qualified accountants are in higher demand. In terms of content the ACA is very similar to the ACCA with perhaps a slightly more external focus. If you are lucky enough to work for an employer who gives you the option to study ACCA or ACA I would recommend the ACA.
Hope that helps.