Updated on March 28, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between CIMA and CAIA

CIMA is all about management accounting, whereas CAIA is a certification in Alternative Investments (Private Equity, Hedge Fund, and more).

What if you have several options to choose from in the finance industry? Yes, this is true; you have several options. This article compares the two well-known industry certifications – CIMA and CAIA.


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What is CIMA?

Yes, this is a UK-based course. CIMA is a course that holds international recognition and offers qualifications and training in management accountancy offered by a professional body based in the UK. Various names have known this institute in the past.

Starting with the ICWA or The Institute of Cost and Work Accountants when it was formed in the year 1919, it then changed to ICMA that is The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants, in the year 1972; followed by its final name that is CIMA, which is now Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in the year 1986 after it was honored as Royal Charter globally recognized accounting qualifications by the commonwealth countries and countries based in the UK.

This organization sets a specific standard of examinations that need to be qualified by prospective members. By using publications and media-related activities, this board promotes local education of management accountancy and development operations with the help of new techniques developed post research, foundation, and practice publications. This CIMA has actively taken vocational and recent education initiatives in the eastern zone countries.

CIMA is not just an educational organization. It is also a professional accounting body for versatile legal and statutory purposes for the UK government and many global governments.

What is CAIA?

Alternative investments are investments other than investing in stocks and bonds. After knowing the global body that is the CIMA, let’s look at CAIA. The Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst course trains and candidates in Alternative investments.

You can also say that investments except for standard equity products and fixed income products fall in the bracket of alternative investments; this includes private equity, hedge funds, commodities such as precious metals and stones, antiques, etc., and real estate.

Who offers this course? This course is offered by non-other than the CAIA association. This association was formed by the Alternative Investment Management Association with the Center of International Securities and Derivative Markets in 2002. CAIA is not just a nonprofit organization; it is also a global independent organization. They are motivated and focused on creating professionalism by educating candidates in alternative investments.

The candidate has to clear a good two-level examination to clear this course. Not to forget, these examinations are one of the most competitive examinations in finance, business, and commerce. One of the best in its kind examination recognized for its class and standard spreads extreme knowledge, credibility to help candidates show their specialization in finance.

CIMA vs. CAIA Infographics

Let’s understand the difference between these two streams with the help of CIMA vs. CAIA Infographics.


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CIMA vs. CAIA Comparative Table

Organizing Body The organizing body for the CIMA exams is the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), UK. The organizing body for the CAIA exams is the Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association, USA.
Pattern There is a basic qualification of Certificate in Business Accounting, and then there is the professional qualification that consists of three levels – Operational level, Management level, and Strategic level. The course consists of two sequential levels – Level I and Level II.
Duration of Course The candidates take around 36-48 months to clear basic and professional qualifications. The candidates take around 12-18 months to clear both course levels.
Syllabus The syllabus of the course primarily focuses on the following topics
  • Management Accounting
  • Business Accounting
  • Strategic Marketing Management
  • Finance Management
  • Information Management
The syllabus of the course primarily focuses on the following topics
  • Professional Standards & Ethics
  • Alternative Investments
  • Private Equity, Hedge Funds, Real Assets & Structured Products
  • Volatility & Complex Strategies
  • Due Diligence & Selecting Strategies
  • Institutional Asset Owners & Investment Policies
Exam Fees The course cost includes the study material cost and the exam fees, and the total falls in the range of £2,500 to £3,000. The cost of the course includes the enrollment fee and the exam fees, and the total falls in the range of $2,700 to $2,900. The variation is due to the difference in the time of registration. There are exam fee exemptions for AIMA company members and professional associations.
Jobs Some of the common profiles include
  • Business Analyst
  • Management Accountant
  • Forensic Analyst
  • Project Manager
  • Finance Controller
Some of the common profiles include
  • Portfolio Manager
  • Hedge Fund Analyst
  • Investment Consultant
  • Private Equity Analyst
Difficulty The difficulty level of the exams is moderate. The pass rates for the exams conducted in May 2021 were
  • Operational level: 46%
  • Management level: 69%
  • Strategic level: 68% [Source: CIMA Global]
The difficulty level of the exams is quite high. The pass rates for the exams conducted in September 2021 were
  • Level I: 51%
  • Level II: 58% [Source: Wikipedia]
Exam Date The schedule for the upcoming exams for the year 2022 is as follows
  • Certificate in Business Accounting: On-demand across the year
  • Operational level: Feb 09-11, May 11-13, Aug 10-12 & Nov 09-11
  • Management level: Feb 16-18, May 18-20, Aug 17-19 & Nov 16-18
  • Strategic level: Feb 23-25, May 25-27, Aug 24-26 & Nov 23-25
The schedule for the upcoming exams for the year 2022 for both levels is as follows
  • Level I: Feb 28–Mar 11 & Aug 29–Sep 09
  • Level II: Mar 14-25 & Sep 12-23

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Exam Requirements


Of course, most professional courses have requirements. However, this course does not have specific requirements when it comes to CIMA. Your entry might depend on your prior experience. The syllabus designed by CIMA is a step-by-step guide to help you develop your skills and your knowledge as you complete your qualification.

CIMA also has exemptions, just like other professional financial courses. For example, if you have cleared exams that exempt you from appearing for some CIMA exams, you save your time and hard work.

You are sure to receive an exemption if you have a relevant degree or professional experience that is relevant. For example, if you have an AAT membership, you will be exempted from appearing at the whole certificate level.

To start with, check the starting point of your CIMA examination to get a written confirmation of your examination exemption status.


This certification has no specific requirements, for they do include the base required to a successful professional as CAIA in their syllabus. If you only want to know that you are heading in the right direction and towards the right goal, you must have the following qualities.

  • Basic finance understanding and implementation
  • Use or understand qualitative analysis
  • If you feel you are interested in working as an expert in alternative investments under designations such as risk manager, alternative investment analyst, manager of portfolios, financial advisor, financial consultant, trader, etc.
  • Interested in learning, particularly alternative investments.

Why pursue CIMA?

CIMA is a qualification that prepares you for business and the corporate world. It includes vigorous studies and assessment methods. The course of CIMA has real-life accounting skills that are not just theoretical but also practical accounting skills and competencies included in its syllabus to make you ready for the corporate and the finance world.

The syllabus of CIMA is not only strong in accounting skills. It also includes Big Data, reliability, sustainability, focused reporting, and transformation of finance functions. Their syllabus also covers the study of risk and cost and cost management. The employer will understand that you know theory and practice if he sees that you have cleared each level.

CIMA is the 1st education body that focuses on a combined assessment to examine their syllabus. It is to ensure that technology is used widely in education and the finance industry. The assessments of CIMA are mostly computer-based, and for objective type, questions will follow on demand.

Becoming a member of CIMA, you get to be part of the globe’s biggest professional body of management accountants. You can use this designation globally.

Why pursue CAIA?

CAIA members set a different and very high standard in alternative investments. Candidates cannot match this standard with a bachelor’s degree. Not to forget, the members also enjoy benefits associated with the designation of a CAIA. You can choose your domain within the field of alternative investments and work as your choice. You have several domain options such as hedge funds, private equity, real estate,investment banking, commodity exchange, etc.

You can share several investment and industry improvement ideas by attending and having access to various related events and conferences across the globe as a member of CAIA. These conferences have many benefits; however, two major benefits are

1.    They give you access to the knowledge and improvements of this industry and

2.    They give you an opportunity of interacting and socializing with people who belong to the same field of finance and maybe the same domains.

The association ensures that you get on to a good and a high designation that interests you, along with ensuring you get all the benefits and perks associated with the designation.

By just completing two levels of examinations, you can achieve high standards in alternative investments and create and build your global community with international recognition. You also have the option of updating your knowledge and skills all your life.

Yet this course will not be simple for you, and neither is it rocket science. Which means you can definitely break through the examinations.


If accountancy is in your blood and you are also good at cost management and cost setting, CIMA is just the right course for you, and we would suggest you take up a course that interests you the most.

An alternative investment is a versatile topic. You would love alternative investments if you wanted to compare them with the investments in equities and bonds. CIMA is more about accounting and cost management, whereas CAIA is, as you know, all about alternative investments. CAIA is for you if you love making money sweat.

This has been a guide to CIMA vs. CAIA. Here we discuss the top differences between CIMA and CAIA, infographics, and a comparative table. You may also have a look at the following articles –

Reader Interactions


  1. Estil Lesky says

    Thank you so much for sharing this article and giving a brief knowledge on both of these certifications.

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