The Online Masters Colleges (OMC) Staff consists of professional writers, editors, and researchers with an in-depth knowledge of higher education institutions and college degree programs. Many of them have advanced degrees.
onlinemasterscolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Certification is a major concern for many accounting students. It is not uncommon for them to wonder – Should I get a CPA or CMA certification? Is it really necessary to be certified? If so, which one is better – CPA or CMA? What are the advantages of CMA over a CPA license? What is the difference between a CPA and a CMA? The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification and the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification are two of the most common accounting certifications in the world. Therefore, a certification option could have a significant impact on one’s future, so it is essential to think about all the specifics of each of them before selecting one. This page analyses the CPA and CMA, their similarities, differences, and uses, and addresses the dilemma of CPA vs. CMA.
www.onlinemasterscolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
We’re proud to provide affordable, accessible education that students can pursue on our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH, over our innovative online platform or at our regional centers in Manchester, Nashua, Portsmouth and Salem, NH, and Brunswick, ME.
SNHU has earned the GetEducated.com Best Buy and Best of Business – Best Online Degree awards and is consistently ranked as a top Military Friendly® School by G.I Jobs®.
What’s a CPA or Certified Public Accountant?
What is CPA or Certified Public Accountant? A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a designation given to an accountant who has met the requirements set by their state board of accountancy. To become a CPA, one must pass the Uniform Certified Public Accountant Examination (CPA Exam), administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).
What’s a CMA or Certified Management Accountant?
What is a CMA or Certified Management Accountant? A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a designation given to an accountant who has met the requirements set by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). To become a CMA, one must pass the Certified Management Accountant Examination (CMA Exam), administered by the IMA.
Another key difference is that CPAs are required to complete Continuing Education Credits (CECs) to maintain their license. CMAs are required to complete Continuing Education Units (CEUs) to maintain their certification.
Finally, CPAs are often hired by accounting firms, while CMAs are often employed by corporations. CPAs typically work with clients on a variety of financial issues, while CMAs typically work with managers on strategic planning and decision-making.
The CPA Syllabus primarily consists of the following topics:
Economic Concepts and Analysis
Entity Federal Taxation
Individual Federal Taxation
Financial Statement Accounts
Ethics & General Principles
The CMA Syllabus primarily consists of the following topics:
Financial Statement Analysis
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
CPA vs CMA – Exam Pattern
CPA Exam Pattern
The CPA exam is divided into four parts, each of which might take up to four hours to complete. Currently, the parts are:
Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
Business Environment and Concepts (BEC)
Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
Each of the four tests is divided into five components: two multiple-choice with 60 to 72 questions (varies by exam) and three with 8 accounting simulations.
Since July 1, 2020, the CPA Exam has been administered in a Continuous Testing model, allowing CPA candidates to test year-round with limited constraints, such as major exam modifications. More information on Continuous Testing is available on theNational Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA)website.
CMA Exam Pattern
The CMA exam is divided into two parts, each of which covers 12 skills. These are:
Part 1 – Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics:
The cost of taking the CPA exam varies by state. Almost every state charges over $1,500 to apply, register, and take all four examinations. Here is a quick run-down:
Exam fees vary by state but typically range between $50 and $200 and are payable separately for each of the four sections; the current cost per section is roughly $193. There are also registration costs, which can be paid as the applicant registers for each portion, but the registrations are only valid for six months. This means that if an applicant registers for all four sections at once, they must complete all four tests within six months. Therefore, it is suggested that individuals only register for one exam section at a time. A single section costs approximately $65. After passing the CPA exam, most states require that candidates take an ethics exam. The ethics exam costs between $150 and $200 and comes with a study guide. Additional licensing fees and costs vary by state.
As for the CMA, the cost of an annual IMA membership, which is a requirement, varies based on whether the candidate is a student, academic, young professional, or senior professional. The fee for entering the CMA program is $250, although students and academic members receive a significant discount.
CMA exam expenses are $460 per part, although students and academic members pay only $345 per part.
Understanding the CPA criteria by state is essential for the CPA Exam. Each of the 55 jurisdictions that issue CPA licenses (the 50 states plus Washington, DC, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and the Mariana Islands) has its own set of requirements that applicants must meet in order to be licensed. However, in general, the CPA requires applicants to:
Be a U.S. citizen
Have a valid Social Security Number
Be at least 18 years old
Have 120 college credit hours or a bachelor’s degree
Note: Since these criteria widely vary by state, students are advised to check the requirements page on the official AICPA website.
To qualify for the CMA exam, applicants must meet the following requirements:
Hold an active IMA membership
Complete and pass Parts 1 and 2 of the CMA Exam
Hold an undergraduate degree from an accredited college/university or have a related professional certification
Abide by IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice.
Have 2 continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management.
More information on CMA requirements is available in the Experience Qualification section of the CMA Handbook.
CPA vs CMA – Duration
While the duration of the CPA program is typically 18 months, the CMA requires as much as 36 months or 3 years to complete. As for their exams, the CPA’s 4-part exam totals 16 hours of testing, while the CMA’s 2-part exam totals 8 hours of testing.
CPA vs CMA – Careers
Both CPAs and CMAs have a wide range of job options. For example, licensed CPAs may operate in business and industry, specialty firms, such as litigation assistance, or worldwide, national, regional, or local CPA firms that provide attest, tax, or consulting services.
A CPA’s typical work prospects include:
The CMA certification focuses on operations and finances, and it qualifies professionals to work in large firms with complicated operations. CMAs are frequently hired by large multinational companies both in the United States and abroad.
To enroll in CPA, applicants can check theGeneral Guide on the official website of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), which lists all the steps for enrollment. As for CMA, applicants can check the Exam Registration page on the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) official website.
Which is harder – CPA or CMA?
Both the CPA and CMA are tough to go through and pass. This is evident with the AICPA reporting a passing rate of about 50% for CPA and the IMA reporting about 45% for CMA. Conclusively, these exams require ample preparation, dedication, and time.
How to get a CPA?
To successfully earn a CPA license, an individual is required to: Earn a 4-year bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 150 credit hours and a minimum number of accounting and business credit hours. Pass the Uniform CPA Examination in all four parts. Complete 1 to 2 years of relevant accounting experience that can be validated. Depending on the state the individual is obtaining certification in, they may additionally be required to pass an ethics exam. A CPA must also complete 40 hours of Continuing Education each year after licensure.
How to get a CMA?
To successfully earn a CMA license, an individual is required to: Have a bachelor’s degree or relevant professional certification from an accredited college or university. Complete and pass both Parts 1 and 2 of the CMA test. Have at least 2 years of professional managerial accounting or financial management experience. Abide by the IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice. To keep their certification, CMAs must complete 30 hours of Continuing Education each year.
CPA or CMA, which is better?
Both CPAs and CMAs are highly respected professionals who play an important role in the financial world. While they have different focus areas, they both possess the skills and knowledge necessary to provide valuable services to their clients.
Can I do CPA and CMA?
Yes, it is possible to have dual certification of CPA and CMA. However, to do so, one must be prepared to put in months (if not years) of time, dedication, and study to pass both. That said, the benefits of a dual certification are many – a much higher salary, and a sure part to upper management, among others.
The rankings, average tuition (based on the degree type for in-state students), and average graduation rates are based on information from several sources, including Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and may vary. All rankings and figures mentioned are subject to change. Based on our proprietary methodology, the rankings are purely Online Masters Colleges's (OMC's) opinions. They do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor any official government census or survey. Additionally, any views or opinions expressed on this page are those of OMC's researchers and teams. Unless specifically indicated, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the people, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page's provided content is solely for informational purposes, with information drawn from several sources, including IPEDS. OMC or its employees make no guarantees of the accuracy or completeness of any information on this page or found by following any link. OMC will not be held liable for any mistakes or omissions in this material, nor will it be held liable for any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the material on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, reader discretion is always advised because part or all the provided information may have changed over time, potentially leading to inaccuracies. Please read our Terms of Service for more information. Logos and trademarks are properties of their registered owners
More Ways to Learn in Your Inbox
You can get ahead of the curve with education and career updates. Our newsletter explores the latest articles, top-ranked online master’s degree programs, scholarships, and career salaries and outlooks.
Note: By entering your email address and clicking “Sign Me Up,” you agree to be contacted by OnlineMastersColleges.com for educational products or services. You can unsubscribe anytime.