How to gain CIMA certification: definition and importance

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 9 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

CIMA is the leading professional body of Management Accountants that focuses on analysing information to advise business strategy. CIMA certificate holders use the knowledge and skills gained from this course to assure their clients, employer or organisation of their versatility and capability to succeed in business. If you're considering developing your accountancy skills further, knowing how to earn a CIMA credential can help you achieve your goal. In this article, we discuss what CIMA certification is, why it's useful to earn it and how to enter a learning programme.

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What is a CIMA certification?

A Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA) certification is a credential issued by the Investments and Wealth Institute. Financial professionals and investment advisors typically gain this qualification to prove their credibility to employers and potential clients. It's one of the most nationally and internationally recognised certifications for finance professionals. It focuses on investment policy, asset allocation, performance measurement and risk management. The CIMA programme trains and qualifies you in management accountancy and other related subjects. The requirements to gain this certification include attaining a certain level of experience and education.

It's necessary to complete an educational programme and pass the certification exam. The programmes are quite flexible, and you can choose to study in person, online or both, depending on your location and choice of institution. CIMA credential holders often work with large financial consulting firms. They oversee important accounts and have extensive interaction with clients. They can also work for corporations, individuals or both. Using the combined knowledge of financial accounting, management accounting and business-focused subjects, they advise high net-worth individuals or companies on various financial matters.

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Why get a CIMA certification?

Besides being globally respected, the financial industry recognises the CIMA certificate as the industry's standard of management accounting. Here are some reasons why this qualification is useful:

Impress potential employers

Employers appreciate those who have completed this training programme because it shows them to be high-calibre management accountants. CIMA students typically develop excellent planning, strategy, analysis, risk management and communication skills. They can gain this knowledge from the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) competency framework used as the programme's foundation to ensure a combination of business-focused knowledge and financial expertise. CIMA's thorough assessment methods encompass the real-life competencies, knowledge and skills employers seek. Recruiters who are hiring financial business leaders often prefer CIMA accountants over those without this certification.

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Enhance your CV

CIMA is a valuable certification that enhances your CV. This qualification shows prospective employers that you have the knowledge and skills associated with top management accountants and that you're serious about your career development. If you already have this certification, it's important you include it on your CV along with the dates of study. If you're currently studying towards a CIMA certificate, you can also include it on your CV, stating that it's in progress. This shows your employer that you're actively building your skills, distinguishing you from other candidates.

It's also essential to include the skills you improved and the experiences you gained through your CIMA study. Explain how these factors enabled you to add value to the organisation or business you worked for at the time, and include example scenarios if possible. This improves the quality of your CV and differentiates you from other candidates, including those with the same qualification or similar professional experience.

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Widen your career options

As a CIMA-qualified accountant, there are many career options available to you in the world of business and finance. The CIMA programme teaches you strategic business and management skills you can apply in different ways. One of the advantages is that you can learn both the practice and theory, which you can apply in a wide range of finance and business settings. The training gained in business management suggests to recruiters that you're suitable to advise on strategy and risk management.

Many CIMA-qualified accountants try to get strategy-based and commercial roles, such as financial or commercial analysts. These positions allow you to carry out major organisational activities, such as providing a link between operations and finance and operating across multiple departments and teams. Alternatively, you can aim for financial management roles, such as a financial controller or financial manager, as they can help you become a chief financial officer or finance director.

Advance your career

CIMA certification can help you reach the top levels of business as an accountant. Professional management accountants with a CIMA qualification have the knowledge and commercial skills to work in any senior board-level position. They make decisions that help the organisation or business succeed. Many professional accountants start their journey with an entry-level job but later rise to a senior role after obtaining certification.

You can maintain a senior position or take on more project-specific briefs with this qualification. If you're ambitious and talented, you can even become a managing director or chief executive officer, especially if you have a background in finance.

Increase your earnings

Having a CIMA qualification increases your earning potential, even if you're still studying for it. You have an improved chance of securing top-level roles, and you're also in a better position to negotiate pay. Becoming CIMA certified gives you the possibility of earning more than the national average salary for your job.

Gain global recognition

CIMA can provide you with global recognition. Being a member of CIMA allows you to join the largest known professional body for management accountants, which is the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA). Furthermore, you enter a global network by association with them. This can allow you to work in different countries if you wish.

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How to get a CIMA certification

Below are the key steps to take to earn a CIMA certificate:

1. Gain experience

Before you can enter a CIMA training programme, the Investments and Wealth Institute reviews your application, which contains details of your experience. The institute expects you to have at least three to four years of experience in financial service. You can gain relevant experience from working as an investment advisor, financial consultant or in other related roles.

Further to your work experience, it's essential you have a clean record of ethical conduct. Failure to supply the necessary information may prevent you from entering this programme. The institute usually sends the result of your application in about 10 days.

2. Register as a CIMA student

After gaining useful experience, the next step is to register as a CIMA student. The registration process is quite simple, but it's important to follow each step of the process. When you register, you receive a contact ID to log into your MyCIMA account. Your MyCIMA account is the system that records your progress and profile in your CIMA journey. You can also resolve issues and ask questions by contacting them.

3. Get a certificate in business accounting or an equivalent

The default entry requirement for the CIMA programme is to have the Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA), which is issued by CIMA. This certification is for individuals who don't have a background in finance or accounting but want to switch to this type of career. These programmes allow students to attend online and in-person courses, and the length of the programme can vary. Upon completion, it's necessary to take four exams on fundamentals of financial accounting, fundamentals of management accounting, fundamentals of business economics and fundamentals of ethics, corporate governance and business law.

Candidates can apply for an exemption to the Cert BA requirement if they have a university degree in economics, accounting, finance, business or management. To check if you're eligible, you can register on their website and search for your qualification using your institute name. If your current qualification is listed on the site, you can skip this requirement. Email a copy of your documents as proof and they can confirm that you're exempt. After this, you can decide if you still want to take the entry-level course.

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4. Enter the professional qualification programme

After the exemption process, you can pay for and start working towards the certification. Some subjects in this programme include fundamentals of business, fundamentals of management accounting and organisational management. It's necessary to take a certification exam after you complete the course. To prepare for the exam, it's advisable to source further resources to help you better understand the materials and increase your confidence.

5. Continue your education

After you've earned your qualification, it's necessary to continue studying. The Investments and Wealth Institute requires you to obtain an additional 40 hours of education every two years to renew and maintain your CIMA certificate. This helps you to develop new skills and keeps you updated with new information and developments in the finance industry.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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