Chartered management accountant
Chartered management accountants analyse financial information to guide and advise businesses to become more successful
Your role as a chartered management accountant is to support business leaders in their strategic financial planning, to secure a company's financial stability and increase its profitability and growth. You'll do this by analysing operations and performance and identifying ways to manage and reduce operational and production costs.
Working in a specific division or across an entire organisation, you'll provide sound financial advice to enable business leaders to implement effective strategies and have a clearer sense of direction.
You'll help an organisation look to the future by analysing its performance and seeking ways to prevent problems and adapt to changing circumstances.
The role of a chartered management accountant combines accounting and business management skills, and you'll typically need to:
- establish and maintain financial policies and management information systems
- prepare periodic financial statements, including profit and loss accounts, budgets, cash flows, variance analysis and commentaries
- provide a support service by working with all departments and the management team to help make financial decisions
- ensure spending is kept in line with the budget
- inform key strategic decisions and formulate business strategies
- advise on the financial implications of business decisions
- analyse financial performance and contribute to medium and long-term business planning and forecasts
- negotiate on major projects, loans and grants
- offer professional judgement on financial matters and advise on ways to improve business performance
- interpret and communicate financial data to non-financial managers
- liaise with other function managers to put finances and accounts in context
- monitor and evaluate financial information systems and suggest improvements where needed
- implement corporate governance procedures, risk management and internal controls.
- Salaries for part-qualified assistant management accountants are usually between £27,000 and £40,000.
- Fully qualified management accountants earn an average of £41,000 to £54,000, with London, Bristol and Scotland offering the highest salaries.
- In senior roles, it can be possible to earn up to £75,000+.
Some companies offer excellent packages to cover the cost of studying, including tuition fees and paid study leave. See the CIMA website for a list of employers that meet the CIMA training qualification standards.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You’ll typically work around 40 to 45 hours Monday to Friday. However, you may be required to do extra hours and overtime. Working hours do not usually include weekends or shifts. There are certain times of the month and the financial year when there are tight deadlines, such as month end and year end, when extra working hours may be required.
Short-term project work is sometimes available through agencies, but this is more common between jobs than as a career in itself. Part-time work is more likely with large employers.
What to expect
- The work is office based but not desk bound, with regular meetings across the organisation.
- Travel within a working day, absence from home overnight and overseas travel are all occasionally necessary.
- According to the ONS there is a 6.6% pay gap between male and female chartered accountants. However, data from a variety of other sources indicates that the overall median pay gap in chartered management accounting is much higher when senior salaries and bonuses (both of which are much higher for men) are taken into account. Making the pay gap figure nearer to 15-20%. Help and advice to overcome the obstacles women face is offered through a campaign run by CIMA - Women in leadership.
- After gaining several years' experience, self-employment or freelance work in financial or management consultancy is possible.
Chartered management accountancy is open to all graduates, but to become a chartered management accountant you must complete your training with a professional accountancy body.
CIMA is the most popular option for management accountants, with many graduates choosing to work towards the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting (Cert BA). Successful completion of this qualification enables you to progress on to CIMA's CGMA Professional Qualification. Once you have achieved both, you'll be awarded the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.
If you have a relevant degree or professional qualification you may be exempt from some or all of the certificate-level subjects. CIMA's Exemptions tool will help you check this.
Some management accountants choose to train with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), and both are widely respected with UK employers and recognised around the world.
Recruitment firm Robert Half has put together some advice about choosing your accountancy qualification. The guide explains that CIMA is generally best for those who know they want to work in business and management, while ACCA offers a broader more flexible qualification better suited for those wanting options to work in a range of different industries.
Employers' requirements may vary. Larger employers may ask for a minimum 2:1 degree, as well as high UCAS points and good levels of English and maths.
Firms of all sizes offer graduate schemes, which can be highly competitive as they offer the opportunity to earn as you learn. Large employers tend to recruit in the autumn. Job titles vary so keep an open mind when looking for vacancies.
Although CIMA accepts HND business and finance qualifications, and may give some exemptions for this, many employers will not accept them. Small and medium-sized firms (SMEs) may be more flexible.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not necessary, but professional qualifications undertaken in-service are usually necessary for progression. For example, many CIMA members go on to study a Masters of Business Administration (MBA).
You'll need to show:
- commercial awareness, with an interest in business and an understanding of how an organisation works and manages resources
- a high level of numeracy
- the ability to explain complex financial information in a clear way
- professionalism and commitment
- excellent oral and written communication skills
- IT proficiency
- project management skills
- strong interpersonal and teamwork skills, with the ability to work with colleagues at all levels including non-finance members of staff
- confidence to know where your expertise ends and that of another team member begins
- the ability to remain impartial
- a lively and enquiring mind with a logical approach to work, combined with analytical and problem-solving skills
- organisational skills with the ability to work under pressure and to deadlines
- stamina and motivation to balance the demands of work and study
- language skills can be useful if you work for an international company.
Pre-entry experience is not essential but can be highly beneficial. Experience can include vacation placements, sandwich courses or part-time employment that offers business experience. Relevant work experience may count towards the three years necessary for entry onto a CIMA course.
Find out more about the different kinds of work experience and internships that are available.
Many employers including all types and sizes of industrial, commercial and public sector organisations respect the CIMA qualification. These range from voluntary organisations to international companies. In addition, many members also run their own businesses.
CIMA members are well represented in many sectors, not just financial services, including:
- manufacturing (covering automotive, aerospace, electronics and pharmaceuticals)
- travel and tourism
Some organisations employ their own management accountants. However, they may alternatively use private accountancy firms, which offer accountancy services to fee-paying clients.
Employers can also be found in the following areas:
- local and central government
The CIMA, ACCA and ACA qualifications are all recognised internationally and many companies around the world employ chartered management accountants.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Chartered Accountants Ireland
- CIMA MyJobs
- GAAP Web
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
Some recruitment agencies, such as Robert Half and Michael Page, specialise in management accountant roles.
You'll complete training to achieve chartered status, and this involves a combination of examinations and practical experience.
To qualify as a chartered management accountant, you must successfully complete the following:
- a professional accountancy qualification, such as the CIMA Professional Qualification
- a minimum of three years' relevant practical experience.
To achieve the CIMA Professional Qualification, you'll need to complete three exams at operational, management and strategic levels as well as integrated case study exams.
Completing the operational level training means you qualify for the CIMA Diploma in Management Accounting award. Completion at management level earns you the CIMA Advanced Diploma in Management Accounting and the designation of CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant).
Many employers offering CIMA training to graduates will have a structured programme that combines the practical experience required, with opportunities to study for the examinations. Although many employers will give employees time off for study leave, there is a substantial amount of private study required.
To be successful in gaining this qualification, the amount of study required while working demands significant amounts of personal time, dedication and determination.
Study methods vary and can include full-time, part-time or evening classes, or a combination of these. There are opportunities for self-study, through colleges which provide distance learning packages and online study with CIMAstudy.com - the only CIMA-endorsed online study system.
Career progression is dependent on the successful completion of CIMA, or other professional accountancy qualifications.
Post-qualification promotion depends on experience gained and skills developed, such as project management and transferable skills, such as communication and teamwork.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is also very important and CIMA-qualified accountants are invited to attend training workshops and industry-networking events on a regular basis.
Project experience may lead to the opportunity to specialise in a certain area of accounting and may also enable a move to a more strategic role in general management.
Being able to relocate can be an asset in terms of career advancement and some companies may expect employees to move to different locations while training, to gain maximum exposure to the business.
The skills and related experience you gain from studying the CIMA examinations can lead to other career options, including:
- management consulting
- business analysis
- operations management
- risk assessment
- project management.
After three years' strategic experience in a senior role, it's possible to apply for Fellowship of CIMA (FCMA), which offers increased recognition and career potential.
Many accountants use their financial management skills to become successful entrepreneurs.