A question we're often asked is the price of professional accounting exams such as ACCA and CIMA and how it will benefit someone's career and potential salary. We explore all of these questions in this new blog.If you’re trying to decide which exams to take, you’re probably wondering:
- How much do professional accounting exams cost?
- What will my salary be once I pass?
- Which roles can I get with my certification?
To help you decide which exams will help you reach your career goals, we’ve broken down costs, salaries, and job opportunities between the ACCA and CIMA certifications.
CIMA Exam Costs
CIMA exam fees vary by geographical location. There are 3 groups or tiers that you may fall into. For our purposes, we’ve used pricing from Tier 1, which includes the UK, US, China, Singapore, and more.
These costs include the pricing to sit for both the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting and Professional Qualifications. Note that we’ve assumed it will take 5 years to complete the CIMA exams.
One-off student registration: £77
Annual student subscription for four years (year one is included in registration): £480
- Certificate in Business Accounting exams (4 exams): £95 each
- Operational level objective tests (3 exams): £110 each
- Operational level case study exam: £185
- Management level object tests (3 exams): £125
- Management level case study exam: £190
- Strategic level objective tests (3 exams): £175
- Strategic level case study exam: £275
Total Exam Cost: £2,260
Total cost including subscription requirements for 5 years: £2,817
ACCA Exam Costs
ACCA exam fees are more difficult to nail down than CIMA exam fees. ACCA exams vary in cost depending on which exam it is, when you sit it, and when you enter.
To get the cheapest prices, sign up for your exams early and choose the exam window when possible. Note that we’ve assumed it will take 5 years to complete the ACCA exams.
Here‘s a breakdown of the cost:
One-time registration fee: £79
Annual subscription fee: £112 per annum
- Applied Skills exam fees (6 exams): £103-307 each
- Strategic Professional Essentials (Business Leader) exam fees (1 exam): £180-321
- Strategic Professional Essentials (Business Reporting) exam fees (1 exam): £129-350
- Strategic Professional Options exam fees (4 exams): £129-350 each
- Ethics and Professional Skills Module: £78
Total exam costs (excluding Applied Knowledge): £1,521-3,991
Total cost including subscription requirements for 5 years: £2,160-4,630
Note that you will also need to take the Applied Knowledge exams. Those are available on-demand at your local CBE Centre and will vary in price by location.
Salaries for CIMA and ACCA Professionals
The costs for CIMA and ACCA exams are pretty comparable, especially if you can sign up early.
What can professionals with each certification expect to earn after passing the exams?
Salaries vary by location and experience level. Just because you’ve passed your exams doesn’t mean you can expect to triple your income overnight.
However, professionals with additional certifications can expect to earn more money throughout their careers.
Salaries for ACCA professionals range depending on their experience. Here are the salaries of accountants in London:
- Unqualified Accountant Salary: £24,000
- Part-Qualified Accountants Salary: £31,000
- Newly-Qualified ACCA Salary: £35,000-42,000
- Experienced ACCA Accountant Salary: £60,600-97,400 and beyond
Newly-qualified CIMA professionals can earn between £50,000-55,000 per year in London. However, your salary depends on your job function.
Roles that are more operational in nature earn an average of £31,000. When you step into management roles, you can earn £46,000-129,000 per year.
Truthfully, both CIMA and ACCA qualifications can put you on a track to earn a very comfortable living. Instead of looking at the salary potential for each, you can evaluate which type of role you’d enjoy most in the future.
Potential Careers After CIMA Exams
These are a few of the roles that you could hold after completing the CIMA exams. You can find a more exhaustive list on the CIMA website.
1) Accounts Assistant
Being an accounts assistant provides you with a great starting foundation for your accounting career. You will learn several pieces of the business while completing tasks like:
- Processing invoices
- Credit control
- Bank reconciliations
- Expense claims
This role can give you some valuable experience to use as you progress through your career.
2) Financial Accountant
If you like financial planning and reporting, you may be suited for financial accounting. Financial accountants keep accurate information in order to report the organisation’s financial position to management.
They’re also responsible for posting journal entries, analysing the general ledger, and completing reconciliations for the balance sheet.
3) Management Accountant
Management accountants are strategic thinkers who work alongside stakeholders. Their main goal is to improve profits and help grow the business. A lot of the role includes analysis, budgeting and forecasting.
4) Finance Manager
After gaining experience in the industry, your CIMA certification can help you reach the ranks of finance manager. As a finance manager, you can expect to manage a team of accountants while providing strategic analysis to other members of management.
5) Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
The CFO is part of the executive management team at an organisation and generally has a long history of experience in finance roles. CFOs are held accountable for the company’s financial information and they are heavily involved in planning and risk management.
Check out our blog on Women in Accounting & ACCA to find out the routes people have taken after qualifying.
Potential Careers After ACCA Exams
After you’ve passed the ACCA exams, you’ll have a lot of opportunity for a wide range of roles.
ACCA’s website has an incredible resource for you to research many types of roles and responsibilities that you can pursue after you’re certified. Here are a few business segments for you to consider:
1) Finance and Administration
If the day-to-day activities of accounting appeal to you, a role in finance and administration could be your perfect fit.
These jobs keep the business running smoothly and help increase efficiencies while recording business transactions. Here are a few roles in finance and administration:
- Accounts payable clerk
- Accounts receivable clerk
- Assistant accountant
- Cost accountant
2) Audit and Assurance
Accuracy is key for roles in audit and assurance. You’ll be looking over financial statements to make sure they accurately reflect business operations and give the proper picture of the company’s financial health.
Audit and assurance professionals also gauge risk and review internal processes to keep the organisation safe from fraud. Here are some roles you might find within audit and assurance:
- Audit partner
- External audit professional
- Internal audit professional
- Pensions auditor
Tax professionals are highly specialised and spend their time interpreting the complexities of tax law.
They make sure their organisations are compliant while taking advantage of any tax breaks available. If tax law appeals, you can consider a role like:
- Corporate tax accountant
- Indirect tax accountant
- International tax specialist
- Mergers and acquisitions tax specialist
- Personal and wealth tax specialist
- Tax advisory
- Tax compliance professional
- VAT accountant
4) Corporate and Business Accounting
Accountants on the corporate level keep up with the financial data for the organisation. They are responsible for compiling financial statements and recording transactions.
Corporate and business accountants help ensure companies are staying compliant on reporting regulations. Some corporate and business accounting roles include:
- Corporate accountant
- Finance manager
- Financial accountant
- Financial controller
- FP&A professional
- Group (consolidation) accountant
- Management accountant
ACCA exams can also lead you down a path towards executive leadership. Leaders help guide organisations towards growth and profitability.
They are responsible for crafting strategic plans while motivating those that work under them to meet objectives. Executive leadership roles include:
- Chief executive officer
- Chief financial officer
- Chief operating officer
Check out our blog on Women in Accounting & CIMA to find out the routes people have taken after qualifying.
ACCA and CIMA exams can be fairly comparable in price, so long as you plan your exams far enough in advance. Likewise, the salaries you can expect to find after gaining either certification can be close once you have a few years of experience and begin advancing your career.
When you’re choosing between the two professional qualifications, it may be best to consider the types of roles you’d like to hold in the future.
Do some research in the field you’d like to work in and see if one certification is preferred over the other. That may help set you on the best path towards success.