What's the Difference?

CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) and CPA (Certified Public Accountant) are both professional certifications in the field of accounting, but they have some key differences. CIMA is a globally recognized qualification that focuses on management accounting and strategic financial management. It equips professionals with skills in business strategy, risk management, and decision-making. On the other hand, CPA is a certification specific to the United States and covers a broader range of accounting topics, including financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and business law. CPA is often required for individuals who want to work in public accounting or provide services to the public. While both certifications are highly regarded in the accounting profession, the choice between CIMA and CPA depends on one's career goals and geographical location.


Professional QualificationCertified Institute of Management AccountantsCertified Public Accountant
FocusManagement accounting and financial managementPublic accounting and auditing
Global RecognitionRecognized globally, especially in Europe, Asia, and AfricaRecognized globally, especially in North America
MembershipMembers of CIMA are known as Chartered Global Management Accountants (CGMAs)Members of CPA are known as Certified Public Accountants
Professional BodyAssociation of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA)American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
Examination StructureOperational, Management, and Strategic levelsFour sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG)
PrerequisitesNo specific prerequisites, but relevant education and experience are recommendedEducation requirements vary by state, typically a bachelor's degree and specific accounting coursework
Continuing Professional Education (CPE)Required to maintain membership and CGMA designationRequired to maintain CPA license
Job OpportunitiesManagement accountant, financial analyst, finance manager, business consultantAuditor, tax consultant, financial advisor, forensic accountant

Further Detail


When it comes to pursuing a career in accounting and finance, professionals often consider obtaining a professional qualification to enhance their knowledge and skills. Two prominent qualifications in this field are the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA). While both certifications hold significant value, they differ in various aspects, including their focus, requirements, and global recognition. In this article, we will delve into a detailed comparison of CIMA and CPA, shedding light on their attributes and helping individuals make an informed decision about which qualification aligns best with their career goals.

Focus and Scope

CIMA primarily focuses on management accounting, which involves analyzing financial information to aid in decision-making, strategic planning, and performance management within organizations. The syllabus covers topics such as cost accounting, budgeting, risk management, and financial strategy. On the other hand, CPA has a broader scope, encompassing various areas of accounting, including financial accounting, auditing, taxation, and business laws. CPA professionals are equipped to handle a wide range of accounting tasks, making them versatile in different industries and sectors.

Professional Body and Global Recognition

CIMA is a professional body based in the United Kingdom and is recognized globally for its management accounting expertise. It has a strong presence in Europe, Africa, and Asia, with a growing influence in other regions. CIMA professionals are highly sought after by multinational corporations and organizations that require strategic financial management. On the other hand, CPA is a certification offered by different professional bodies in various countries, including the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) in the United States. CPA is widely recognized in North America and is highly regarded for its expertise in financial accounting and auditing.

Education and Examination Requirements

Obtaining the CIMA qualification requires a combination of education, exams, and practical experience. Candidates must complete the CIMA Professional Qualification, which consists of three levels: Operational, Management, and Strategic. Each level has a set of exams that assess the candidate's knowledge and understanding of the relevant topics. Additionally, candidates must complete three years of practical experience in a relevant role to become a CIMA member. On the other hand, the CPA qualification typically requires a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, along with passing the Uniform CPA Exam. Some jurisdictions may have additional requirements, such as work experience or ethics exams, which vary depending on the country or state.

Professional Opportunities and Career Advancement

Both CIMA and CPA offer excellent professional opportunities and career advancement prospects. CIMA professionals are well-suited for roles such as management accountants, financial analysts, business consultants, and finance managers. Their expertise in strategic financial management allows them to contribute significantly to an organization's decision-making processes. On the other hand, CPA professionals have a broader range of career options, including public accounting, auditing, taxation, financial planning, and advisory services. CPAs often work in public accounting firms, government agencies, or corporate finance departments, providing assurance and financial services to clients.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is crucial for accounting professionals to stay updated with the latest industry trends and maintain their professional competence. CIMA and CPA have their respective CPD requirements. CIMA members must complete a minimum of 120 CPD points over a three-year period, with a focus on technical, business, and leadership skills. CPAs, on the other hand, have varying CPD requirements depending on the jurisdiction they are certified in. They are typically required to complete a certain number of hours of continuing education each year to maintain their license and stay up-to-date with the evolving accounting standards and regulations.

Salary and Remuneration

Salary and remuneration can vary significantly based on factors such as experience, location, industry, and job role. However, both CIMA and CPA professionals generally enjoy competitive salaries and attractive remuneration packages. According to various salary surveys, CIMA professionals often earn higher salaries compared to their non-certified counterparts, thanks to their specialized knowledge in management accounting and strategic financial management. Similarly, CPAs are known to command higher salaries due to their expertise in financial accounting, auditing, and taxation, which are highly valued skills in the accounting profession.


In conclusion, both CIMA and CPA are prestigious qualifications that offer unique opportunities for accounting and finance professionals. CIMA focuses on management accounting and is globally recognized for its strategic financial management expertise. On the other hand, CPA has a broader scope, covering various areas of accounting and is highly regarded for its proficiency in financial accounting and auditing. The choice between CIMA and CPA ultimately depends on an individual's career aspirations, interests, and geographical location. By considering the focus, professional body, education requirements, career opportunities, CPD, and remuneration, individuals can make an informed decision about which qualification aligns best with their long-term goals.

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