Updated on May 19, 2024
Article byWallstreetmojo Team
Edited byAaron Crowe
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Difference Between CPA and CMA

The full form of CPA is Certified Public Accountants and is pursued by students who are interested auditing, management accounting, accounts handling, taxation, etc. Whereas, the full form of CMA is Certified Management Accountant and is pursued by students who are keen in learning budgeting and management accounting.

One of the major career decisions that an accounting student has to make is whether to pursue Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Both function as accountants but with a difference in approach. A CPA-certified person generally works in tax and auditing, while a CMA-certified person works as a management accountant responsible for the cost and financial analysis.


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CPA vs CMA Infographics

Here are the top differences between CPA and CMA.

CPA vs CMA Infographics

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CPA vs CMA – Comparative Table

Organizing bodyAmerican Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)Institutes of Management Accountants (IMA)
Pattern4 – Part Exam
  • Business Environment and Concepts
  • Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR)
  • Audit & Attestation (AUD)
  • Regulation (REG)
2 – Part Exam
  • Part I – Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics
  • Part II – Strategic Financial Management
Duration of Course18 months3 years or 36 months
  • Corporate Governance
  • Economic Concepts and Analysis
  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Ethics & General Principles
  • Financial Statement Accounts
  • Entity Federal Taxation
  • Individual Federal Taxation
  • Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
  • Performance Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Cost Management
  • Decision Analysis
  • Professional Ethics
  • Financial Statement Analysis
Exam fees$1,500between $850 and $1,350
  • Cost Accountant
  • Consultant
  • Financial Risk Manager
DifficultyPassing rate ~50%Passing rate ~45%
Exam DatesContinuous Testing (as of 1st Jul 2020)Jan 01 – Feb 28, 2021
May 01 – Jun 30, 2021
Sep 01 – Oct 31, 2021

CMA vs CPA – Which is Better?

The answer to the above question is that both of these certifications are equally good and are highly respected in the field of accounting. The important thing is that they lead the aspiring candidates to different career paths. If a candidate is interested in auditing, taxation, reporting, and regulation, then he/ she should opt for CPA, while if someone is interested in management, strategic analysis, and decision-making, then CMA is a better choice for him/ her. So, let us take a closer look at some of the unique benefits of both these certification courses and then decide.

Skills Obtained

Certified CPA personnel develops the ability to crunch numbers at will as they are required to review day-to-day accounting activities with a major focus on taxation and auditing. On the other hand, certified CMA personnel develops expertise in analyzing and interpreting data, which is then used to drive the business’s financial improvements. The role of CMAs requires more strategic thinking ability as they need to build forward-looking strategies.


For CPA, a candidate gets 18 months to clear all four parts of the course, and the clock starts ticking from the day the candidate clears the first part. On the other hand, a candidate gets three years for clearing both parts of the CMA exam, and the time starts from the day of registration.

Eligibility or Experience Required

As far as eligibility is concerned, both CPA and CMA require a candidate to have a bachelor’s degree or related professional certification. Besides, CPA requires two years of public accounting experience, while CMA requires two years of management accounting or financial management experience. After being certified, a CPA needs to complete 40 hours of Continuing Education every year. A CMA needs to complete 30 hours of Continuing Education every year to maintain their respective certifications.


The CPA course is divided into four parts – Business Environment & Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting & Reporting (FAR), Audit & Attestation (AUD), and Regulation (REG). BEC primarily covers management-related topics, while the remaining focus is on other fields of tax and auditing. Some of the main subjects covered as part of the CPA course include corporate governance, economic concepts & analysis, professional responsibilities, ethics & general principles, financial statement accounts, entity federal taxation, individual federal taxation, etc. On the other hand, CMA emphasizes building analytical skills, such as data reporting and critical decision-making. Some of the main subjects covered as part of the CMA course include planning, budgeting & forecasting, performance management, internal controls, cost management, decision analysis, professional ethics, financial statement analysis, etc.

Career Opportunity and Salary

CPA professionals usually pursue the career of an accountant or financial advisor. Some of the most common job profiles that CPAs go for include public accountants, management accountants, internal auditors,s, etc. On the other hand, CMA-certified professionals intend to work for large corporations, and some of their common job profiles include cost accountants, consultants, financial risk managers, etc. Over the course of a career, the average salary of a CPA hovers around $120,000, while that of a CMA is around $100,000.

Fees and Passing Rates

On average, the CPA certification cost comes between $850 and $1,350, which includes exam fees, application fees, and licensing fees. On the other hand, the CMA certification cost is approximately $1,000, which includes all the fees. However, the certification cost in both cases doesn’t include the cost of a review course that candidates usually take up for studying.

It is fair to say that both course exams are challenging, given the historically low passing rates. In the CMA exams conducted during January-February 2020, only 45% of the candidates worldwide could clear both Parts I and Part II [Source: IMA]. On the other hand, the below table captures the outcome of CPA exams conducted during the year 2020 [Source: AICPA].


Exam Availability

As of 1st July 2020, the CPA exams have been switched to the Continuous Testing model to write the test throughout the year. On the other hand, the CMA exams will be taking place in the usual three testing windows, as mentioned below:

  • Jan 01 – Feb 28, 2021
  • May 01 – Jun 30, 2021
  • Sep 01 – Oct 31, 2021

CPA vs CMA – How to Enroll?

To enroll in the CPA course, one needs to visit the official website of AICPA for process guidance. On the other hand, for the CMA course, one needs to register at IMA’s official website.

Recommended Articles

This has been a guide to CPA vs CMA. Here we discuss the top differences between CPA and CMA professions along with the infographics and comparison table. Do we also discuss why to pursue them? You may also have a look at the following articles –

Reader Interactions


  1. vishesh valeja says

    Hello sir.

    Cma or cfa?Which would be better for me as i like investment and share market?

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      If investments and share markets is what you like, then you should consider CFA.

  2. Shubham says

    I’m in delimma about which course will be helpful in my business career CA or CMA or anything else.
    Please guide me.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hey Shubham, What’s your educational background?

  3. Ankush says

    Hi Dheeraj,

    I work in the operational side of the investment service industry. I recently completed my MBA/MSF. With the help of CMA, is it possible to get into financial analysis or M&A of a bank or other corporation.

    • Dheeraj Vaidya says

      Hi Ankush,
      Not sure if CMA will help you move into Financial analysis/M&A kind of profile as CMA is more into management accounting, budgeting, planning, forecasting, cost management, internal controls etc. As compared to CMA, CFA exam covers these topics in depth.