One of the biggest decisions any accounting student has to make for their career is deciding whether to pursue Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
Even though both qualifications are guarantee entry into the accounting world, a higher salary, and better chances of getting promoted, they involve different career paths.
In this post, you’ll be provided with the basic information regarding both CPA and CMA certification to guide you in making the best decision possible.
What do Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) entail?
Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
Just as the name implies, a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) job entails financial, asset, and performance management within the corporate world. These are basically the skills required for most CFOs, financial managers, and controllers.
Also, it’s very important to note that the CMA certification also equips accountant students with operational and strategic skills required in running a non-profit organization, a corporation, or a government agency.
Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification is regarded by many as the ‘blackbelt’ not just in public accounting alone but for the entire accounting discipline. Even though CPA and CMA certifications are obtained after passing an exam, you also need to be licensed for CPA.
The main exam for Certified Public Accountant basically covers financial accounting and auditing, business laws and ethics, taxation, statistics, strategic planning, economics, cost accounting, and the main difference between the US and the international accounting systems.
CMA vs. CPA education requirements
If you decide to go with Certified Management Accountant (CMA) for your accounting career, you’ll only be required to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field to obtain certification.
After obtaining the certification, CMAs are required to complete 30 hours of continuing education every year. On the other hand, when you opt for CPA, you’ll be required to have a bachelor’s degree in a related field to sit for the exam.
However, to be licensed, you’ll need 150 credit hours of public accounting service, and also, you’ll be required to meet all the specific requirements of the course set by your state. After they have been certified and licensed, CPAs must complete 40 hours of continuing education every year.
CMA vs. CPA syllabus
As much as both certifications entail accounting, their syllabus structures are quite different. The CPA course is basically divided into four major sections, all of which are allocated four exam hours with a total of 16 exam hours to be completed. These four sections are;
- Business Environment and Concepts (BEC): Contains two multiple-choice parts, two simulations with one written communication section included.
- Audit (AUD): Contains two multiple-choice sections as well as three simulations.
- Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR): Contains three simulations and two multiple-choice sections.
- Regulation: Involves three simulations and two multiple choice parts.
A professional accounting institution can provide accounting students with all the study materials and review courses they require during their cpa exam preparation.
On the other hand, the CMA exam involves four sections, and there are two-four hour exam exams to complete. Both exams involve two 30 minute essays as well as 100 multiple-choice questions.
The two exams are based on;
- Financial Reporting, Planning and Performance.
- Control and Financial Decision Making.
CMA vs. CPA cost
In most cases, the cost for CPA certification is around $1500, inclusive of the exam fees, application fees as well as licensing fees. On the other hand, a CMA certification will cost you around $1000, inclusive of all the fees.
However, it’s important to note that these costs do not involve the review courses that accounting students take during CMA and CPA exam preparation.
Which qualification is better?
The honest answer is that both qualifications have their benefits, and neither is better than the other. As far as the accounting profession is concerned, both certifications are highly respected. Choosing the right qualification for you depends on what you’d likely to major in.
Choosing the certification to pursue between CMA and CPA might be a daunting task for any accounting student. However, the most people important thing to bear in mind is the path you want your career to take as well as your passion.