CPA Vs CMA: Which Is Better For Your Career

In today’s time, there are several finance and accounting students who want to go abroad to work as well paid accountants that are not limited to just any field. As the finance and accounting field widens its base, finding roots in every industry, every professional with accounting expertise also wants to explore the wide range of opportunities that this field has to offer. In that case, having cutting edge accounting skills, in-depth knowledge of international standards and strategic thinking is quite important. However, it is hard to acquire these skills if you plan to go for any regular accounting course. And as per your research, you must be considering US CPA or US CMA as your ideal course. 

If you’ve got both of these courses on your mind and are finding it difficult to decide, here’s a detailed guide on CPA vs CMA, which course should you choose and which one is better for your career. Find out all differences between these two accounting courses to understand which one might be the right one for you.

US CPA As A Profession And Its Responsibilities

Certified Public Accountant is a designation in accountancy, with extended flexibility in role and field of work. Interestingly, they also work in varied domains such as education, administration, business, government, and other accounting departments. This allows them an edge over their fellow accountants.  What sets them apart is their constant need to upgrade themselves on an annual basis to stay relevant and certified. Going by the definition, “A CPA is a trusted financial advisor who helps individuals, businesses, and other organisations plan and reach their financial goals.”

  • A CPA keeps a tab of financial transactions and works on auditing and taxation, provides consulting services, helps in financial planning, and works on litigation consulting.
  • Big companies usually appoint them for their knowledge in the field and expertise to handle their accounts and related activities.
  • Each year, in many countries/states, these professionals would have to gain at least forty hours of continuing professional education or CPE as prescribed by the state authorities to remain at their designation. 
  • Thus, it is deemed one of the highest positions that a person in the accounting field could earn. CPAs are licensed to file income tax returns for the companies.

US CMA As A Profession And Its Responsibilities

Certified Management Accountancy is hailed as the Gold Standard in the field of management accounting. This certification is awarded by the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) on successful completion of the 6 month US CMA course. CMA is an accounting professional who manages all financial, performance and asset-based aspects. They are equipped with advanced decision-making and problem-solving skills that are required to guide the company in a better way.

  • While CPAs usually work for public organisations, US CMAs on the other hand, work for private organisations
  • Certified Management Accountants work as in-house financial consultants who analyse financials and advise the management on the basis of it
  • Working towards accelerating the organisation’s success by utilising relevant technology and analysing past and present data
  • Tracking and maintaining report on your organisation’s success and other performance indicators
  • Functioning across different spheres of the organisation to improve overall operational efficiency

While US CPA and US CMA may both be accounting courses offered by the American Institutes, they are quite different from each other in several ways. Here are some of the most common differentiating factors.

Differentiating factors US CMA US CPA
Number of levels 2 4
Board IMA (Institute of Management Accountants) AICPA (American Institute of Certified Professional Accountants)
Exam fees $900 (may vary) $873 (may vary)
Exam months  January/February, May/June, and September/October January 1 – March 10, April 1 – Jun 10, July 1 – September 10, October 1 – December 10
Average pass rate in 1st try 35% 45%

US CPA vs US CMA: Careers and job opportunities

After successfully completing these courses, students can find different exciting job opportunities that offer growth and a good salary package. For Certified Public Accountants, several local and worldwide

firms may offer opportunities in attestation, tax, and consulting services. Some of the most common job profiles after completing US CPA are as follows:

  • Financial Controller
  • Public Accountant
  • Financial Manager
  • Internal Auditor

Your Certified Management Accountant course equips you to work in large organisations with complex working environments. You could be working in international banks, financial institutions or even trending businesses based on your preference. Some of the most common job profiles after completing US CMA are as follows:

  • Financial Risk Manager
  • Internal Auditor
  • Cost Accountant
  • CFO

Future Scope and Salary 

If there’s one thing common about US CMA and US CPA, it’s the fact that both these courses are trending in the accounting world and have a wide scope and several growth opportunities to offer. In terms of salary, factors such as job profile responsibilities, experience, company and industry play an important role. However, the average salary of Public Accountants and Managements accounts can be easily derived based on the data available on trusted portals.

US CMA Salary in the US

Source

For an in-depth understanding of salary differentiators and growth, also read CMA Salary in India & Canada: Highest to Average (2022) 

US CPA salary in the US

Source

For an in-depth understanding of salary differentiators and growth, also read Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Salary in India & US – Average to Highest.

Course Duration and Eligibility Requirements

When it comes to course duration and difficulty level US CPA definitely is a tough one to crack. While US CMA takes only 6 to 9 months for completion, US CPA on the other hand takes about 1.5 years to complete. Additionally, when you choose US CMA, you only have to appear for 2 exams but for US CPA, you’d be required to give 4 exams. However, you need to consider that after completing the US CPA course you’ll be eligible to practice Chartered Accountancy in the US. This prestigious title also comes with added job opportunities and benefits.

In terms of eligibility here’s what you’ll need for each of these courses –

CMA Eligibility: For the foundation level, the applicant must have completed their secondary education from a recognized board and also need to have any one of the following education qualifications:

  • Passing marksheet of class 12th
  • National Diploma in Commerce
  • Diploma in Rural Service Examination from a recognized board 

For the intermediate level, you must have completed/cleared one of the following:

  • 10th and 12th from a recognized board
  • Institute of Cost Accountants of India’s Foundation Course 
  • Graduation in any discipline other than Fine Arts
  • Institute’s Foundation Part I of the CAT (Certificate in Accounting Technicians) Examination
  • Institute’s Foundation level Part I Examination and Competency Level Part II Examination

CPA Eligibility: If you are appearing for the CPA exam, you must have already completed 120 credits. However, you will need 150 credit hours to become certified and get your full US CPA licence which leaves a 30 credit gap that you need to fill. 

  • You have the option of getting two bachelor’s degrees or one bachelor’s degree and one master’s degree to fill the gap. 
  • If you already have a graduation degree and don’t feel the need to pursue another one, you can join as a non-degree pursuing student at a community college or university and get the 30 credits done. 
  • If you are a Chartered Accountant, you can get some credits from the state boards to appear for the CPA exam. 
  • You can also appear for the CPA exam if you are an international CPA candidate from India and a first division graduate in any three-year commerce degree from a NAAC-A-rated university. 
  • Another crucial requirement for international students is hands-on experience in accounting or finance. 

US CPA  vs US CMA course fees

The total fees of US CPA, from application to examination come up to INR 2,13,525. And the total fees for US CMA come up to around INR 92000. 

Closing thoughts

While both CPA and CMA are prestigious accounting courses that ensure great opportunities and future scope, it’s difficult to tell which one might be better than the other. While CMA could equip you with accounting concepts like planning, budgeting, and forecasting, with CPA, you would learn all about corporate governance and taxation. Depending on your learning preferences, you can choose which course is the best for you. If you’re looking for a prestigious career with good pay, US CPA might be worth considering. But if you’re looking for an exciting career with plenty of interesting challenges US CMA is the way to go.

How is the CMA exam graded?

CMA exams are scored on a scale of 0-500 with a candidate’s raw score converted to a uniform scaled score against all exam candidates. On this scale, a score of 360 represents the minimum passing scaled score. The exact marks allotted to each MCQ and essay question are not revealed. The results are declared within 40 days or 6 weeks from the exam.

Can science/engineering students pursue CMA?

Yes, any candidate who has cleared their 12th grade is eligible for the CMA exam.

How is the CPA exam structured?

CPA is split into 4 exams that hold equal weightage. A candidate can appear for these exams in the order of their preference.

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