What is a CIMA Qualification Equivalent To?

In this article, we will look at what the different levels of the overall CIMA course would be roughly equivalent to in terms of third level education.

CIMA is more than just a basic accounting qualification. You could think of it as a relevant global finance qualification equivalent to or superior to a master’s degree in terms of intensity and prestige. It focuses on financial and management accounting to prepare you to handle everything from your day-to-day business management to corporate strategies.

On the other hand, the CIMA qualification is also not just limited to developing your business and financial skills. CIMA is designed to help build your leadership skills, technical skills and a competitive business profile on the whole.

In this article, we will look at what the different levels of the overall CIMA qualification would be roughly equivalent to.

Is a CIMA qualification equivalent to an ACCA qualification?

This might be the first question you have in mind if you are interested in a profession in accounting. ACCA is accepted in well over 100 countries worldwide through a network of centres and offices, while CIMA is internationally recognised.

Both routes instill much of the same professional aptitudes for managing finance. In general, the ACCA qualification is broader and offers more flexibility for a finance career and more options for specialisation as you continue through your course.

Much like the CIMA Professional Qualification, the ACCA Professional Qualification is also considered equivalent to a Master’s degree or level 7, according to the Department for Education in the UK and the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC).

Are there any prerequisites for the CIMA course?


Basically, you can start studying for the CGMA Professional Qualification, no matter your previous qualifications or professional experience. That is, if you have already decided to go with the CIMA route, you could start directly after twelfth grade, without the need for any previous formal experience in accounting or finance.

In this case, you would start with the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (CIMA Cert BA), which consists of 4 exams you must pass. Passing this level would be, for all intents and purposes, equivalent to an associate degree in accounting.

Is a CIMA Qualification equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree?


The entire CIMA Qualification is divided into different levels or stages. The CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting mentioned above would constitute just the initial stage and is roughly equivalent to an undergraduate degree.

Associate degrees in the UK are generally considered equivalent to a level 4 according to the British Framework for Higher Education Qualifications. As a reference, a completed Bachelor’s degree would be about a level 5 or level 6.

CIMA Structure and Syllabus

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If you have already finished the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting mentioned above, or if you manage to obtain an exemption based on your previous studies, you would thereafter move on to formally studying for the CIMA Professional Qualification.

Another way to think of this is that the basic entry-level prerequisite for the CIMA Qualification is an associate degree in accounting or business. However, it would be best to check the CIMA exemptions page to find details that apply to your specific educational qualifications. You can also check out VIVA's free guide to exemptions here.

We will discuss some of the more common exemptions later in this article. For now, just bear in mind that there are multiple levels on the path to a full CIMA Qualification. Achieving the full CGMA designation means passing the following 3 different levels:

  • Operation Level
  • Management  Level
  • Strategic Level

Each level consists of 3 exams and a case study exam. This is, you must pass 12 exams as part of the main CIMA qualifications.

After successfully completing the E1, F1 and P1 courses together with the Operational Case Study Exam, you will be given a CIMA Diploma in Management Accounting (CIMA Dip MA) at the Operational Level. This would be roughly equivalent to a level 5, much like a Bachelor’s degree in business studies.

After completing the E2, F and P2 courses as well as the Management Case Study Exam, you would be awarded a CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting (CIMA Adv Dip MA) at the Management Level. That, in turn, would be roughly equivalent to a level 6, on par with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance.

For more detailed information on the different CIMA qualifications, have a look at the 2019 Professional Qualifications Syllabus download brochure.

Is a CIMA Qualification equivalent to a Master’s degree?

Perhaps, but in what sense?

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After completing all the levels and exams successfully, you become a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). You are then entitled to the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.

The completed CIMA qualification and CGMA designation is, in effect, equivalent to a Master’s degree in accounting or a level 7, according to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC).

Although clearly, having a master’s degree in accounting or finance, on the other hand, would not entitle you to use the CGMA qualification in itself. In fact, if you hold a Master’s degree in accounting, you could qualify to take the CIMA Master’s Gateway Route and start preparing directly for the Management Case Study Exam so as to qualify for the full CGMA designation.

Is a CIMA Qualification equivalent to an MBA?

Perhaps, but that depends.

If you do hold an MBA, you could potentially apply for an exemption and start preparing for the final Management Case Study Exam, depending on certain factors.

Much of the knowledge and skills acquired during an MBA program would be the same as what you gain during your CIMA studies. However, the MBA and CGMA designations are not strictly equivalent, particularly considering that MBA programs around the world differ.

CIMA Exemptions

Let’s now focus a little more on how the exemptions work.

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If you already have a degree in accounting, economics or finance, you could apply for an exemption and enter at a level above the Certificate Level.

As a graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in business studies, your degree could be constituted as equivalent to the CIMA Certificate and therefore, you could be given an exemption and start at the first of three levels, the Operational Level.

Moreover, as a graduate and holder of a Bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, your degree could allow you to start at the second of three levels, the Management Level, as you would with the CIMA Diploma.

Lastly, if you hold an MBA with an accounting major or if you hold a Master’s degree in accounting, that would be equivalent to having finished both the Operational Level and Management Level studies. In that case, you could be given an exemption together with the opportunity to start directly with the Management Case Study Exam. This is known as the CIMA Master’s Gateway Route.

It is worth mentioning that there are also certain exemptions given based on business experience alone. Once you have fully registered, you can find out if and to what extent this applies to you.


If you are interested in a CIMA professional qualification online course, VIVA offers all the preparation resources you need for a successful, first-time pass and to develop the relevant business skills and finance skills you'll need for your accounting career. You will have access to live webinars, on-demand video lectures, downloadable course notes, MCQs, exam-realistic mock exams and more!

You can purchase and access single courses to work through at your own pace (click here or image below), or get the All Access Pass - a yearly membership that gives you access to EVERY CIMA online course on VIVA's website. This is the highest value premium tuition solution available on the market, giving you full study flexibility and everything you need to move through every level of the CIMA professional qualification.


The CIMA Professional Qualification is a globally recognized qualification that is highly regarded in the industry and could potentially open the way for you to go on to become a successful management accountant, finance manager, or business leader.

If you are looking for an academic qualification with an internationally recognized institute known for its standards of excellence that would prepare you for advanced financial reporting, strategic management and business economics on the whole, this is the most relevant qualification for you.

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