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CFA vs CMA

Updated on April 22, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAshish Kumar Srivastav
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

CFA vs CMA Differences

The primary difference between CFA and CMA is the skills you obtain. CFA is conducted by the CFA Institute (USA) and focuses on enhancing investment management skills, including investment analysis, portfolio strategy, asset allocation, and corporate finance. Whereas CMA is conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants, enabling you to develop a level of expertise in both financial and management accounting and strategic management.

We will look at both the credentials and guide you on which one is better in the features each one of them has to offer.

Appearing for CFA Level 1 exam? – Do have a look at this excellent 70+ hours of CFA level 1 Prep Course.

CFA-vs-CMA

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CFA® vs CMA Infographics

CFA® vs CMA Infographics

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CFA vs CMA – Comparative Table

SectionCFACMA
Organizing BodyThe CFA Institute, USA organizes the exams.The exams are conducted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), USA.
PatternThe course is divided into 3 levels, namely Level I, Level II and Level III.The course is divided into 2 parts.
  • Part I – Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics
  • Part II – Strategic Financial Management
Duration of CourseA candidate can complete the course in 4 years if they can clear all the exams in the first attempt.A candidate needs to complete both parts within 36 months. However, the average time taken is 12-18 months.
SyllabusThe core curriculum includes
  • Ethical & Professional Standards
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Economics
  • Financial Reporting & Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Equity Investments
  • Fixed Income
  • Derivatives
  • Alternatives Investments
  • Portfolio Management & Wealth Planning
The course covers the following topics.
  • External Financial Reporting Decisions
  • Planning, Budgeting & Forecasting
  • Performance Management
  • Cost Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Technology & Analytics
  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Decision Analysis
  • Risk Management
  • Investment Decisions
  • Professional Ethics
Exam feesEach level’s cost falls in the range of $700 to $1,000, depending on the time of registration, plus a one-time registration fee of $450. Hence, the overall cost lies in the range of $2,550 to $3,450.The cost for professional members is $1,080, including a $250 entrance fee and $415 per part. The cost is $810, which includes a $188 entrance fee and $311 per part.
JobsSome of the common profiles include Some of the common profiles include
  • Cost Accountant
  • Consultant
  • Financial Risk Manager
DifficultyChallenging as only ~10% of the candidates clear all the levels.  During June 2019, the pass rates for Level I, Level II and Level III were 41%, 44% and 56%.Moderately difficult with a historical pass rate of 50%. During January-February 2020, 45% of the candidates cleared both Part I and Part II.
Exam dateUpcoming exam schedule for 2022
  • Level I: Feb 15-21, May 17-23, Aug 23-29, Nov
  • Level II: Feb 22-26, Aug 30 – Sep 03, Nov
  • Level III: May 24-26, Aug 30 – Sep 06
Upcoming exam schedule for 2022 (both Part I and Part II)
  • Jan 01 – Feb 28
  • May 01 – Jun 30
  • Sep 01 – Oct 31

What is the Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA®) charter?

The CFA® program focuses on investment management. The top employers or shareholders include the most respected financial corporations globally, for example, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, UBS, and Wells Fargo, to name a few. Of course, many of these are investment banks, but the CFA® program focuses on the knowledge and skills most relevant to the global investment management profession from a practitioner’s standpoint.

Investment professionals who hold the CFA® designation (or CFA® charter) meet rigorous educational, work experience, and ethical conduct requirements.

Only those who complete three graduate-level examinations, four years of work experience, and annual membership renewal (including ethics and code of professional conduct attestation) are permitted to use the CFA® designation. In addition, complementary codes and standards (such as the Global Investment Performance Standards and Asset Manager Code) help enhance this professional distinction.

What is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)?

  • The CMA credential will make you a certified management accountant and enable you to develop financial accounting and strategic management expertise.
  • The CMA program was introduced in 1972 and has its value-add by specializing in cost accounting, financial analysis, and strategic planning.
  • CMA is ideal for accounting and finance majors who wish to work in the corporate world.
  • This designation applies to those who are into cost and inventory accounting.

Why should you go for CFA® designation?

The top ten companies hiring CFA® include JPMorgan Chase, PwC, HSBC, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, UBS, Ernst & Young, RBC, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Wells Fargo.

As of August 31, 2019, CFA® Institute has over 178,000 members in more than 165 countries and territories, and around 95% of members are CFA® charter holders.

  • CFA® is required, particularly if you want to enter equity research, investment banking, or portfolio management roles.

The differentiating benefits of earning the CFA® designation include:

  • Real-world expertise
  • Career recognition
  • Ethical grounding
  • Global community
  • Employer demand

As of June 30, 2019, IMA has over 75,000 CMA members and around 40,000 active CMAs. Globally, CMAs earn 63% more in total compensation than their non-CMA peers.

For more information, refer to CFA® Programs.

Why should you go for CMA?

CMA has over 70,000 IMA members and around 20-30K active CMAs.

Globally, CMAs earn 59% more in median salary and 63% more in median total compensation than their non-CMA peers.

The global median salary is $60,000, and the global median total compensation is $66,000.

  • This credential is designed to help you improve your ability to make strategic business decisions depending upon the company’s financial situation.
  • The eligibility criteria are flexible, and hence the entry barrier is low.
  • The CMA exam is designed to be completed within a year as it has testing windows spread across six months in a year.
  • The scope is narrowed down to learn about management accounting, specifically.
  • Accounting is considered a necessity, and hence the demand for professional accountants is usually on the higher side.

Bottom line

Weighing both these credentials, CFA® has more extensive market penetration, is more famous, and is comparatively tricky. Consider deciding to look at the remarkable careers each of these credentials has to offer and which you would enjoy more. Whichever certificate you go for will be an excellent investment. You will have to sacrifice the most important things: the most crucial and the cost associated with the certification. Think about the pros and cons and choose wisely!

All the best! :-)