Are professional qualifications worth it?
For business students charting their career paths, the question often arises: should I pursue professional qualifications such as ACCA, CMA, or CIMA, and if so, when? The landscape of business education is peppered with these acronyms, each representing a different gate to potentially higher salaries, better job prospects, and greater professional recognition. But are they worth the investment of time and resources? And should they be tackled alongside a degree, or can they wait until after graduation? Let’s dive into these queries.
Understanding ACCA, CMA, and CIMA
Before we address their value, let’s briefly identify what 3 of the main business and finance professional qualifications stand for:
- ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants): This global body for professional accountants offers a qualification that is recognized worldwide and provides a strong foundation in accounting principles.
- CMA (Certified Management Accountant): Offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the CMA focuses on financial management and strategic management accounting.
- CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants): Similar to CMA, CIMA emphasizes management accounting, with a blend of business strategy and financial reporting.
The Value Proposition
Credibility and Knowledge: Professional qualifications provide credibility in a competitive job market. They indicate a specialised knowledge base and commitment to your field. Employers often look favourably upon these qualifications when making hiring and promotion decisions.
Global Recognition: These certifications are internationally recognised, which can be a significant advantage in today’s globalised business environment.
Earning Potential: There is evidence to suggest that professional qualifications can lead to higher earning potential. Qualified individuals often command substantial salaries and can climb the corporate ladder to senior management positions.
Timing Your Qualification
During Your Degree: Integrating professional qualifications with your degree can be challenging but rewarding. It provides practical application to theoretical knowledge and can make you more marketable upon graduation. However, this route demands excellent time-management skills and a high level of commitment.
In Parallel with Your Degree: Some universities offer programs that allow students to study for qualifications like ACCA, CMA, or CIMA in conjunction with their degree. This integrated approach can save time and reduce the total cost of education, but it also means a heavier workload.
After Your Degree: Postponing professional qualifications until after graduation allows you to focus on one academic endeavor at a time. It also gives you the chance to gain work experience, which can be beneficial when pursuing these certifications as it provides context to the material studied.
Making the Decision
Career Goals: Your choice should align with your career aspirations. If you aim to work in a role or region where a particular qualification is highly esteemed or required, it becomes more valuable.
Industry Requirements: Some industries may value experience over certifications, while others might mandate or highly regard specific qualifications.
Learning Style: Consider how you learn best. If juggling many commitments is overwhelming, it might be better to stagger your educational pursuits.
Financial Investment: These qualifications are not free, and their cost should be factored into your decision-making process.
Professional qualifications like ACCA, CMA, and CIMA can significantly enhance your career in business and finance. The question of whether they are “worth it” is nuanced and depends on individual circumstances. They should be seen as a complement or a continuation of your educational development. In an ever-evolving business world, the most strategic approach may be a blend of academic and professional qualifications, timed and tailored to your personal career goals.
In conclusion, research thoroughly, consider your career trajectory, and choose a path that aligns with your professional vision. Remember, education, whether formal or professional, is an investment in your future.