The CPA vs CMA confusion rages on. It is more confusing than the “pineapple on pizza” debate. Both certification exams can propel your accounting career forward. CMA focuses on financial strategizing, business analysis and risk management. Whereas the CPA certification focuses on taxes, audits, forensic accounting, compliance, and reporting. Both are in other words chalk and cheese.

No matter which career path you choose you’ll have a huge leg up over the competition if you have either of these two certifications. We’ve written this quick-read, spiffy article for you to help clear the air and make a smart choice.

CPA- Decoded

The primary function of a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is providing assurance services. CPAs attest to the reasonableness of disclosures, and compliance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in financial statements. Large corporates employ CPAs to review their internal controls, evaluate the software and systems used for accounting purposes and make smart financial decisions and forecasts.

A CPA certification charts the pathway to become a certified public accountant and opens up a plethora of opportunities for those with a head for numbers.

Scope: There is an unprecedented demand for personal financial planners. There are also several career progression opportunities in major MNCs and corporates. Government agencies and non-profit organizations employ CPAs as well to plan taxes and keep their finances in order.

There are several CPA specializations such as a CPA in IT, CPA in business valuation or a CPA in financial planning. From implementing latest financial technologies to assigning the monetary value of companies, there are various career opportunities and paths for CPAs.

CMA- The details

Do you know that a recent survey by IMA states that CMA certified professionals earn 1/3rd more than their peers who aren’t certified? The CMA professional certification is devised to measure the accounting and financial management skills to thrive in the high-pressure business space. It is considered to be one of the highest and most prestigious professional certification in the corporate accounting environment.

High-flying accounting careers may vary. From financial controller, CFO, cost manager, cost accountant to the CEO of an accounting organization. But there is one common denominator that’ll help you land in your dream job. To touch the finishing line without running too many laps. Yes, a CMA certification.

Scope: The hiring of accountants is projected to grow by 11% and having the prestigious CMA certification will catapult you straight into the big league. Advanced business platforms, a strong economy, the globalization of businesses have all contributed to the spike in demand for CMA certified experts. There is a lot of scope for CMA certified experts both in the domestic as well as international market.

CMA and CPA Comparison:




CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant approved by IMA. CPA stands for certified public accountant which is the international certification approved by AICPA.

Approved Body

IMA – Institute of Management Accountants (USA). American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) is the largest international body for professional accounting and finance in terms of membership and AICPA is based in USA.

Certification valid country

International International

Education Requirement

Relavant Bachelore or Master Degree. Relavant Bachelore or Master Degree

Experience Required

2 yrs relevant Experience needed for fully certified as CMA 1-3 yrs and it can be varied

Subjects Covered

Management Accounting Public Accounting, General Accounting

Credit Point

NO 150 credit hours needed

Exam Per Year

4 Testing Windows 4 Testing windows

No of papers/parts/levels

Part I: Financial Reporting,
Planning, Performance, and Control
Part II: Financial Decision Making
1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
2. Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
3. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
4. Regulation (REG)

Passing Rate

35 – 42 % 45 – 50 %


No Exemption No Exemption

Application Process

Online Online

Registration Fees


Work Experience CPA CMA
1-10 years $60,417 $59,812
11-20 years $85,052 $93,495
21-30 years $108,956 $118,553
Career High $119,591 $128,767

Take an informed decision…

Hopefully, this article stopped you from playing tic-tac-toe. Or, getting snowed under with the information given to you by your peers,  well-meaning relatives and of course the internet. Now, go ahead and make the right choice to take the first step towards a well-paying and illustrious career.