CMA vs CPA – Which is Better

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The answer to the above question is that both of those certifications are equally good and are highly respected within the field of accounting. The important thing is that they lead the aspiring candidates to different career paths. If a candidate is interested in auditing, taxation, reporting, and regulation, then he/ she should opt for CPA, while if someone is interested in management, strategic analysis, and decision making, then CMA may be a more sensible choice for him/ her. So, allow us to take a better check out a number of the unique benefits of both these certification courses then decide.

Skills Obtained:

Certified CPA personnel develops the power to crunch numbers at will as they're required to review day-to-day accounting activities with a serious specialize in taxation and auditing. On the opposite hand, certified CMA personnel develops expertise in analyzing and interpreting data, which is then wont to drive the business’s financial improvements. The role of CMAs requires more strategic thinking ability as they have to create forward-looking strategies.


For CPA, a candidate gets 18 months to clear all the four parts of the course, and therefore the clock starts ticking from the day the candidate clears the primary part. On the opposite hand, a candidate gets three years for clearing both parts of the CMA exam and therefore the time starts from the day of the registration.

Eligibility or Experience required

As far as eligibility cares, both CPA and CMA require a candidate to possess a bachelor’s degree or related professional certification. Besides, CPA requires two years of public accounting experience, while CMA requires two years of management accounting or financial management experience. After being certified, a CPA must complete 40 hours of continuous Education per annum. A CMA must complete 30 hours of continuous Education per annum to take care of their respective certifications.


The CPA course is divided into four parts – Business Environment & Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), Audit & Attestation (AUD), and Regulation (REG). BEC primarily covers management-related topics, while the remaining specialize in other fields of tax and auditing. Some of the main subjects covered as part of the CPA course include corporate governance, economic concepts & analysis, professional responsibilities ethics & general principles, financial statement accounts, entity federal taxation, individual federal taxation, etc.

On the other hand, CMA emphasizes building analytical skills, such as data reporting and critical decision making. Some of the main subjects covered as part of the CMA course include planning, budgeting & forecasting, performance management, internal controls, cost management, decision analysis, professional ethics, financial statement analysis, etc.

Career Opportunity and Salary

CPA professionals usually pursue the career of an accountant or financial advisor. Some of the most common job profiles that CPAs go for include public accountants, management accountants, internal auditors, etc. On the other hand, CMA-certified professionals intend to work for large corporations, and some of their common job profiles include cost accountants, consultants, financial risk managers, etc. Over the course of the career, the typical salary of a CPA hovers around $120,000, while that of a CMA is around $100,000.

Fees and Passing Rates

On average, the CPA certification cost comes at around $1,500, which incorporates exam fees, application fees, and licensing fees. On the other hand, the CMA certification cost is approximately $1,000, which includes all the fees. However, the certification cost in both cases doesn’t include the value of a review course that candidates usually take up for studying. It is fair to say that both the course exams are challenging, given the historically low passing rates. In the CMA exams conducted during January-February 2020, only 45% of the candidates worldwide could clear both Parts I and Part II. On the other hand, the below table captures the outcome of CPA exams conducted during the year 2020.

Exam Availability

As of 1st July 2020, the CPA exams have been switched to the Continuous Testing model to write the test throughout the year. On the other hand, the CMA exams will be taking place in the usual three testing windows, as mentioned below:

  • Jan 01 – Feb 28, 2021
  • May 01 – Jun 30, 2021
  • Sep 01 – Oct 31, 2021

Which Designation is Right for You?

Deciding on a designation is ultimately a private choice. Consider your personal interests. Do you like calculation, auditing and taxation or the more strategic and analytical aspects of managerial accounting? If the latter, choose the CMA designation.

Do you want to earn a competitive salary and have a globally recognized designation? How much does one want to take a position in your finance and accounting career; both mentally and financially? Answering all of those questions can help lead you to the designation right for you, contact us for more information.


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