CMA USA or CIA: Which One is Best to Choose in 2022

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CMA USA or CIA: Which One is Best to Choose in 2022


A business organization is dominated by various disciplines like Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, Operations, etc. 

Each of these specific fields is more diverse within itself. When someone says that they are interested in finance, that is a vague statement because finance is a vast field of study with various functions. Under finance, you will find an analyst, a manager, an auditor, a tax accountant, a risk manager, an investment officer, and many more. Each of these roles might sound familiar but are very different in their job and the purpose they fill. 

CMA USA and CIA are two courses that belong to the field of finance and Management Accounting but are very different from each other. This article will help you differentiate both of them and help you understand the courses better. 

What is CMA USA?

Certified Management Accountant, CMA (USA), is a professional certification course offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, USA. The course provides a deeper understanding and knowledge to the candidates in Financial planning, Financial control, Strategic management, analytics, technology, etcetera. They prepare the candidates to apply strategic thinking combined with real-world experience. You can gain a competitive edge against your fellow competitors and stand out among a pool of employees. 

What is the CIA?

Certified Internal Auditor, CIA, awarded by the Institute of Internal Auditors, is the only globally recognized internal audit certification. An internal auditor is responsible for analyzing, examining, and evaluating the company’s financial statements and operations. 

An internal auditor is someone from within the company who performs Internal Audits to better manage the company’s finances and make the right decisions, and avoid any financial fraud. The internal auditor reports are also required for various stakeholders like investors, creditors, banks, governments, employees, etc. Having a CIA certification will provide you with the credibility and knowledge needed to flourish in the corporate world. 

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CMA vs CIA- the exam 

To become a CMA, you must pass a two-level exam- Part I and Part II. The parts are Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance and Control, and Financial Decision Making. 

The CIA exam has three parts. Part one of the CIA exam has questions based on audit activity, objectivity, and governance concepts. Candidates are also tested on how to identify risks and manage them. Part two includes everything from audit engagements and fraud to document and report audits. Part three of the CIA exam covers business analysis and information technology. 

There are various subjects under each of the parts for both the courses, which have varying weightage on the whole exam, i.e., each subject has a set number of questions to be asked in the entire paper.

CMA vs CIA- syllabus 

CMA has the following subjects in its syllabus:- 

Part 1 Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics– Technology and Analysis, Internal Controls, Cost Management, Performance Management, Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting, and External Financial Reporting Decisions. 

Part 2 Strategic Financial Management– Financial Statement Analysis, Corporate Finance, Decision Analysis, Risk Management, Investment Decisions, and Professional Ethics. 

CIA consists of the following subjects under each of its parts:-

Part 1 Essentials of Internal Auditing: Foundations of Internal Auditing, Independence and Objectivity, Proficiency and Due Professional Care, Quality Assurance and Improvement Program, Governance, Risk Management, and Control and Fraud Risks.

Part 2 Practice of Internal Auditing:  Managing the Internal Audit Activity, Planning the Engagement, Performing the Engagement, and Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress.

Part 3 Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing: Business Acumen, Informational Security, Information Technology, and Financial Management.

CMA vs CIA- The exam format

The CMA, as mentioned, consists of two parts. The exam for each part is for 4 hours each, with three hours given to attempt a 100 marks MCQs test and one hour for two essay-type questions. 

Part one of the CIA exams has 125 MCQs and a time limit of 2.5 hours to attempt them. Part two has 100 MCQs and a period of 1 hour to complete the exam. Part three has 100 MCQs to be completed within 1 hour. 

CMA vs CIA- Exam Timetable 

The CMA exam can be taken in January-February, May-June, and September-October. CMA exam results are posted after approximately six weeks from the exam month. 

The CIA has not restricted its candidates to sit for the exam in a select window. The candidate can book their time slot with the examination center as they seem fit. There are no universal exam dates or a calendar to follow. The exam results are posted 24-48 hours after taking the test.

In both CMA USA and CIA, you can attempt Part II before clearing Part I. A candidate who has tried Part 1 of the exam can attempt Part II without passing part I. 

For example, if one has attempted part 1 of the CIA exam and has failed. They have to wait for 60 days to attempt the exam they failed, but in those 60 days, if the candidate wishes to attempt part 2 of the exam, they can do so. 

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CMA vs CIA- Retake eligibility 

A CMA exam can be taken three times a year, i.e., all the windows available. There is no restriction on waiting for a certain period before another attempt. But both the parts need to be completed within 36 months. 

If you fail any of the parts of the CIA, you have to wait for two months (60 days) before making another attempt. All the exams need to be passed within three years of enrolling in the program. 

CMA vs CIA- Eligibility 

To be a Certified Management Accountant, candidates need to have a bachelor’s degree and be a member of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). They also need two years of work experience in Accounting or Financial Management.

The candidate needs to have a bachelor’s degree to appear for a CIA exam. Once the degree is completed, the candidate needs to gain two years of experience in Internal Auditing. If a candidate wishes to pursue a master’s degree, the work experience will be reduced to a year. For example, someone who does not have a bachelor’s degree can sit for the exam, provided they have seven years or more worth of experience in internal auditing or its equivalent. 

CMA vs CIA- pass rates 

CMA USA has a pass rate of 45% for the Part I exam and 50% for the Part II exam worldwide. At the same time, the CIA has had a pass rate of 42% globally. 

To pass a CMA USA exam, one should study for a minimum of 150 hours for each part. 

For CIA Part I, Part II, and Part III, it is recommended to study for a minimum of 30 hours, 40 hours, and 50 hours for each part, respectively. 


Both CMA USA and CIA are finance-based courses and the final decision needs to be based on your interest as well as what you relate to the most. However, things that you need to consider is that with a CMA USA there is a higher chance to get better salaries and higher designations. If you want to build your career in finance, then you can enroll in NorthStar Academy and fulfill all your dreams. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is the US CMA hard for Indian students?

US CMA is not hard for Indian students. One needs to score a minimum of 360 marks to pass the exams. The average pass rate for a candidate is also high at 45%. You can definitely pass the exam with flying colors. 

2. Which is the best place to pursue CMA in India?

CMA exam is an important opportunity to build your career. If you want to pass in one go and with flying colors, then you can register for live or online classes with NorthStar Academy to ensure a smooth journey. 

3. What is the scope of CMA after engineering?

CMA equips you with cost structuring and financial skills while engineering equips you with understanding core problems and finding solutions. Such people will always be in high demand for such a challenging and dynamic role.

4. Should an engineer do CMA?

The answer is why not? If you are interested in finance and accounts, then it is never too late to jump into CMA. The skills learned in engineering like breaking down a problem, finding the right solution, analyzing, etc can be extremely helpful while pursuing a CMA USA. 

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