Masters Degree, AAT, ACA, ACCA or CIMA

jlondoner Registered Posts: 4
Hi there, I am originally from Spain but I am working in London. Im already qualified as I have a 5 years degree in business administration and management. Currently I am working in the account department of a multinational company in London and I would like to study a masters degree or go for ACCA, ACA, AATor CIMA exams. My question is what it´s better to do here in the UK , study a masters degree or obtain one of the accountancy certificaction in order to develop a strong professional career? Are the CIMA and AAT exams globally recognized?
If I pass the CIMA or the AAT certifications would I be able to apply for jobs in other countries like Canada , Australia ( Commonwealth countries ) and the US ? Or is it better to study a masters degree so as to work in any country in the world?

Many thanks



  • ManiGoldwater
    ManiGoldwater Registered Posts: 11
    The decision to pursue any of the routes depend on your ultimate career goals.
    Route 1: Vocational Qualifications such as AAT, ACCA, ACA or CIMA leading to a Master's degree
    Route 2: Degree program giving exemptions from some or all of the papers from vocational qualifications above.

    In my opinion if you pursue a degree program (route 2) and do not secure enough marks or minimum required marks then it would be harder to get exemption from key papers. Furthermore, paper by paper exemptions normally require you to have considerable portion of topics taught in that paper to be covered by your Master's module content. Whilst a Master's degree increases your job promotion aspects, however, a Master's program is merely an academic qualification and does not fully prepare you for vocational aspects required in your job. Overall, I feel that students who have completed at least AAT or some stages of other accounting qualifications have optimized chances to get distinction in Masters in Accounting/Finance since they understand the concepts better before they even enter the classroom and so perform better as well. Remember that Masters qualification are quite intensive so for individuals wanting to work and study at the same time it can be quite challenging. The point is that a Masters degree does not automatically gives you exemptions from professional vocational qualifications and you may find yourself redoing some papers afterwards.

    Should you choose the vocational qualification route (route 1), not only can you secure another bachelor's degree but a Master's level qualification as well. For example, if you pursue ACCA, you can apply for Bachelor's degree after F9 for which you have to complete a dissertation (you may already qualify for exemptions since you already have a degree). You can also apply for a Master's level qualification after P3. University of London has one such program where you can pursue an MSc in Professional Accountancy with the University of London at the same time as taking your professional qualification with ACCA. I still have to find more about this program. Please see the following link:

    Similarly, with CIMA many institutes offer a master's pathway. One such example is London School of Business and Finance. Please see the following link:

    Although I yet have to explore more options for ACA but it is worth looking at the following link as it indicates a similar pathway as well:

    With AAT, of which I am a great fan, to my knowledge you can pursue a Bachelor's program after the last level. Please see the following link to see a list of universities offering various programs:

    Please do not consider the above list as definitive, do your own research and do feel free to correct me at any point if I am wrong.
    Personally, in spite of having amazing grades in school which easily qualified me for any Russel group university, I decide to pursue the vocational pathway to obtain a bachelor's degree by first doing AAT and then pursuing either ACCA, ACA or CIMA with Masters. I must admit that by progressing through AAT I got an in depth understanding of accounting concepts. I sill have to complete two last papers from AAT level 4 but I would say that whenever I take a little peek at ACCA papers every now and then, I now find them quite easy to grasp than before since AAT makes you dig deeper into basic concepts at each level and thoroughly prepares you for the challenges posed by other higher level vocational qualifications ahead so you are no longer left scratching your head.
    I hope this information was helpful and I wish you the best in your future prospects.

    Best Regards,


  • Bertie
    Bertie Registered Posts: 376
    I doubt much can be added to what @ManiGoldwater has said. Great post.

    What I would say is by starting off with the AAT qualification and building up from that is, you'll gain viable qualifications which you can use faster than that of gaining a Masters degree.

    AAT level 3/4 could take 18 months or less with dedication - you'd then have an actual accounting qualification.

    Should you start at ACCA / CIMA you'd only be part qualified until you complete the whole syllabus - which could take anywhere between 3 - 5 years of completion. Remember, not everyone completes the chartered qualification, for one reason or another.

    The initial degree route in accountancy obviously has its value. But I can tell you, from experience of seeing new starters with either just a BA vs AAT - those with AAT are way ahead technically.

    If you wanted to go the full route my advise would be; AAT, ACCA/CIMA complete the full syllabus, to then aim to complete the Masters degree.

  • bebek
    bebek Registered Posts: 3
    Good afternoon,
    I would like to thanks Manigoldwater for the quality of information
  • jlondoner
    jlondoner Registered Posts: 4
    Hi guys,

    wow thanks a lot , I really like your posts. I entirely agree, I think its also better to start off with an accounting qualification rather than with a masters degree. Basically for some reasons such as : I will be working at the same time so it would be almost impossible to find a very flexible job as I would have to attend the lessons ; secondly I think masters degree are good depending on the university and its very difficult to get into the good ones; thirdly a masters degree its an academic certification rather than a professional one.

    I am thinking about taking some CIMA levels and then do something similar to

    From your experience, do you think its easier to find a "professional / technical " role with CIMA than with a regular masters?

    Are the master degrees from the US very valued and considered by companies here in the UK?

    Last questions, I thought that the AAT exams were basic ones? are they less considered by companies than the CIMA?

    Many thanks to you all

    Btw bear with my English, please :)
  • ManiGoldwater
    ManiGoldwater Registered Posts: 11
    Hi! Sorry for delay in replying.
    Here are my answers to your queries.
    From your experience, do you think its easier to find a "professional / technical " role with CIMA than with a regular masters?
    It depends on what the employer is looking for. However, CIMA is in itself a technical and professional qualification so in my opinion a CIMA graduate will hold more credibility for employers looking for a professional/technical individual rather than a academic degree holder. So, unless a job posting specifically mentions master degree requirement, CIMA would be enough. Normally, job postings for respective roles would also mention CIMA, ACCA, AAT etc.

    Are the master degrees from the US very valued and considered by companies here in the UK?

    Again, it depends on what the employer is looking for and where you did your degree from. But generally speaking academic qualifications, like vocational/professional ones are quite prestigious.

    Last questions, I thought that the AAT exams were basic ones? are they less considered by companies than the CIMA?
    AAT does starts from a basic level 2 and goes to advanced diploma level 4 which also gives some exemptions from CIMA [please seethe following link].

    However, I would again stress that AAT digs so deep into fundamentals of accounting that succeeding levels of other qualifications like CIMA etc. are way easier to handle.
    I would suggest to have a look at AAT level 4 text books and question banks so that you may have a fair idea.

    Please also note that the above discussion should not be regarded as statement of facts but is merely a subjective assessment based on my personal experiences and the experiences/advice of successful close relatives, executives and mentors holding both academic and professional qualifications in accounting, finance and engineering.
    Please do a thorough research on the path you want to take and do take further advice from industry professionals, especially those operating at executive levels in accounting/finance.
    I would also suggest to have a strong mentor from an accounting background [I personally have benefited and am still benefiting a great deal from being guided by a very strong mentor].
    I do hope the above discussion clarifies your queries.

    Best Regards,

    Mani Goldwater.
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