CMA vs CPA: Which Qualification is Better?

You are making an important decision.

Should I go for CPA or CMA? Can (or should) I get both?

Why CPA Could be Better

1. More Established and More Recognized

The CPA qualification is, without a doubt, the most established qualification within the accountant industry, because of which, the CPA title is more recognized in the US and other parts of the world.

2. Higher Entry Barrier

The AICPA and NASBA have pushed for a uniform CPA prerequisite in all states/jurisdictions. The so-called “3E” requirements ask candidates for 150 credit hours with a concentration in accounting, coupled with 1-2 years of experience, which is verified by an active CPA licensee. The high entry barrier makes becoming a CPA a matter of prestige. 

3. Suitable for All Types of Accounting Jobs

CPA is not only globally recognized, but you also get the perks irrespective of whether you work in public or non-public accounting. Compared to that, CMA is only useful for those to work and stay in the corporate world.

Why Others May Prefer CMA

1. Practical in the long run

Most accountants (both public and otherwise) end up working in the corporate sector, suggesting that the management accountant skill is way more practical in the long run for professionals in the accounting industry. Many candidates, who took up both CPA and CMA, find the materials covered in CMA more exciting and useful in their daily business life, while CPA materials are too theoretical.

2. It’s Cheaper and Less Time Consuming

Both of these exams cost a fortune, but the CMA certification cost considerably less. Also, with only two parts (vs. 4 parts in the CPA), it takes even less time to study and pass.

3. You Can Take the Exam Before Graduation

If you want to get there faster, CMA allows you to take the exam even before you graduate. However, you will have to complete your bachelor’s degree along with two years of experience to get the certification ultimately.

4. Better Administration Body and “After-Service”

The CPA license is granted to candidates by each of the states or jurisdictions instead of by a national body, creating a lot of confusion and challenges in the qualification and application process.

CMA, as opposed to CPA, is administrated by one organization, the Institute of Management Accountants. The IMA is well-run with quick email responses and provides candidates with clear instructions on how to prepare, study, and eventually pass the CMA exam.

After you get the CMA certification, IMA will provide you everything ranging from free webinars (for CPE and self-learning) to a forum where members can exchange ideas and build networks. In comparison, CPAs have Society of CPAs in each state, but the support is a lot less impressive.

Is It Difficult To Decide?

You could take both the exams and here are the reasons why:

1. There are Considerable Overlaps

While both the exams test for differing skills, the core of their curriculum is accounting. You can expect, roughly speaking, a 30-40% overlap. If you have taken the CPA exam, you will know that the CMA exam Part 1 could be considered as a harder and a more comprehensive version of BEC and that Part 2 has similarities with Level 1 of CFA).

 2CPE Hours are required for Both

Both CMA and CPA require specific hours of continuing professional education. Many CPE courses are suitable for both.

3. A Dual Qualification Makes You Stand Out

A lot of people would agree that the CPA is a more prestigious title, but the CMA is a lot more practical. If that’s the case, you must have a dual qualification, because if you do, you have the best of both worlds.


Hope the above article is helpful to you. If you have any queries, feel free to comment in the section below. Happy Learning!

Simandhar Education:

Simandhar Education is the official partner of Becker and AICPA - Largest Training provider for US CPA, US CMA , IFRS and EA courses in India with offices in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Gurgaon, Kerala, Cochin (Kochi), Trivandrum, Kottayam, Kozhikode, Malappuram, Chennai, and Mumbai.

Learn how to use CPA, from First basics to advanced techniques, with online video tutorials taught by industry Experts. Simandhar Education is the best leading training provider for CPA in India. Contact [email protected] 919390785925.


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