CIMA vs MBA – What Suits You More?

CIMA vs MBA – What Suits You More? You may get confused about what to choose between CIMA certification and MBA? The confusion is natural. At one side you would have a certification that cuts off all the fluff, offers you a smart alternative to learn comprehensive business skills and on the other side, you’re being championed as a hero in the professional world as you now would complete what everyone dreams of doing, an MBA.

The question is often not what you want. Rather what you’re programmed to believe. Here in this article, we will provide you the details of each of the course with a hope that you would put your beliefs in light and see what’s more important to you – a degree with charisma or a certification with a promise to become something extra-ordinary? The choice is really up to you.

Read the article in full and then decide what makes you tick.

The article is articulated in this order:

  1. CIMA vs MBA Infographics
  2. What is Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification?
  3. What is Masters of Business Administration (MBA)?
  4. Key Differences – CIMA vs MBA
  5. Why pursue CIMA?
  6. Why pursue MBA?

CIMA vs MBA Infographics

Reading time : 90 seconds

Lets understand the difference between these two streams with the help of this CIMA vs MBA Infographics.

CIMA vs MBA infographics

What is Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification?

  • CIMA is not a course for faint hearted. If you want to complete this course, you need to put effort very few are ready to put in a professional life. A small percentage of people do and they make all the difference in their career, organization and at a global level. CIMA needs to you to complete the operational and the management level first. Once you complete them, you can sit for strategic level. The pass mark is 50% and truth to be told it’s hard but worthy.
  • Unlike other accounting courses, CIMA offers a comprehensive course which emphasizes on accounting as well as business. CIMA not only focuses on the accounting domain of knowledge, but also helps students understand strategy and mitigation of risk in business.
  • CIMA has a foundation of 90 years and since 1919 it has been serving its students. So, without quality education, no course can sustain for so long. It’s also committed to provide the students value and excellence. There’s no doubt why after doing CIMA, professionals join companies even as CEOs, MDs etc.

What is Masters of Business Administration (MBA)?

  • It’s the most popular course ever and if you are in the field of education or any professional field, you would know the value of MBA. MBA is a course which is offered by many top notch universities in the world. MBA is valuable if you can choose top class business schools over the second and third tier business schools in the world.
  • MBA is beneficial only when you put your heart and soul out into the course. MBA is much more comprehensive than any other professional qualifications. You need to cover so much in the matter of 2 years (sometimes 1 year). So there is almost no time to sleep (think IIM and Harvard) and you’re on your way. 
  • MBA allows you to choose your specialization. By letting you choose your specialization, you can choose what you want to read more than other subjects and in which direction you want to go. Very few professional courses have this flexibility of choosing your own specialization.
  • MBA bridges the gap between being a student and being a professional. If you let go of the hype and give your whole heart to it, you will definitely succeed.

Key Differences – CIMA vs MBA

There are significant differences between CIMA and MBA. Let’s look at them one by one.

  • Popularity: You already know that MBA is more famous professional degree than CIMA. No matter what background you are from, there is an MBA available for you. New subjects like Corporate Social Responsibility, Leadership, Business Intelligence etc. are being introduced as specialization. Whereas CIMA is more popular in UK. But gradually, professionals in finance domain have been realizing the value of CIMA.
  • Fees: This is a huge difference. If you want to pursue MBA, you need to expend a fortune whereas CIMA is much more affordable. If you clear all the levels of CIMA in one go, your cost of completing the course would be around US $2,500. But if you want to pursue a top-notch MBA from a world class university, your average expenditure would be around US $50,000, twenty times of CIMA fees. Thus, if you want to pursue CIMA, you can afford the fees by yourself, whereas for MBA, you can take loan from bank or you can use savings of your parents to afford it.
  • Value: Compared to fees if we compare the values both of these courses offer in terms of salary at the end of the day, there’s not much difference. The average salary after completing CIMA is around US $89,000 a year whereas if you complete your MBA from top-notch university like Harvard, Stanford, your average salary would be around US $100,000 a year.
  • Comprehensiveness: MBA is much more comprehensive than CIMA. If you want complete your MBA you need to study at least 20-25 subjects on an average. But in case of CIMA, you need to study only 9 subjects in total. If you look at from other side, you get more time study per subject in CIMA than you can do in MBA.
  • Focus: Recently, the top notch institutes have understood the value of qualitative skill building. Thus along with teaching students about quantitative aptitude, they also concentrate on leadership skills, communication and interpersonal skills and presentation skills. MBA now thus prepares students for everything that they need in a business setting. Whereas CIMA focuses on accounting (fully) and business (partially). You need to do an extra course to gain the soft skills of the business.
  • Residential: Top notch MBA programs are mostly residential though there are options for Online and Part time MBA. But if you want to get full out of MBA, you should choose a residential program. Whereas CIMA is not a residential program.

Why pursue CIMA?

  • Pursuing CIMA doesn’t put you at risk of losing your money for a long time. MBA does. The fees are affordable, the course is comprehensive (without fluff) and the subjects covered in the course are relevant. Why shouldn’t you pursue CIMA?
  • After completing your CIMA, you would be able to earn a huge salary around US $90,000 (in USA, it could be lower in developing countries). Now compare the cost of study and benefit of study. You won’t have any second opinion.
  • You don’t need to study 20-30 subjects to get your certification. You can just study 3 at each level and you’re ready to go. Thus your depth of these subjects would be better than anyone who studies 20 subjects in two years. That’s one of the biggest reasons for which you should pursue CIMA.

Why pursue MBA?

  • Now you know that the fees for MBA are so much that you would take 10 years at least to pay off the debt. But still MBA is a residential program (in most cases). The connections you will make, the faculties you will get the guidance from and the group study you would be able to do is one of its kind. This is how company is shaped and teamwork is done. Why not MBA then?
  • MBA is one of the most hyped courses ever, we agree. But why not? Global recognition, amazing placements, 5 figure salary, top-notch career, what not? Who will not want all these things and more?
  • MBA is a course which doesn’t only teach one thing, but all the skills you need to learn to run a business. Why not do it then?

Also, You may find the following comparison beneficial –


It would be very rare if one do MBA and CIMA afterward. If you have both these qualifications together, you are the best of all. If you have done CIMA, you may have thought about doing MBA. But, once you do your MBA, you won’t consider doing CIMA. From the above details, choose your course. Choose the one that speaks to you and makes you think better. And if you want to do these two, better you choose CIMA and then you can pursue your MBA career.


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