CMA vs CIA – Which is Right for You?

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If you're pursuing a career in accounting, you've undoubtedly heard about the battle of CMA vs CIA. Today in this article we are going to talk about difference between this two courses and help to identify which one is better certification for your future.
CMA and CIA certification can have a significant impact on your career and earning potential. However, which is better for you will depend on your interests and goals. Getting one of these requires a significant investment of time and money, so it's smart to really understand the benefits and costs of each before committing to one.

CMA: Certified Management Accountant

The CMA certification is provided by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). CMAs have a strong background in both management and financial accounting, giving them skills to help them plan, analyze and make decisions about their finances. It is the only globally recognized management accounting certification. To earn the CMA, candidates must:
  • Have a bachelor's degree or professional accounting certification such as an MBA or CPA
  • Have at least two years of experience in managerial accounting or financial management
  • Complete both the parts of CMA exam
Please note that your work experience does not need to be completed before taking the exam. After passing the exam, you have up to seven years to complete the work requirement for certification. Candidates who pass the exam must also agree to meet continuing education requirements and standards of professional conduct.

CIA: Certified Internal Auditor

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification, as the name suggests, authorizes you to perform internal audits. Awarded by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), it is the only globally recognized internal audit certification. CIA certificate requirements are somewhat more flexible than CMA. You'll still need some in-house accounting experience before certification, but the exact amount depends on your level of education. Experience may include internal audit, quality assurance, risk management, audit/assessment/disciplines, compliance, external audit, and internal control work.
Education Experience
Master’s degree or equivalent 1 year IA experience or equivalent
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent 2 years IA experience or equivalent
Active Internal Audit Practitioner designation holder 5 years IA experience or equivalent
High school diploma or equivalent 5 years IA experience or equivalent (must be completed before entering the CIA program)

CMA vs CIA: Job Description

Certified Internal Auditor
CIA’s are accountants who perform internal audits. The CIA is a trusted professional who audits a company's finances. They are the ones who make sure that everything is balanced and organized, which of course requires meticulous attention to detail. There is an understandably high standard of professional ethics and behavior in this area. The people who are the CIA ultimately ensure that the money management of the business is above standard and not subject to fraud or abuse.
Certified Management Accountant
CMA’s are accountants who have expertise in both management and financial accounting. This uniquely equips people with a CMA to make business decisions based on a deep financial understanding. Most commonly, CMAs oversee the analysis, control, and decision-making of a company's finances.

Education and Work Requirements

Requirements to Become a CIA
To become a certified internal auditor, candidates must meet the following educational or work requirements:
  • Graduate from an accredited university with a four-year degree. Your transcripts or other evidence of education will be included in your application for CIA certification.
  • Have two years of postgraduate education and five years of experience in the field of internal auditing.
  • Seven years of experience in the field of internal auditing.
After obtaining a degree, which is the most common progression, candidates need two years of experience in internal auditing. A master's degree may substitute one year of this requirement.
Requirements to Become a CMA
There are various educational requirements to become a certified management accountant. While the CIA requires a college degree or equivalent work experience specifically in financial auditing, CMA candidates have a bit more latitude. To become a CMA, you need a bachelor's degree from an accredited school and two years of experience. The caveat is that candidates can actually still take the CMA exam before these requirements are met. Compared to the CIA, there is a lower barrier to entry for the CMA in terms of educational requirements.

CMA and CIA Exams

The exams are consisting of two tests. Both cover a total of 12 competencies. Each section is four hours long and consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and two essay questions (I focus in more detail on preparation for the multiple-choice and essay sections). Part 1 deals with financial planning, performance, and analysis and includes the following competencies:
  • External decisions on financial reporting
  • Planning, budgeting, and forecasting
  • Performance management
  • Cost management
  • Internal controls
  • Technology and analytics
Part 2, Strategic Financial Management, includes:
  • Financial statement analysis
  • Corporate finance
  • Decision analysis
  • Risk management
  • Investment decisions
  • Professional ethics
The exam is offered three times a year, in January/February, May/June, and September/October, with Parts 1 and 2 offered multiple times. Candidates have the option of taking the tests at the test center or taking them remotely. US CMA course exam results are released approximately six weeks after the exam month. There is no waiting period before retaking the exam, but you cannot take part of the exam more than once during the testing period. Both parts must be successfully completed within 36 months to be officially certified. The passing rate for the CMA averages about 50% for each of the two parts of the test.
The CIA exam has three sections, each consisting of only multiple-choice questions:
  • Part 1, Fundamentals of Internal Auditing, covers the audit activity, objectivity, and management concepts. Candidates are also tested on how to identify and manage risks. There are 125 questions, and you have 2.5 hours to complete this section.
  • Part 2, The Practice of Internal Auditing, covers audit engagements, fraud, and document and report audits. There are 100 questions, and you have one hour to complete this section.
  • Part 3, Business Knowledge for Internal Audit, covers business analysis, information security, information technology, and financial management. Again, there are 100 questions, and you have one hour to complete this section.
Unlike the CMA, you can take the CIA whenever you want, and exam results are released within 24 to 48 hours. However, if any part fails, you have a 60-day waiting period before you can try again. To become certified, you must pass all parts of the exam within three years of enrollment. Worldwide, the average pass rate for the three parts of the exam is about 48%.

CMA vs CIA: Salary

Both courses are prestigious career options that require a lot of education, intensive testing, and work experience, but can pay off big in terms of earning potential. Profitability is a key reason why people choose one over the other. There is some difference in these salary numbers. Remember, you will always earn more as you age into a role or company. In other words, the more experience you get in any of these fields, the more money you'll make. On average, an experienced CIA earns around $86,000.

Is CMA better than CIA?

CMA focuses on management accounting and financial management, making it suitable for those interested in finance.
CIA focuses on internal auditing, making it more suitable for those interested in risk management, internal audit, and compliance positions in organizations.

Is CIA easier than CA?

CIA is focused on internal auditing and is generally considered to be less difficult than CA.
CA is a highly respected and competitive certification that requires extensive study and rigorous exams. It is generally considered to be more challenging than CIA.

Which is the better career option CMA or CIA?

Honestly, it depends on your interests, your background, and your goals as a professional. It may also depend on where you are in your career and whether your background and current commitments make one a better fit for you than the other. If you have a good eye for detail, enjoy working with data, and have a strong regulatory background in addition to solid accounting skills, the CIA could be a good fit for you. If you are attracted to the more strategic and analytical aspects of accounting, if your goals include a more managerial role and a higher salary, or if you simply want more flexibility in your career, a CMA may be a better choice.
If you want to study US CMA, you should enroll in CFO Next's CMA course to be instructed by experienced mentors who will guarantee that you become a competent professional with an exceptional skill set.

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