CIMA vs MBA – What Suits You More?

CIMA vs. MBA – What Suits You More?

You may get confused about what to choose between CIMA certificationCIMA CertificationThe CIMA qualification is a globally recognized credential offered by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants in UK to individuals interested in pursuing a career in the specialized field of management more 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 learning 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 courses with a hope that you would put your beliefs in light and see what’s more important to you – a degree with charisma or 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 the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification?
  3. What is the Masters of Business Administration (MBA)?
  4. Key Differences – CIMA vs. MBA
  5. Why pursue CIMA?
  6. Why pursue an MBA?

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CIMA vs. MBA Infographics

Reading time: 90 seconds

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


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CIMA vs. MBA – Comparative Table

Organizing BodyThe exams are managed and controlled by the  Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), UK.The exams are managed and controlled by individual institutions and universities.
PatternThe course is divided into 4 parts

  • Operational level
  • Management level
  • Strategic level
  • Certificate level
 Different institutions follow different course patterns. Some divide the course into semesters, while others follow the trimester format.
Duration of CourseOn average, candidates take around 1 year to complete each level and so the entire course can be completed in a span of 3 to 4 years.The course duration usually varies in the range of 1 year to 2 years depending on the type of program and the choice of institution.
SyllabusThe syllabus primarily includes

  • Management Accounting
  • Finance Management
  • Business Accounting
  • Strategic Marketing Management
  • Information Management


 The syllabus primarily includes

  • Accounting
  • Financial & Marketing Management
  • Managerial Economics
  • Operations Research
  • Business Statistics
  • Business Ethics
  • Human Resource Management
Exam feesThe cost of the entire course comes to be around £2,500 to £3,000, which includes the cost of study materials along with exam fees.The cost of an MBA degree usually depends on the type of program and the choice of institution. The cost varies in the range of $40,000 to $60,000.
JobsSome of the common profiles include

  • Finance Controller
  • Management Accountant
  • Business Analyst
  • Forensic Analyst
  • Project, Manager
 Some of the common profiles include

  • Marketing Manager
  • Financial Advisor
  • Operations Manager
  • Financial Analyst
  • Human Resource Manager
DifficultyThe difficulty level of the exams is moderate. During May 2021, the pass rates for Operational, Management, and Strategic levels were 46%, 69%, and 68% respectivelyAlthough the level of difficulty depends on the institution, it remains fairly reasonable for all. Hence, the pass rate for any MBA degree is almost 100%.
Exam DateThe schedule for the upcoming exams during the year 2021
  • Feb 09-25
  • May 13-27
  • Aug 10-26
  • Nov 09-25
 The exam schedule depends on the institution. If the institution follows the semester system, then the exams take place at an interval of every 6 months, and if it follows the trimester system, then the exams take place at an interval of every 4 months.

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

  • CIMA is not a course for the faint-hearted. If you want to complete this course, you need to put effort very few are ready to be in 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 you to complete the operational and management level first. Once you complete them, you can sit for the 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 that 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.
  • Founded in 1919, CIMA has been serving its students over the last 100 years to become one of the world’s leading professional bodies of accountants. So, without quality education, no course can sustain itself for so long. It’s also committed to providing the students’ value and excellence. There’s no doubt why after doing CIMA, professionals join companies even as CEOs, MDs, etc.

What is the 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 an MBA. MBA is a course that 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 a 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 the 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 an MBA is a 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. In comparison, CIMA is more popular in the UK. But gradually, professionals in the finance domain have realized the value of CIMA.
  • Fees: This is a huge difference. If you want to pursue an MBA, you need to expend a fortune, whereas CIMA is much more affordable. If a candidate can clear all the CIMA exams in the first attempt, then the total cost of the CIMA qualification comes around £2,500 – £3,000. On the other hand, an MBA degree from a top-notch institution results in an expenditure of around $40,000 to $60,000, which is 10 to 15 times the cost of the CIMA exams. Thus, if you want to pursue CIMA, you can afford the fees by yourself, whereas for an MBA, you can take a loan from the bank, or you can use the 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 the US $89,000 a year, whereas if you complete your MBA from a top-notch university like Harvard, Stanford, your average salary would be around the US $100,000 a year.
  • Comprehensiveness: MBA is much more comprehensive than CIMA. If you want to complete your MBA, you need to study at least 20-25 subjects on average. But in the case of CIMA, you need to study only 9 subjects in total. If you look at it from another side, you get more time to study the per subject in CIMA than you can do in an 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. In comparison, 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. At the same time, 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 the 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 the US $90,000 (in the USA, it could be lower in developing countries). Now compare the cost of the study and the benefit of the 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 an 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, an MBA is a residential program (in most cases). The connections you will make, the faculties you will get guidance from, and the group study you would be able to do are one of its kind. This is how the company is shaped, and teamwork is done. Why not an 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?


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 an 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.

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

Reader Interactions


  1. Paul Barclay says

    Good article, but I feel not entirely accurate assumptions.

    I have an MBA (Distinction) from a UK university. After working in commercial finance at management level for over 20 years I was made redundant a couple of years ago.

    While meeting with recruitment companies for potential employment all I kept being told was you need to be a qualified accountant for us to place you!

    In the UK it seems much more emphasis is placed on “professional” qualifications, CIMA, ACCA etc. with the MBA becoming much more of a “Nice to have” qualification but not really important in the overall scheme of things.

    To summarise, I had a great time studying for my MBA and met some amazing people but I have now just completed my CIMA which has opened many more opportunities for me.

  2. Alisa says

    Great article! Makes it very clear what is what! Thanks!

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      thanks Alisa!

  3. Unknown says

    Awesome website! this really helped me out for mapping out my future career. Great article…Was really helpful.