Getting a headstart with CIMA

Accountancy student Dickson Koh shares his thoughts on doing a self-study course with the CIMA.

By Jenny Mak

For most students, school holidays signal the time to rest and relax. But not for 24-year-old Dickson Koh, a second-year accountancy student at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) - he chose to take a self-study course with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

Dickson decided to enrol into a three-month course in Enterprise Operations which gives him a general overview of business covering topics ranging from logistics to human resources. Dickson finds this course helpful. “It helps (me) see the whole picture, how my job fits in the economic environment,” he explains.

Planning for the future
Enterprise Operations, together with two modules Performance Operations and Financial Operations, makes up the first of four educational stages that ultimately lead to a CIMA Professional Qualification. Dickson, due to his NTU accountancy background, is exempted from Performance Operations and Financial Operations.

The CIMA Professional Qualification comes with a smorgasbord of benefits. With CIMA being recognised internationally and highly respected in the industry, Dickson believes that the qualifications will help him gain an “edge over his peers” when applying for jobs.

Furthermore, CIMA has collaborations with corporations such as Barclays and tertiary schools that Dickson is eager to take advantage of. Moreover, having a CIMA Professional Qualification can exempt him from the first year of certain Masters programmes should he wish to further his studies in the future.

Hence, Dickson wanted to embark on the course now, so as to gain a strategic head-start in the future against his peers.

Dickson likes what he is learning so far with CIMA because he feels it prepares him to give suggestions and contribute to any company he works for in the future. “It offers consultancy and management experiences that is not usually found in a conventional accountancy degree programme,” he shares.

Discipline needed
Dickson chose to self-study the course. This means that he learns from CIMA-published home study packs. At the end of the three months, he sits for an exam, which, if he passes, garners him a CIMA Diploma in Management Accounting. Discipline is necessary for such self-study and Dickson developed a routine of studying every day.

However, a self-study course does not mean that there is no human interaction. Dickson explains, “Actually there are many friendly people in the CIMA association. The same people will be there to help you when you have problems.”

Although he may not meet up with fellow students face-to-face, Dickson participates in an active online student community called CIMAsphere which all CIMA students become members of. There is a forum on the CIMA website which he often logs into whenever he has any queries, academic or otherwise.

“It’s very vibrant in there,” he enthuses. “The students and lecturers are very responsive and answer any questions you have almost immediately. It’s open to the public too.” The forum is an engaging and interactive platform that holds every topic from study tips to discussions on international business affairs.

Dickson also goes into the forum to keep himself up-to-date with the latest developments in the working world. “Many working professionals post career advice in the forum,” he says. This helps him to shape his own career path.

It even has videos of prominent business executives hosting lectures in other countries. CIMA certainly takes steps to keep itself relevant and connected to the international community, and it is students like Dickson who benefit from such a combination of education and practical exposure.

Investing in his future
Dickson believes that his course will add a lot of value to him. “It’s a practical course. I know what I want and I took steps to achieve it. It’s not so much about being a student as it is about preparing myself for the challenges of the working world.”

He also likes the structure the CIMA Professional Qualification brings to his career goals. “It makes you think about the future and have something to look forward to.”

As Dickson starts into his career with confidence, he continues to be passionate about learning and developing himself. “Learning is a lifelong journey. It just doesn’t stop there,” he concludes.