AAT – CIMA- the path to management accounting

If you are interested in the way businesses work and you want to become more deeply involved in strategy, planning and profitability, you could consider becoming a management accountant.

Many management accountants are chartered with CIMA, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

Management accountants analyse information to help companies create a strategy and improve profitability and business performance. Anyone can study for the CIMA qualification, whether they are new to finance and business or an experienced professional.

If you already have an AAT qualification you will be exempt from some of the exams as your studies will have covered some of the topics. This means you can qualify more quickly.

Why become chartered with CIMA?

CIMA trains management accountants in skills that they can use to combine financial and non-financial data to paint a complete picture of the business. It is a globally recognised qualification and opens the door to a job in thousands of companies around the world, from multinationals to the newest start-ups in the public and private sectors.

According to CIMA, the qualification is designed to bring together management accounting, financial accounting and business, so you’ll have the practical skills employers need. That way, you’ll be qualified to work in a wide range of roles from finance to consultancy, IT to senior management positions.

It makes you very attractive to a potential employer, as you can work and study at the same time and employers like to see that you are developing your professional skills. CIMA qualified accountants can also command higher salaries and greater job opportunities.

What does the role involve?

Management accountants work within companies or as a consultant to help organisations take strategic decisions about the finances and direction of the business. They also need excellent people and leadership skills and the ability to communicate information about accounts and analysis to both financial and non-financial staff. At the top level, they talk to the board about the future strategy of the company.

While financial accounting focuses on preparing reports and financial information, management accountants are required to look at revenue, cash flow and liabilities and make forecasts and strategic recommendations. If you are fascinated by how companies work, what makes a successful business and why organisations fail, you will enjoy management accounting.

Don’t forget: If you go on to study for chartered accountancy as a full or fellow member, you can apply for a reduced annual subscription and receive a discount on your AAT membership fees while you study. As an AAT full or fellow member, you’ll also receive generous exemptions.

Key takeaways

  • Being AAT qualified is a fast-track route to beginning your studies to become a CIMA chartered accountant.
  • If you are interested in business strategy and planning you will enjoy the skills that the CIMA course offers.
  • By studying for the qualification you improve your career and pay prospects.
  • AAT qualifications will exempt you from some of the CIMA exams.
  • You can begin to study at any stage of your accountancy career.

Case study: Fiona Bevan

“I qualified with CIMA in 1993 because I was working at Siemens and the CIMA was very highly regarded there. If you are interested in working in industry and with businesses it is a very good qualification. It helps you analyse how well a company is doing in terms of profitability and my role was to help the Siemens business managers run their sections more effectively.

“The AAT qualification gives you a lot of flexibility and then you can go on and choose which path you wish to specialise in. I chose CIMA because I was working in industry and it has been brilliant to have a professional qualification which I have used all my working life. I took a career break to have children and with my CIMA qualification was able to go back and get a job later on.

I work with companies that are from £500,000 to £10 million turnover and help them to understand their own business at a deeper level. We work together on forecasting, budgeting and planning which is all CIMA related work. It is great to be able to add value for clients.”


Advantages of dual AAT-CIMA membership

If you go on to study towards chartered accountancy, there are important advantages to maintaining your AAT full or fellow member status.

  • While studying CIMA, you can use your internationally recognised designatory letters, which recognise MAATs as accountants.
  • You can apply for a reduced rate subscription on your AAT membership while you study.
  • Retain access to exclusive user-friendly AAT technical resources and support services.
  • If you hold MAAT status, dual membership also means you can continue to work towards gaining your FMAAT status, the mark of senior technical knowledge and skill.

In summary

There are real advantages in remaining with AAT or sustaining dual membership when you are studying for your CIMA qualification, including exemptions from examinations.

Further reading:

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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