CMA vs. CPA Preparation
The choice between a CMA (Certified Management Accountant) and a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) designation can significantly impact your career, but many working on CMA or CPA preparation aren’t quite clear on the difference between the two. Understanding the types of responsibilities you qualify for with each designation makes it easier to determine which option best fits your career goals.
Responsibilities of CMAs and CPAs
If you choose the CMA career path, you can expect to spend much of your time on strategic management. You will still have important tasks related to financial accounting, but advising on strategic business decisions based on the financial data is your primary focus. CMAs typically work in private companies.
For CPAs, the day-to-day responsibilities are a bit different. These jobs appeal to individuals who are passionate about delving into the numbers. CPAs perform audits, and they handle in-depth tax work for a variety of entities, from individuals and small businesses to major corporations. Generally, CPAs can expect to work for public accounting firms.
Some people elect to take both exams, expanding their skill sets to encompass both the in-depth financial know-how of CPAs with the strategic planning functions of CMAs. Those who successfully achieve both designations are highly sought by employers.
Qualifying for the CMA vs. CPA Designation
This overview of the requirements to prepare for each exam and maintain each license may influence your decision on next steps:
- The CMA exam consists of two parts: Financial Planning, Performance and Control and Financial Decision-Making.
- The CPA exam has four parts: Business Environment and Concepts , Financial Accounting and Reporting, Audit and Attestation, and Regulation.
- The fee to take each exam varies by state, but generally, each costs around $900.
- The pass rate for the CMA exam averages approximately 35 percent of test-takers, while the CPA pass rate is slightly higher at approximately 46 percent.
Lisence Requirements for CMAs and CPAs
Once you have passed the CMA or CPA exam, you will be required to complete continuing professional education (CPE) to maintain your license. The number of CPE hours necessary depends on your state. Generally, maintaining a CMA license requires about 25 percent fewer CPE hours than maintaining a CPA license.
Finally, you cannot become fully licensed as a CMA or CPA without some professional experience. The CMA designation requires two years of experience, while the CPA designation varies by state; typically between one and two years of professional experience is needed.