Chartered management accountants provide the financial information necessary for the planning and control of organisations and commercial companies. They establish and maintain financial policies and management information systems, as well as liaise with management colleagues on all aspects of finance. Management accountants look to the future (rather than the past, as in auditing accounts and tax returns). They can analyse the performance of a business and advise on how it can develop. They can be found working in:
Public sector organisations.
They may work in a finance function or within specialist departments providing financial advice and insight to other professionals.
Typical Work Activities
Typical work activities include:
Creating, implementing and monitoring processes and procedures around the creation of monthly forecasts;
Preparing periodic financial statements including profit and loss accounts, budgets, cash-flows, variance analysis and commentaries;
Investigating and developing systems of internal control and conducting internal audits;
Managing income and expenditure, sales, payroll and stocks;
Negotiating for major projects loans and grants;
Offering professional judgement on financial matters and advising on ways of improving business performance; giving input into strategic planning;
Liaising with other function managers to put the finance view in context;
Completing projects within agreed turn-around times;
Maintaining evidence of continuing professional development (CPD).
Roles may vary depending on the management structure, eg there may be some openings in large firms in a business advisory role.
Roles can also vary depending on the nature of the organisation and, with larger organisations, the department or departments that the individual is based in or supports.
Range of typical starting salaries: £14,000 – £25,000 (salary data collected July 03).
Range of typical salaries for newly qualified chartered management accountants: £25,000 – £40,000 (salary data collected July 03).
Range of typical salaries at senior levels: £55,000 – £100,000 plus (salary data collected July 03).
Starting salaries vary enormously according to the size of the organisation, its location and sector. The highest salaries tend to be found in London and the Thames Valley regions.
Latest survey details for UK regions and Ireland can be found on the website of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). Salaries increase substantially on passing the examinations. CIMA report that 9% of their membership earn more than £100,000 per annum.
Some companies offer excellent packages to cover the cost of studying, including tuition fees and paid study leave.
Working hours typically include regular extra hours but not weekends or shifts.
The work is office based but not desk bound.
After gaining several years of experience, self-employment or freelance work in financial or management consultancy is possible.
Project work is sometimes available through agencies but this is more common between jobs than as a career itself. Part-time work is more likely with large employers and temporary project working is possible.
Women make up an increasing proportion of the new intake. New registrations with CIMA indicate around 40% are female. Women are also beginning to take the more senior positions.
Jobs can be found nationally.
Chartered management accountants work for a wide variety of employers in the private and public sectors.
High levels of study whilst working requires significant personal time and determination. The post-qualification workload can be heavy with tight deadlines and high quality demands.
Travel within a working day, absence from home at night and overseas travel are all occasionally needed.
Of the current (July 03) graduate trainees studying for the examinations of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), only half have a relevant degree in business or finance. Although chartered management accountancy is open to graduates of all disciplines, the following degree subjects may increase your chances:
An accountancy degree is highly desirable and business degrees offer exemptions from some of the professional qualifications. However, the degree discipline is not as key an issue in recruitment compared to the class of degree; a 2.1 minimum is often sought by larger employers together with high UCAS points. CIMA will accept holders of HNDs, however, many employers will not. Again, the larger employers will seek degree holders only (with a 2.1 or above). Small and medium sized firms (SMEs) may be more flexible and given that they receive fewer applications, may be more willing to look at all that an individual applicant can offer. An HND in business and finance (with the appropriate options) may give some examination exemptions which are allowed on an individual basis.Entry without a degree or HND into CIMA training is possible, however, larger companies do target graduates. A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not needed but professional qualifications undertaken in-service are usually necessary for progression. To register for CIMA qualifications, you must have the equivalent of a minimum of two subjects at UK GCE Advanced level (A-level) and a minimum of three GCSEs including English language and mathematics. Employers often seek good grades at A-level. Equivalent qualifications may be accepted; details of those accepted for CIMA training are held on their website.
Pre-entry experience is not needed but could be beneficial, such as vacation or sandwich course business experience (not necessarily in finance). Preuniversity experience is useful for mature students. Language skills are also useful. It is important that you possess a real interest in business as you need to gain an understanding of how the organization works and be driven to make the most of resources. You need to:
be comfortable with figures;
have excellent oral and written communication skills;
offer IT proficiency;
possess an aptitude and liking for team work;
have the confidence to know where your expertise ends and another team member‘s begins;
demonstrate a lively and enquiring mind together with analytical and problem solving skills;
have the stamina and motivation to juggle the demands of examinations and career, as well as a willingness to work long hours. Entry to training with large companies is competitive, usually requiring a good degree pass and good A-level grades.
Competition is less intense in small firms. Large employers‘ recruitment commences in the autumn but may continue into the summer whereas smaller firms tend to recruit at any time and advertise locally. Job titles vary so keep an open mind when looking for vacancies. It is always important to look at the support given for study and the work experience offered when choosing a firm and you may need to negotiate a training and study package with the employer. Before accepting a job offer it is recommended that you find out if anyone else within the organisation is currently studying for the CIMA qualification or has recently qualified. This will give you some idea of how committed your potential employer is to training.
Entry problems may be encountered from mid 30s to early 40s. With the possible exception of public service, employers (particularly larger companies) tend to look unfavourably on mature candidates when seeking to fill vacancies on graduate training schemes, preferring graduates entering their first permanent job. Relevant skills and experience may enhance prospects. CIMA does offer a mature student entry route to their qualification. Full details are available on their website.
The training is a combination of examinations and practical experience. The examinations of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) are arranged in three stages; foundation, intermediate and advanced. To achieve Chartered Management Accountant (ACMA) status, you must complete all three levels, and gain three years of relevant practical experience. This must cover three areas: Basic, Core and Supplementary. At least 18 months of the practical experience must be gained in the Core area. CIMA requires that practical experience is recorded in a Career Profile‘ consisting of personal information, a summary of full employment history and an enhanced CV including details of all relevant practical experience. 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. Those who have relevant degrees may qualify for exemptions from certain examinations. Study methods vary but could be block study with a tutor, evening classes or distance learning, or a combination of these.