What sets a management accountant apart from a traditional accountant?

Two CIMA professional working together

Management Accountants

  • Analyse data, forecasts and budgets to help leaders make decisions
  • Create reports to be used internally
  • Compile information looking at the future, not the past
  • Are responsive – whatever information the business needs, they’ll provide it
  • Measure operational, as well as financial, performance
  • Can focus on specific parts of the business
  • Look at qualitative and quantitative data

Traditional Accountants

Traditional Accountants

  • Analyse past financial performance, usually for regulatory reporting
  • Create reports to satisfy external regulations
  • Are regulated – reports are in line with prescribed requirements
  • Measure financial data only
  • Focus on the entire organisation
  • Compile data as set points of the year, according to legislation
  • Look at quantitative data only

The value management accountants bring to business

Management accountants have a multifaceted role to play, whichever sector or company they work for. Here are a few of the things they bring to the table.


They are Business Leaders

They are business leaders

 As a management accountant, you’ll understand how your organisation works. You’ll know its business model, strategic context and competitive position inside out. That, combined with your first-class leadership skills, means you play a vital role in any business. 

They are Innovation Advisers

They are innovation advisors

For a business to thrive, it needs to constantly adapt to keep pace as the world changes. As a management accountant, you’ll grab every opportunity for innovation and help drive future success. 

CIMA relaxed business man

They are data-backed decision makers

By combining financial and non-financial data, you’ll paint a complete picture of the business. You’ll use that in-depth analysis to make decisions and pursue business success at the highest level. 

They are forecasters

They are forecasters

Management accountants focus on the future. You’ll gather information and analyse statistics to spot trends and help make strategic decisions – from improving internal efficiencies to tackling market expansion. 

Where can a career in accounting
take me?

Where can a career in accounting
take me?

Chief Financial Officer

The chief financial officer is the part of the executive management team who develops the financial well-being of the organisation. They are accountable for financial planning, operations, and risk management so require a detailed, wider range of knowledge.  

Finance Manager

In large organisations, the finance manager role may be concerned with strategic analysis, while in smaller companies, a finance manager may be responsible for the collection and preparation of accounts. A finance manager is typically a fully qualified chartered accountant.  

Management Consultant

Management consultants advise organisations on how they might implement strategic decisions or improve performance. They need to be aware of every aspect of an organisation and have strong commercial acumen, project management skills and analytical prowess. 

Management Accountant

Management accountants understand business as well as finance, using this knowledge to interpret financial data and make informed strategic decisions. They often work closely with senior stakeholders to help drive growth, with typical activities including budgeting and forecasting, profit and loss reporting and balance sheet analysis.  

Finance Business Partner

Finance business partners are commercially aware with strong communication and leadership skills. They work alongside different departments, using analysis and insights to support and advise all strategic and operational decision-making.  To excel as a finance business partner, you need core finance skills as well as the ability to clearly and concisely articulate financial information. 

Financial Accountant

Every organisation needs someone to report on its financial position. That’s where a financial accountant comes in. They provide accurate information to budget holders and external parties to fulfil regulatory requirements. The next step on the career ladder for a financial accountant is to become a finance manager.



Business Analyst

If you’ve got top analytical skills, you could make a good business analyst. They use their skills to build financial models that support commercial decision making by the senior team. As well as financial modelling, business analysts will take on risk management, so they’re often fully qualified accountants.

Accounts Assistant

Being an accounts assistant will expose you to a wide range of accountancy duties including preparing financial statements and accounts, processing expense claims and invoices, managing ledgers and preparing VAT returns. This role is a great springboard into becoming a financial accountant or a management accountant as you have a solid foundation in finance.

How do I become a management accountant?

To practice as a management accountant, you’ll need a relevant professional qualification. There are several qualification providers, but CIMA is the global leader in management accountancy training. Our qualifications are current, innovative and lead to Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) status, the only globally recognised designation for management accountants.


Anyone can study with CIMA to become a CGMA. How you get started depends on your existing qualifications. Use the tabs below to find the starting point that’s right for you

I have little or no experience or qualifications

If you don’t have much work experience or any related qualifications, but know that you want to develop a career in business, the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA) is a great place to start. 

The Cert BA helps students with little or no accounting experience unleash their business potential.

Teaching core skills beyond simple accounting, the syllabus is the perfect stepping stone towards a career in business and finance.

A qualification in its own right, the Cert BA is also an entry route into the CIMA Professional Qualification. Once you complete both qualifications, you’ll be awarded the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.

More about the Cert BA
I have some experience or qualifications

If you have some qualifications or experience in business and finance, you could jump straight into studying the CIMA Professional Qualification to become a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA).

Recognised all over the world, the Professional Qualification focuses on employability, offering a syllabus that is truly competency based. 

You’ll develop the technical and leadership skills employers are really looking for, showing them that you not only have the knowledge, but also the competencies and skills of a CGMA.

More about the CIMA Professional Qualification
I want to earn and learn with an apprenticeship

The CIMA apprenticeship programme is a workplace training programme available in England. It includes a combination of on-the-job training and classroom learning. 

Suitable for almost anyone, whatever your life-stage, you’ll gain real practical experience, earn a wage and work towards a nationally recognised apprenticeship qualification, as well as the globally recognised Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.

More about apprenticeships

Who can qualify with CIMA?

CIMA is open to everyone, no matter what qualifications or professional experience you have. Here are the different ways you could start your CIMA journey.

School leavers

Starting as a school leaver

Get a world-renowned finance qualification and become a Chartered Global Management Accountant – no degree necessary. Here’s how to study with CIMA straight from school or college. 


How does studying with CIMA as a school leaver work?

You can start your journey to becoming a management accountant as soon as you leave school with either the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA) or a CIMA Apprenticeship (if you live in England) no matter your exam results.

The Cert BA is a formal qualification in its own right. You’ll learn vital business and accounting skills and it’s open to anyone, as well as a formal entry route into the CIMA Professional Qualification. And once you’ve completed that, you’ll be able to call yourself a Chartered Global Management Accountant. All without masses of student debt.


Starting as an undergraduate or graduate

Whether you are still at university or launching your business career, the CIMA Professional Qualification can give your degree the edge.


How does studying with CIMA as an undergraduate work? 


You can begin your journey to CGMA status and get a head start on your career, all while you’re still at university. 

Look for a CIMA incorporated degree programme to start studying the CIMA qualification as part of your degree. A fantastic opportunity to give your career a leg-up, you’ll graduate with dual honours. 

Alternatively, you could do a course that’s part of the CIMA registered student programme. You’ll be signed up as a CIMA student as part of your degree and get help finding a job where you’ll be supported towards CIMA membership. 


How does studying with CIMA as a graduate work? 

Already graduated? You can study with CIMA whatever your degree is in. But if you’ve already completed a relevant degree, like accounting or business, you could be entitled to exemptions from some CIMA exams – allowing you to qualify sooner than you think.


Starting as a postgraduate

Hold an MBA or Master’s in Accounting? You could fast-track your way to CGMA status with the Master’s Gateway.


How does studying with CIMA as a postgraduate work?

If you have a relevant Master’s degree in Accounting, Finance or an MBA (Accounting Major), you may be eligible for accelerated entry routes, allowing you to start higher up within the CIMA Professional Qualification at the Management Level. 

‘If you hold an MBA (Accounting Major) or Master's in Accounting you could be eligible for the CIMA Master’s Gateway bundle. Entry to the Master’s Gateway is £425. This covers your CIMA registration fee, first year’s subscription and one attempt at the exam (valid for two years), the Digital Mindset Pack and exclusive access to a highly discounted CIMAStudy Masters Gateway learning bundle.

Once you pass the Gateway (Management) Case Study exam, you can move on to the Strategic level – the last level of the CIMA Professional Qualification on the path to earning the CGMA designation.

Members of an IFAC Body

Starting as a member of an IFAC body

Members of IFAC professional bodies can join the Professional Gateway, an accelerated entry route to the CIMA Professional Qualification.


How does studying with CIMA as a member of an IFAC Body work?

If you’re a member or passed finalist of an examining professional body that is part of the International Federation of Professional Accountants (IFAC), you will be eligible for exemptions allowing you to progress faster through the CIMA Professional Qualification.

You may also be eligible for the Professional Gateway depending on your professional qualification.

To see whether you’re eligible for this fast-track route, use our exemptions calculator to check if your existing qualification lets you bypass exams at the Operational and Management levels of the Professional Qualification.

Entry to the Professional Gateway is £425. This covers your CIMA registration fee, first year’s subscription and one attempt at the exam (valid for two years).

Once you pass the Gateway (Management) Case Study exam, you can move on to the Strategic level – the last level of the CIMA Professional Qualification on the path to earning the CGMA designation.


AAT Members

Starting as an AAT member

Delve deeper into the topics you’ve covered during AAT and work towards becoming a Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) with fast-track entry to the CIMA Professional Qualification.  


How does studying with CIMA as an AAT member work?

Think CGMA are the four letters you’d like after your name? Your AAT qualification can get you there faster.

If you’ve completed the AAT Professional Diploma in Accounting – it’s good news. You can skip the CIMA Cert BA and jump straight into studying the CIMA Professional Qualification.

If you hold the AAT Level 2 Certificate or Level 3 Diploma, don’t worry – you can start with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA). It’s an entry route to the CIMA Professional Qualification.

We’ve removed exam exemption fees, so you’ll pay nothing to have your learning with AAT recognised. We’ll even fast-track your exemptions application.  And with over 50% off your AAT subscription while you’re studying CIMA, you’ll be able to enjoy the best of both memberships.


Why qualify with CIMA?

Why qualify with CIMA?

Unlock the global job market

CIMA is recognised all over the world, in every industry. Thousands of companies train their people with us, from multinationals to start-ups, in private and public sectors.

Boost your earning potential

CIMA student average salary 
£32,000 GBP 
CGMA designation holder 
£66,000 GBP 

Say hello to 657,000 new colleagues

In 2017 we formed the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA & CIMA) through a joint venture with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. When you join CIMA, you’ll become part of a network of hundreds of thousands of students and members all around the world. You’re in good company!

Exclusive access to jobs

Thousands of finance, business and management jobs are added to our Global Career Hub every day. 

Am I eligible for exemptions?

If you have got a degree or a qualification, you might be exempt from certain Cert BA or Professional Qualification exams. That means you could qualify sooner than you think.

Check your exemptions
Start your registration

Start your registration

To get you signed up as a CIMA student, we’ll ask you for:

  • Your contact details, including address, email and phone
  • Your current employment details (if you’re working)
  • Details of your tuition provider (if you’re studying)