CPA vs. CMA: Is CPA or CMA a Better Accounting Certification?


It is quite normal for accounting and finance professionals to be facing tricky situations that require immediate decision making. One of the most crucial decisions that they are required to make is whether to go for Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification.

Both the fields have their own benefits and when it comes down to opting for one of the two choices, it is certainly not concerned with the fact that which one is the better option. It is all associated with the choice that is better for you. Let’s compare the two options to assist you in analyzing the options at your disposal.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

Do you take a fancy to compliance and regulation? Are you interested in working with taxes, financial reports, audits and customer relations in your accounting and finance jobs? Also, do you think that your customer base mainly consists of individuals as well as enterprises? If you tick all these boxes, then CPA is the ideal choice for you. CPA profession is represented by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and is responsible for formulating the test that has to be passed by the applicants to get the CPA license.

  • Requirements:

    A bachelor’s degree with certifications in accounting and business-related college courses. A couple of years of experience in the guardianship of a licensed CPA. These CPA requirements can be different for different states so you need to ascertain from your State Board of Accountancy and ensure that the school you are about to enroll is accredited by the appropriate authority.

  • CPA Exam passing rate:

    About 50%, and you can read more details about CPA Exam pass rates on the website I Pass the CPA Exam. You’ll definitely need to utilize a CPA Review course, like Becker, Surgent, or Wiley. And you can also find CPA review discounts for each of these courses, as well as other popular options.

  • Maintenance:

    You have to ensure that you complete the different stages of continuous professional development. CPA CPE typically constitutes 40 hours on an annual basis to retain one’s license but again it varies from one state to another. The courses can be taken online as well as on-site.

  • Cost:

    The CPA Exam cost of about $1,700 includes test, application and license fee, along with an ethics exam which is mandatory in certain states. However, all costs, including CPA review courses, will total upwards of $3,000 or more.

  • Benefits:

    With regard to public and corporate accounting positions, CPA is considered as a certification of note.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

If you are more inclined towards corporate finance and accounting, a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification is the way to go. The CPA certification is the domain of the state, while the CMA certification is a position recognized throughout the world. This is quite important for professionals who have looking to excel in evaluating an organizations’ financial state and make crucial business decisions.

  • Requirements:

    Membership of the Institute of Management Accountants, a bachelor’s degree, and a couple of years of continuous experience in management accounting and financial management are the CMA requirements. It is obligatory to fulfill these requirements either seven years before or after passing the CMA examination.

  • CMA exam passing rate:

    The CMA pass rate tends to vary from one region to another but the average pass percentage is around 40% on part I and 50% on part II.

  • Maintenance:

    30 hours of certified professional education in a year is mandatory. Two of these hours have to be in ethics. Both online and on-site options are offered to fulfill your CMA CPE. However, we do recommend Becker CPE when it comes time to fulfill your yearly hours.

  • Cost:

    In addition to the cost of IMA membership, the standard fee for the entrance and examination is about $1,330. Total CMA exam fees are higher though because you must purchase a CMA review course to pass the CMA exam.

  • Benefits:

    The largest CMA benefit is that the certification demonstrates that you have an acumen for business and figures. Learn more on I Pass the CMA Exam.

Comparison of CMA and CPA

Employers are interested in knowing that you have spent time, money, and effort in acquiring the CPA and CMA certifications. It shows your commitment to making it big as an accounting and finance professional. This can prove to be a significant difference between two qualified candidates for a job.

Impressive remuneration is accompanied by both the certifications. Professionals who have an industry-recognized experience can get salaries significantly higher than the standards prevalent in the market.

There are numerous certifications that are recognized at the global stage including the chartered global management accountant (CGMA) from the AICPA, certified internal auditor (CIA) from the Institute of Internal Auditors, and chartered financial analyst from the CFAI.

Whether you go for CPA or CMA certification or for both, they will be a formidable investment in your career. Plus, if you choose from the best accounting certifications, you’ll be best suited for success, even if you don’t choose CMA or CPA.

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