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Robert Jelly: The international benchmark for world-class financial management

The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) is the largest professional body in the world whose sole focus is the training and support of accountants in business. With more than 60,000 qualified members working throughout the world and 80,000 students studying for our examinations, the Chartered Management Accountant has become the international benchmark for world-class financial management training.

The CIMA qualification has also become a passport to career development. This passport is not limited to the finance function either: many of our members work as finance directors and financial managers in small, medium and multinational companies, but also in a wide range of careers which are far removed from what most graduates would include in their understanding of "accounting".

In a recent global survey of CIMA members, we found that nearly one third of our members now work in the financial services sector: global finance, banking, insurance. Other industries where our members are well-represented include manufacturing (most, if not all, of the well-known blue-chip companies covering automotive, aerospace, electronics, pharmaceuticals) together with health, retailing, tourism and hospitality, travel, transport and consultancy.

Why management accounting?

Many graduates entering the job market are unaware that accounting has two key aspects linked to the work that you will ultimately undertake. One is focused on the past and historical data, and which forms the basis of audit training. The other is focused on the future, preparing forecasts, measuring performance, making sense of the financial numbers for the business and the wider management team in order to inform the organisation's strategic thinking.

It is also worth having a close look at the CIMA syllabus. It has been designed to enable the huge variety of job opportunities to be within your grasp. Subjects you will study include: management accounting decision-making and performance management, organisational management (covering marketing, HR and operations), systems and project management, financial strategy, information strategy and business strategy. We also cover financial accounting and reporting with a strong emphasis on understanding and interpreting financial information rather than the preparation of the accounting statements.

Our final examination is a case study, which is posted on the CIMA website (www.cimaglobal.com) six weeks before the exam, and is based on a real world situation. Students have the opportunity to study a particular industry and particular business issues in depth and are asked to identify potential solutions. The case study encourages innovation and creativity in its solutions and CIMA is the only such body to offer a global case study of this nature to all of our students wherever they live and work.

I recently asked a key CIMA tuition provider in what way they distinguished CIMA from our main competitors in the highly competitive accounting qualifications market. The reply summed up, for me, CIMA in a nutshell: "If you want to know, study for the competition. If you want to learn how and why, study for CIMA."

Supporting our members and students throughout their careers

Our key focus as an organisation is the ever-increasing employability of our members and students. To achieve this, we work closely with thousands of employers throughout the world to ensure that the CIMA qualification meets their needs and that the minimum three years relevant practical experience required to achieve Chartered Management Accountant status (in addition to passing our exams) is fulfilled. And it doesn't stop there. We are fully aware of the need to keep you up to date as your career progresses, both in increasing your specialist knowledge and widening your managerial skills. In a groundbreaking partnership with Henley Management College, CIMA students on qualifying can now proceed to study for the Henley MBA with a "fast-track route" which can reduce by up to half the time and cost of studying for a world-class postgraduate qualification to add to your world-class professional one. We also have a fast-track route with the Association of Corporate Treasurers for our students and members.

Whatever your career objective, the CIMA qualification will enable you to get ahead, and by becoming a member of a chartered membership body you can count on support and guidance every step of the way.

Robert Jelly is director of education at CIMA