Top 7 Differences CPA Vs CMA:Salaries,Requirements,Career Paths

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Top 7 Differences CPA Vs CMA:Salaries,Requirements,Career Paths

Which Exam is Easier to Pass: CPA or CMA?

If you’re a commerce student and want to build a career in accounting, this one question always comes to your mind, i.e., “Which certification is better for me; CPA Vs CMA?” Well, if you are struggling with the same question, we are here to guide you through the right path and lead you toward success.     

This is a crucial question for your career, so you must invest time into thinking about it. In this article, we will learn about the merits and demerits, which is easy, the salaries for both these courses, and which one (CPA Vs CMA) would be the one life-changing course for you. 

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Introduction to CMA vs CPA

CPA is the Certified Public Accountant. It is also the black belt for Public Accounting systems. At the same time, CMA, on the other hand, is the Certified Management Accountant. It generally covers the financial and professional accounting of the corporate world. 

Now, let us discuss both of these terms in detail. 

What is CPA?

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification accredited by AICPA includes the core financial accounting, taxation, auditing, economics, strategic planning, ethics, business laws, cost accounting, statistics, and the fundamental difference between the US international accounting systems. 

What is CMA?

Certified Management Accountant (CMA USA) accredited by IMA, includes CFOs and finance managers, and controllers. Its core functions also revolve around strategic and operational aspects of building an organization, a government agency, or NPOs (non-profit organizations). CMA is a reputed preference for many individuals who are in the field of accounts & management. 

Which Exam is Harder: CMA vs CPA? 

This question can never be answered as it will remain subjective. Some people would say that CPA is doable and easier, and others will say CMA is the one they would like to crack. All we can do is make it an easier choice for you. CMA vs CPA needs some discussion. 

The thing about CPA is that you are supposed to sit for a 16-hour examination (that is – the four sections of the exam). You will be given 18 months in order to crack all four parts of this examination. This time period begins on the very day when you give your first part of the exam and pass. 

The four sections that come under CPA are:

  • Auditing & Attestation (AUD)
  • Business Environment & Concepts (BEC)
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
  • Regulation (REG)

On the other hand, CMA will give you three years to pass two sections of the exam. This time period usually begins on the entry into the CMA program day itself. It consists of two main parts, with four hours for each part. Another fact is that the passing rate of CMA is lower than CPA. 45% candidates are able to pass the two sections, whereas, collectively they make around 50% passing rate.

The two Exam Parts that come under CMA are:

  • Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
  • Strategic Financial Management

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Career Paths after Acquiring the CMA & CPA Certifications

When it comes to job opportunities for CMA vs CPA, both have various options and different paths. Let us discuss their career paths in detail. 

A licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) can work in any entity, business, or a specific firm, such as:

  • Litigation support
  • Local or regional local firms 
  • National or international firms 
  • Providing tax, attic, or consulting services 

The job or career opportunities of a Certified Public Accountant are given below: 

  • Controller 
  • Public Accountant
  • Internal and External Auditor 
  • Financial Manager and Advisory Roles

On the other hand, CMA also holds a vast number of job opportunities. A Certified Management Accountant takes care of the financial and operational parts of the organization. The companies that tend to hire (both in the US and other countries) CMAs are given below:

  • Alcoa 
  • 3M
  • AT&T
  • Bank of America 
  • Boeing 
  • Cargill 

The job opportunities that come under the radar of a Certified Management Accountant are:

  • Financial Analyst
  • Cost Accountant
  • Financial Risk Manager
  • Various C-suite executive posts 
  • CFO

Difference Between the Salaries of a CPA Vs CMA

If we talk in numbers, the average salary of an experienced Certified Public Accountant is around $66,000 whereas the average salary of a Certified Management Accountant is around $60,000 (as for late-career holders). However, there are other factors too that matter over salary. 

Let us discuss the salary of a Certified Public Accountant first. Normally, a CPA earns 15% more salary than that of non-CPA’s.

The factors that affect the salary of a Certified Public Accountant are as follows:

  • Size of the firm
  • Public or private accounting 
  • Your initial work experience 

A Certified Management Accountant has 63% of compensation under his profits. Initially, he/she might earn a little less than a Certified Public Accountant. 

The factors that affect the salary of a CMA are given below: 

  • The age of CMA 
  • Initial work experience
  • Education level 
  • And the industry he/she works in

However, this should not be affecting your decision of pursuing CMA  because it is a known fact that a late-career of a Certified Management Accountant is far better than a Certified Public Accountant as he/she earns more. Not only salary but consider other factors of life as well, such as job satisfaction, a work-life balance, and a comfortable and rich lifestyle. 

CMA vs CPA has been described above. All the main points are also mentioned in the same. Read and make your choice accordingly. 

What are the Requirements for Becoming a CPA Vs CMA ? 

Though, there is not much of a difference when it comes to eligibility criteria for CMA vs CPA. But, we will still learn about it in order to avoid further confusion. These certifications have their own specific requirements, and both of them are described below, separately. 

CPA Requirements 

There are three basic requirements to become a Certified Public Accountant and they are described below. 

Education 

  • Must be a 4-year bachelor’s and must have a degree of the same. 
  • Must have a minimum number of accounting and business credits.  
  • A total of 150 or more credit hours.

Exam 

Experience 

  • Must have 1-2 years of accounting experience from a known organization. 

Other requirements 

  • You might also be asked to give an ethics exam (which solely depends on the state that you are being certified)
  • When you receive the CPA license or certification, you are supposed to complete a total of 40 hours of Continuing Education (every year). 

CMA USA Requirements 

There are four basic requirements under a CPA program and they are discussed below. 

Education 

  • Must have a Bachelor’s degree from a recognized university/college or from any related professional certification. 

Exam 

Experience 

  • Must have a 2-year (continuous) experience in any professional Management Accounting or Financial Management organization. 

Ethics 

  • Must know and follow the IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice. 

Other Requirements

  • CMA USA also wants you to have 30 hours of Continuing Education (every year) in order to maintain the certification. 

What are the Estimates of CPA vs CMA Salary in India?

Salaries for CPAs and CMAs are quite similar, with the CPAs slightly more; however, wage categorisations are likely to be more evenly matched with time. Much will depend on your practice location, job title, and years of experience, as with any professional salary comparison. According to industry statistics, a CPA earns 15% more than a non-CPA accountant on average.

CPA vs CMA in India

In India, Both CMA and CPA are highly regarded certifications with distinct professional prospects. On the basis of many characteristics such as eligibility requirements, time and effort involved, cost of certification, wage difference, and so on, one can simply distinguish between the two and select which one best suits their needs. CMA is a wonderful choice if you are involved in Management Accounting, Strategic Planning, Financial Planning, reporting, analysis, and decision-making.

CPA, on the other hand, is better if you consider auditing, tax, reporting, and regulation. While CPA certification covers a wide range of skills such as Financial Accounting, Auditing, Taxation, Business law, Ethics, and Economics, CMA certification focuses primarily on financial and accounting expertise required in the corporate world, such as the skills needed by Finance managers, Controllers, and CFOs.

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CPA vs CMA: 

CMA is more practical than CPA and includes abilities that are more useful and essential in the corporate world. CMA USA is far less expensive and time-consuming than CPA, and the examinations could be undertaken even before graduation. In fact, after obtaining CMA, you might want to pursue CPA as well, because the fundamental curriculum of both courses is accounting-related, and having both can help you stand out. A dual certification can be obtained by pursuing both certifications one at a time.

What are the Aspects of CPA vs CMA Difficulty?

To get your CPA, you’ll have to sit for 16 hours of exams spread out throughout the four sections. The CMA exam, on the other hand, is divided into two parts and takes eight hours to complete.

Despite this, the CMA exam has a somewhat lower pass rate, with about 45 percent passing both portions together, compared to half (50 percent) or better passing each part of the CPA exam.

Candidates for the CMA have three years to complete both portions of the test. The time period will start on the day you started the CMA program. You have 1.5 years to complete all the parts of the CPA exam if you want to become a CPA. The time for the exam commences as soon as you sit for the first part.

CPA or CMA, Which is better in India? 

Because CPAs and CMAs have different primary areas of competence, determining what form of accounting you want to undertake is crucial.

CPAs conduct and sign audits as well as tax work, including representing businesses during IRS audits. Cost accounting, management reporting, financial planning, and analysis are among the specialties of CMAs.

In manufacturing and specific jobs, such as plant control and management accounting, CMAs have an advantage. However, at the corporate level and in financial-reporting jobs, the case is the opposite.

“A CPA is a route to go if you want exposure to a variety of sectors and public auditing skills,”. “The CPA is good if you want to work in the very same work each day and make an impact at one company, but the CMA is incredibly relevant.”

Frequently Asked Questions  

1. Can we do both CPA vs CMA? What About A Dual Certification?

A lot of students ask this question and, in fact, are able to choose the right path of dual certification. For CPAs, it is quite beneficial to pursue both the certifications one at a time. You can always do one certification, and after acquiring one can pursue the other one 

The reasons you should definitely go for a Dual Certification are:
You will be a unique and valuable asset, standing out from your colleagues. 
You will be able to pave a path to management. 
A higher salary opportunity. 
You will be able to serve your clients better. 
You will have vast knowledge because of the overlapping courses. 
So, we would suggest – totally go for it! 

2. Who earns more: CPA vs CMA ?

CMA has some major expertise more than the basic financial accounting hence earning slightly more than its counterparts. Though, this is not supposed to be an issue because even if the salary credits are higher, CPA is more reputed and better when it comes to late-career perks. 

3. Is CMA harder than CPA?

CPA is considered to be harder than CMA. Again, all this is based on personal opinion as well. Overall, the difficulty of the CPA exam is determined by the study resources you use, your experience, and your educational background. If you are confident enough for any one of them, then that course is for you! You wouldn’t have to think about the difficulty level then.

4. Is CMA as good as CPA?

CMA vs CPA both could prove to be career-driven accreditation and one is as good as the other one. So, the question of “who’s better” should not even arise. Both CMA and CPA are highly regarded and in-demand career paths in the industry.

5. What is the CMA salary in India?

CMA salary in India ranges from ₹ 3.6 Lakhs to ₹ 40.2 Lakhs with an average annual salary of ₹ 7.0 Lakhs. Though, CMA in the USA and abroad provides a better outlook

6. Is CMA in demand in India?

Yes, the CMA is an excellent career in India. As you can see from the information above, there are a variety of work prospects. You can also observe the numerous other advantages, such as raises in compensation, work security, and personal recognition. These are just a few of the reasons why people choose to pursue their CMA in India.

7. What is the salary of CMA in Dubai?

For the current year, the average base wage in the UAE is $36,000. The CMA USA (Certified Management Accountant) seems to have a higher value in Dubai and other countries as well. 

Conclusion 

We hope this information helps you in one or the other way. Now that you know about the examination and their exam difficulty level, you can easily choose and pick between the two courses, or even go for both of them! 

CMA USA is definitely regarded as one of the best certifications for which you should take a reliable and comprehensive CMA course and clear it with ease. On the other hand, CPA certification is also no less that can also be acquired with a CPA certification course from top institutes like NorthStar Academy. 


CMA vs CPA is something The comparison between the two is supposed to make your decision easier. If you still have any doubts, contact us or comment below. We hope that you choose wisely.

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