CMA vs CPA: Which Certification Should I Go For?

cma vs cpa

You are making an important decision.

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

An Overview

Certified Public Accountant is the “black-belt” for public accounting, and in essence, for the accounting profession in general.

The exam itself covers a broad range of knowledge, ranging from the core financial accounting and auditing, as well as taxation, business laws and ethics, cost accounting and strategic planning, economics, statistics and difference between the US and international accounting systems.

When compared to CPA, the Certified Management Accountant certification highlights the professional’s accounting and financial expertise within the corporate world. That is, the skills required for finance managers, controllers and CFOs. It also touches upon the operational and strategic aspects of running a corporation, a non-profit or a governmental agency.

What’s the difference between public accounting and management accounting? Steve Colton from Accounting Insights summarizes it well:

Financial accounting is concerned with providing information about a company’s operations to parties external to the company. Examples include the IRS, bankers, suppliers, creditors and shareholders. A primary focus is on standardized reporting and achieving compliance with applicable regulations.

Management accounting is concerned with providing financial information about a company’s operations to its internal managers. The focus is on developing relevant and timely information that helps internal managers resolve the problems. It also helps make decisions that arise on a day-to-day basis.”

CMA vs CPA Comparison at a Glance

In terms of the process of getting the CPA vs CMA qualification, here are the factors you should consider.

Focus & Recognitionaccounting certification cpaaccounting certification cma
FocusPublic accounting;
general accounting
Overall recognition5-star3-star
Industry recognition5-star4-star
Exam Requirements
Entry barrier5-star2-star
Need bachelor degree?smallticksmalltick
150 credit hours needed?smallticksmallcross
Accounting concentration?smallticksmallcross
Min. accounting courses?smallticksmallcross
Exam Format
# exam days per year4 testing windows
(9 months)
4 testing windows
(6 months)
Total exam hours148
No. of parts/levels42
Latest pass rates48-51%35% / 42%
Estimated expensesUS$2,000-3,000$1,000-2,000

Why CPA Could be Better

1.  More Established and More Recognized

The CPA qualification dated back in the early 20th century and is without a doubt the most established qualification among the accountant industry. Because of this and other reasons, the CPA title is more recognized in the US and in other parts of the world.

2. Higher Entry Barrier

The AICPA and NASBA have been pushing for a more or less “uniform” CPA prerequisite in all states — the so-called “3E” requirements ask for 150 credit hours with concentration in accounting, together with 1-2 years of experience verified by an active CPA licensee. The entry barrier is so high that becoming a CPA is a prestige that few people can get, which in turn makes the qualification very valuable.

3. Good for All Types of Accounting Jobs

CPA is widely recognized and you get the perks no matter where you work in the finance and accounting field, be it public or non-public accounting. On the other hand, CMA is only useful for those to work and stay in the corporate world.

Why Others May Prefer CMA

1. More Practical

In reality, most accountants (whether starting as public accountant or not) will end up in the corporate sector. This means that the management accountant skill is more practical in medium to long term for professionals in the accounting industry. In fact, many candidates who went through both CPA and CMA find the materials covered in CMA more interesting and useful for their daily business life while CPA materials are too theoretical.

2. It’s Cheaper and Less Time Consuming

Both exam costs a fortune, but the CMA certification is considerably less. Also, with only 2 parts (vs 4 parts in CPA) it takes less time to study and pass.

3. You Can Take the Exam Before Graduation

If you want to get a fast track, CMA allows you to take the exam before you graduate, although you will have to complete your bachelor degree with 2 years of experience to ultimately get the certification.

4. Better Administration Body

As you may know, the CPA license is granted by each of the states instead of by a national body. This legacy issue has created a lot of confusion and challenges from getting qualified for the CPA exam to apply for the license at the end. CMA is administrated by IMA with a well-run website and clear instructions on how to prepare, study and pass the CMA exam.

5. Better “After-Service”

After you get the CMA certification and if you choose to stay active, IMA provides everything from free webinar (for CPE and self-learning) to a forum for members to exchange ideas and build networks. CPA, in comparison, has Society of CPAs in each state but the support is less impressive.

Is It Difficult To Decide?

Why not get both? Here are the reasons:

1. There are Considerable Overlaps

While the two exams test for different skills, they are essentially accounting stuff and you can expect, roughly speaking, 30-40% overlap. If you have taken the CPA exam, the CMA exam Part 1 can be considered a harder and more comprehensive version of BEC (Part 2 is somewhat similar to Level 1 of CFA).

 2. CPE Hours are Good for Both

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

3. A Dual Qualification Makes You Stand Out

I think most people would agree that CPA is more prestigious but CMA is more practical. If that’s the case, if you have a dual qualification, you have the best of two worlds.

In Summary…

This video highlights the merits and limitations of CMA and CPA qualifications.

 Now, What’s Your Decision?

For Your Further Reading

Any Questions?

If you have comments on CMA vs CPA, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment box below.

You can also get more Certified Management Accountant exam tips on study tactics by signing up to my e-course which is completely free. You can learn about the mini e-course here or sign up directly below.


  1. Sohail says

    I am CMA and have 2 years’ degree in Commerce. just need to know whether i am eligible to take CPA exams or not.

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Sohail, for the purpose of the CMA program it is easy to find out. If your university can be found in the link below then you are qualified to take the CMA exam. Otherwise it might still be ok but you will need to go through the credential evaluation agencies. Why don’t you take a look first and see? Please come back if you have questions.


  2. Eric says

    Hi Stephanie,
    I do not have a bachelors degree but I did an accredited Masters Degree in Business Administration in Jamaica at an institution that is not on the list above. I also have a diploma in Business Administration. Do you think I may be able to access the CMA?

  3. Stephanie says

    Hi Eric, if your school is not listed here (, you can still go through the foreign credential evaluation agency to get your transcript “translated” to the standard people are familiar with.

    There will be a couple hundred dollars involved but typically it is doable. If you want to double check before proceeding you can send an email directly to IMA.

    Hope it helps! Stephanie

  4. maybel castillo says

    hi. stephanie.
    i graduated as bachelor science in financial management. just need to know if i may be able to take CMA?

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Maybel, yes typically applicants with a bachelor degree from any subject is eligible for CMA. If your school is on this list here:
      Then you are all set.
      Otherwise, you may still apply but will need to send your transcripts to a foreign credential evaluation agency to evaluate whether it is equivalent to the degree IMA recognizes. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  5. mayla jane llantos says

    I currently a student of bachelor of science in financial accounting, if I decided to take CMA exams, right after I graduate my bachelor degree do I qualify? or their are things that I must consider first?

  6. Stephanie says

    Hi Mayla yes in fact you can take the CMA exam before you graduate. But you will have to accumulate the required 2 years of experience to get the CMA certification though.

    If you think you have some free time to get the exam part done first, then this will make sense to you. The definition of valid working experience is very broad. If you work in the finance industry it should be all right. Cheers, Stephanie

  7. Saad says


    I am a CMA, just want to know that if I am eligible for CPA (Certified Public Accountant) exams??I also have a 4.5 years experience working for Ernst & Young as a senior auditor.

    Thank you,


  8. Ebenezer Idowu says

    I am currently working as an administrator of academic medicine. My job involve a lot of financial analysis as well as managerial functions. I have the educational qualification, but wondered whether my job will satisfy the professional experience requirement for CMA.

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Ebenezer, sounds like you do because I find the definition very broad. But you can always check with IMA to make sure before applying. Good luck! Stephanie

  9. Veer says

    Hi Stephanie,

    My university is listed in the website you have provided. Basically i’m a engineering graduate having around 5 years of experience. Currently I’m working as a Software Engineer. As since my graduation days I was more interested in the finance I’ve decided to do the CMA. I’ve for registered for it, and thinking to take the Part 1 exam in May-June window. My question for you is, will my experience in the software industry will be considered if I make a shift to finance/accounting after successfully completing CMA. What roles would you suggest for a person like me who is completely new to this.

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Veer, I am sure you will make it work if you are creative in finding a job that values your experience on two sides. For example, a management account role that works closely with software engineers in the business unit, or something related to project management in relevant field. Once you start making a slight switch, you can get into the core finance/accounting industry easily. Good luck! Stephanie

  10. Imran says

    hi stephanie

    i had done my graduation in commerce (B.Com) two years program from Karachi university pakistan and i have more then 5 years of experience as an accountant can i apply for CMA.

  11. Aftab says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am CPA from State of Colorado, my question is do I get any exemption in any parts as a CPA.


    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Aftab, no unfortunately, since the CMA exam has changed from 4-paper exam to a 2-paper exam, no more exemptions are granted. Looking at the syllabus I find it pretty hard to give exemptions anyway. There are some overlap esp on BEC but the overlap is only part of the paper. Stephanie

  12. Suthan says

    Dear Madam,

    I am member of ACCA. Recently, I got USA Green Card and have intention to move to California. ACCA is not well recognized in USA, so I want to do CPA or CMA. Bachelor degree is mandatory to join CPA. I do not have any degree at all. ACCA and CMA has strategic partnership since last year. Would it be adviseable to take CPA or CMA? Please advise. Thanking you in advance.

  13. Ali Abbas says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am a CPA and wanted to inquire if completing the CMA will be considered part of the CPE hours required to maintain the CPA. If so, how many hours will it be equivelant to?

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Ali, I am actually not too sure, partly because it depends on the state. It is best if you can check with your state board directly. I do know that some CMA review courses can be counted towards CPA CPE in a few states, so it is possible. Good luck! Stephanie

  14. Achin Gupta says


    I want to know i have done Bachelor of Engineering in IT and have around 4.9 years of experience in IT / Telecom sector.
    i have ineterst to be a Business analsyst. will you suggest me to do CPA??? what is the path for CPA

  15. Josh says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I have a bachelors in Finance from an accredited university. I have been working in financial services for the last 5 years at a large brokerage firm . I do not have much accounting experience. I have been thinking about changing the direction of my career to accounting. I was wondering if I should enroll in accounting classes at a local college or if I could jump straight into the instructor led classes for the CMA?


    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Josh, for the purpose of the CMA exam, you don’t need to take accounting classes to pass. The review course/material is a much more efficient way to achieve that. But if you do want to learn about fundamental accounting in general to build a more solid foundation, then reading accounting books or taking accounting classes can help.

      You can also choose to take the CMA exam and become a CMA, then take the accounting class and use those to fulfill the CPE requirements.

      Cheers, Stephanie

  16. k.h.g says

    hi Stephanie,
    I hold a bachelor degree in business administration and an MBA from a university listed in that website. I also have about 7 years of experience in investment management as I work in a well known sovereign wealth fund in the GCC region. My job involves a lot of financial analysis and portfolio management… do you think would that fulfill both work experience and qualification requirements for CPA? Would the CMA give me a buffer?
    I’m planning to apply for the CPA by the end of the year and after clearing CMA..

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi khg,
      Thanks for your note. If you have MBA experience you should be able to go for the CPA as long as you have enough accounting credit hours. On CMA, it would make more sense if you work within a business corporation… if it is more on investment management wouldn’t CFA make more sense? I know the CFA program requires a lot of investment in terms of hours and commitment though.

      So CMA does help in finance related career but probably not as much for your existing position I have to say. Just my opinion though :) Would like to hear your thoughts. Stephanie

  17. Deepti says

    Hi Stephanie

    I am an engineering graduate from India. I have 5 years of work experience and am working with an accounting firm at the moment. I am looking to pursue a CPA course. IS it possible for Indians?


    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Deepti,
      It is definitely possible for Indians, but since you are not an accounting major, you will need to make up for quite a bit of accounting courses. Also, CPA basically requires an equivalent of 5 years of higher education. Not sure how many years you have under your engineering program? For further details for Indian CPA candidates, please click here:


  18. MANISH says

    If I clear CMA program in time, then can I get a job immediately in USA/CANADA.
    please give me proper feedback on my this question.

    • StephanieStephanie says

      Hi Manish,
      I don’t think it works this way… the CMA qualification (or any professional qualifications) cannot guarantee job. It is possible that the qualification indirectly helps you land an opportunity in North America, but don’t take this as an automatic ticket to go abroad.

      A good way do do that is to get a job in a big multinational corporation or a Big 4 accounting firm, do an excellent job for a couple of years and then request an opportunity to transfer to regional offices. This is the easiest and smoothest way in my opinion, and we have readers who have done that or are doing that. Stephanie

  19. Ayaz says

    Hi Madam!
    I have done intermediate and 5 years teaching experience. So tell me can i am eligable to do cma.

  20. AL says

    I have a CPA license and am currently working as a cost accountant. I was interested in studying for the CMA exam but was not sure if my experience as a cost accountant count? I been working as a cost accountant for 10 years. Thanks for any insight.


  21. Dania says


    I’m a CFA charter with bachelor degree in Economics and an MBA, all my degrees are accredited; for the last 5 years and till now I work as an instructor for accounting, finance and economics subjects.

    my question is am I eligible for CPA?

  22. AL says

    It Depends. The CPA exam requirements are different for U.S. states. The best place to get info would be to go to For instance, I am from PA so, to sit for the exam starting 2012, I would need 150 credit hrs of which at least a total of 24 semester credits, which credits shall be in accounting and auditing, business law, finance or tax subjects of a content satisfactory to the board

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Yes Dania, I agree with AL that it does depend on the state. Not sure if NASBA can answer your question though becaue it is a state-specific question. The other thing you may want to check is the number of accounting credit hours that you have, because economic classes are mostly not counted. Let me know and I’ll see if I can suggest anything for you. You can also drop a note over at the sister site, instead. Stephanie

  23. sky says

    hello. i’ve searched for my school in your link stated above but found out it was not included in it. how are the schools included on the list? how can my school be included on that list? what does it mean if my school’s not on that list? thank you :)

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Sky, the information is indicative only because IMA no longer includes this link on their website, so I am not sure if that list is still accurate. But you can contact IMA to double check by email. Even if your school is not on the list, you can get an evaluation from the credential evaluation agency to complete the process, so no worries. Stephanie

  24. Jay Anderson says

    I think CMAs are better at CFO and finance management positions and CPAs are suited better as accounting managers and controllers. Some CPAs, after being promoted to executive levels in the finance functions, are just too hands on to the accounting role and never grasp the larger role of the financial management of companies and organization.

      • Jay says


        On the other hand, some CMAs without an accounting degree will never fully grasp the financial accounting function or management role, which causes huge distractions in any solid accounting department, and that maybe that particular CMA with the economics or finance background would be better suited for probably an analyst position.

        • C K Tang says

          Hi Jay

          Those observations are very valid because the CMA exam format (2-papers) is inadequate in equalizing the knowledge of candidates from various non-accounting/finance/business backgrounds.

          On the other hand, the 150-hour route is also overly restrictive in that only “relevant” graduates can present themselves as CPA candidates.

          There is however a third way that addresses both relevance and diversity. It is the open access system employed by the UK accountancy certifications which accepts all comers (graduate and non-graduates, relevant or non-relevant).

          The beauty is depending on one’s qualifications, the number of examinations are determined with no exemptions for final level papers.

          Thus a high school leaver will have to complete all level of the exams while non-relevant graduates will undertake some form of conversion papers.

          By the time all candidates are ready to write the final level of exams, their knowledge would be more or less on par.

          • Stephanie Ng says

            Yes… the UK system does make more sense doesn’t it, although for the US CPA exam they seem to want to only run a “simple system” and use the 150 hour rule to screen out those who don’t have enough education in the accounting/business area. After all, it is a US exam and the rules are US-centric. I have to say in the US it’s not tough at all to get a degree (especially from the online colleges) so for a typical American the 150 hour rule isn’t difficult to achieve.

  25. Jay says

    Though I fully support the 150hr CPA route and the accounting degree with a CMA, I agree with the UK model. We need more flexible certifications in the US. The CPA progressives hate competition and want to monopolize the entire industry. That is why I am a proponent of the CMA certification, but only with a strong financial accounting curriculum foundation.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Yeah, I believe they are trying to change with the opening of international testing centers, but there are a lot of obstacles due to legacy issues, e.g. it is the state that determine the rules, not a centralized agency. I look forward to a day when they truly open up with more flexibility while keeping a high standard. Stephanie

  26. C K Tang says

    I agree. With the opening of international training centers, and the demand to sit for the CPA exams, the incentive to having alternatives to the 150-hour rule would be compelling.

    This is not a bad thing by any measure. Nor would it necessarily be detrimental to maintaining high standards.

    The barrier to becoming a CPA ought not be placed as a barrier at the entry stage. If any sifting needs to be done, it can be achieved at the examination stage.

    If a uniform CPA exam can be established, there is no reason why uniform qualifying exams cannot. In the UK, all the CCAB have qualifying exams because of its open access system. The real obstacle is that US universities would balk at this idea because it creates competition, and is likely to be a more economical route. Evidence of this is clear when we see private colleages operating alongside universities in training finance and accounting professionals in the UK and commonwealth countries.

    Secondly, it is also an equity issue. Not everyone who merits an education in the university has the means to do that especially from the developing world. Increasingly, even in the US questions are being raised of the efficacy of two- and four-year degree programs, not least of which by McKinsey’s recent research.

      • C K Tang says

        No worries, Stephanie. In fact, it is a tremendous opportunity for AICPA to engage in some profitable CSR work that addresses the current global phenomenon of the unemployed and underemployed graduates on the one hand, and the employer lament of unemployable graduates on the other hand.

        McK’s recommendations of tying experience and education closer together is a solution that UK bodies have had in their toolkit for decades.

        They go by various names but essentially, they involve employers putting accountancy trainees through three-years of structured development and sponsoring them to write the certification exams. (The HKICPA calls it Approved Training Employer scheme for example.)

        Having lived and worked in a developing country, Europe and the US, I am pretty confident that such programs work. And now, McK concurs.

        For an example of the ultimate four-way tie up including the employer, the university, the accountancy body and the student, see,

        One can see very quickly why all four stakeholders benefit from such initiatives.

  27. Dixon says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I’m currently studying economics in college and planning to be a CPA. Since my school does not offer accounting as a major, my only way to qualify for the Illinois CPA’s education requirement is to pursue master degree after college. However, I afraid I’m not financially capable of affording myself another year of school anymore (my students’ loan is piling up). I was wondering if a being CMA would qualify me to sit for the CPA exams?
    Thank you!

  28. Ankita Jain says

    I am a CA,CS from India. I am also currently pursuing my Masters in Psychology(distant learning) in India. My husband has an MBA admit from Texas University. I plan to come with him to the USA by next year July end.

    I am not sure of the job oppurtunities available after completing CPA/CMA and how much time it would take to receive a H1B visa.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Ankita, I can’t answer your question on H1B, but on job opportunities, the qualifications help but I would say the resume and interview skills count a lot too. So it’s hard to generalize. It’s safe to say they won’t guarantee jobs though.

      But if you want to make good use of your time before you can switch to a H1B visa, then taking CPA/CMA is a good idea. Stephanie

  29. Rajagopal S says


    I am an Associate Member of the Institute of Cost Accountant from India. They have a reciprocal MOU with CMA. So I can get the dual qualification. I am also GC holder. Does this help in landing a job with a Corporate in US?


    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Rajagopal, I believe you need to be a full member to benefit from the MRA? I guess the CMA qualification helps, but it also depends a lot on your educational backgroundand work experience, as well as your interview skills… and luck :) Stephanie

  30. gopikrishna says

    hi i have completed mba finance, am i eligible to pursue cma, are their any good oppourtunites in india and outside india. which course do you think more profitable to pursue

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hello, yes you should be able to qualify. As for job opportunities, I honestly think it only helps marginally for India (unless you work in a big US firm) but if you are in US, definitely helps. Stephanie

  31. Jayson says

    Hi Stephanie

    I am in the finance sector for more than 3 years but not in a corporate style, it is a BPO kind of industry(Business service center/Shared service). Will this suffice the 2 years required work experience?

  32. Len says

    Hello there,

    I am a CPA from Asia, also a CIA and now applying for CISA certification.

    I hope to be a CMA to boost my credentials but I am confused on which CMA to take.
    Which is more advantageous, the CMA US or CMA Australian Certification?
    Which designation is widely credited in developed countries?

    Hoping for your reply.

    • CK says

      Hi Len
      I would think in developing countries particularly the commonwealth, the CIMA qualification would better serve you.

      Between the US and Aust CMA however, the US one is more recognized. The Aust. CMA is not even recognized in Australia for migration purposes. (Only three Aust bodies are, and CMA Aust is not one of them.)

      Outside of US, CIMA is probably a better choice but naturally much harder to acquire compared to the US CMA given that you will have to write at least four exams instead of two.

      Hope this helps.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Len, I guess if you work in US, China and increasingly the Middle East, CMA (US) is useful. If you work in Australia (and probably New Zealand?), then CMA Aus is likely better. So it depends where you work in and work for. CK has a good point on CIMA as well.

      • CK says

        I would be very careful about CMA Australia (which does not mean it is bad). It is simply not a recognized body. If Aust is the destination, then the order of preference would be:

        1. CA Australia (which will be merging with NZ ICA)
        2. CPA Australia (which one can acquire via an MRA through CIMA. Therefore, by completing CIMA, one can also get the CPA Aust thrown in!)
        3. IPA Australia (formerly NIA, the third and smallest recognized Australian body. It is not as well known and global as the first two)

        If NZ is the destination, the choice is much simpler, the NZICA.

        Getting the CA Aust or the NZICA would also create a path to getting the US CPA via a single IQEX exam.

        The answer to your question also depends on where one is in one’s career lifecycle. The CA and NZICA are more suited in the beginning of one’s career lifecycle because of the articleship requirements.

    • smpeho says

      It not true that cma is not recognised in australia for immigration purposes Tha information iam afraid is outdated The new and recent catagorization of jobs as management accountants qualify cma (aussie) for immigration
      Cma australia infact is more advancedbthan cma usa

      • Stephanie Ng says

        Thank you for your input. For immigration issues I would like to ask reader to seek professional advice. This site is more on how to study for the CMA exam in the US.

  33. rose says


    I have my M.S. in accounting and I am torn on whether to take the CMA or CPA, or maybe both. I work for corporate company of big analytics as full- time staff accountant for two years now and I am ready to take next step of being certified. If I take the CMA first, would it give me a better chance to pass the CPA and would it be credited towards one of the sections? Do you think it will be worth taking the CMA? What advice or tips do you suggest in helping me make the final decision in my case..

    Please help!

    • CK Tang says

      For employment mobility purposes, I would do the CPA and if you are so inclined, complete the CMA as well. There will be no credit either way. You will have to do all six exams (four for the CPA and two for the CMA).

      The fact of the matter is at least in the US, the CPA is still the 8oolb gorilla even though the CMA is more suited for business and industry.

      Alternatively you could do the CPA, and if you complete before Jan 2015, you could also acquire the CGMA (chartered global management accountant). From Jan 2015 onwards, you will have to do one case study exam which is similar to the final case study exam for CIMA (UK equivalent to the US CMA).

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Rose, if I have to choose between the two, I would go for the CPA first because it is more versatile. It is a lot more difficult to get qualified, and the exam is longer and more complex. As CK said there isn’t any exemptions either way. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  34. manoj says


    Should I send my degree certificate copy to IMA while registering ?, should i get this attested from a notary ?



  35. geethanjali says

    i am currently in US and on H4 visa. i want to pursue CMA course and have some doubts if you could clarify .

    i have previous working experience in india… so on the experience part can u clarify as to working in india under an indian CA qualify as work experience. if not then can i write the exam in the US and have training from india.

    since i am on h4 visa right now, can you guide me as to job prospects after CMA. or only CPA will fetch me a visa job.

    i previously thought of doing CPA but since i can not work in the US chances are there that i may not be able to fulfill the experience requirement. the only reason i am shifting towards the CMA is the experience requirement as it allows the previous experience requirement and no need supervision by a licensed CMA,so my major emphasis is please analyse my situation and guide me which one to choose CPA or CMA. ( i have Masters from india and have evaluated my transcripts and i have total of 180 credit hrs with accounting and business major papers)


    • C K Tang says

      Hi Geethanjali

      It appears that you are considering the CMA partly because you do not think your prior experience in India under a CA would not be counted.

      This is not necessarily true as some states like ND and IL do not require experience to be necessarily supervised by a CPA. Additionally, these two states do not require a social security number. Moreover, you appear to have the required 150 hours.

      I would suggest that you check with the state boards and find out if past experience is counted. I do believe recent past experience will not be discounted.

      Please note that acquiring the CPA or the CMA is no guarantee that you will secure a job.

      Please also note that what I have said about your possibility of being eligible for the CPA does not preclude you from doing the CMA.

      I can however, say that the CPA has better brand recognition than the CMA. This is not the same as saying the CPA is better suited for the industry or job you are aiming for.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Geethanjali,
      The working experience in India can be counted as long as they are considered relevant. The experience does not need to be verified by a CA; just your supervisor will do. You can refer to this list or email IMA for possible pre-approval.

      On the question on whether CMA can get you a visa job (which I presume you mean having the employer endorse a H1B visa), I would say you cannot count on the qualification alone. There are many factors involved e.g. your educational background and previous experience, how you craft your resume, your performance in the interview etc. But I will say from my own experience is that this is hard to achieve, and typically only big corporations are willing to sponsor the H1B visa for you.

      But then, if there is a possibility that your spouse’s visa changes e.g. getting a green card leading to changes in your own visa, then it will be much easier. If you see this happening in the foreseeable future, you might want to take the CMA exam to get prepared.

      I am not familiar with the details of the various visa so it is best for you to seek help from the experts. Best of luck! Stephanie

  36. geethanjali says

    Thanks for the early reply :)

    Thanks for the info… i will contact the IL and ND state and decide which one to pursue first. i have also seen that the AICPA gives me 5yrs time for training and the IMA gives 7 yrs time. i had one more doubt that if i write the CMA exams here in the US and go to india for training will that be allowed from the IMA. Thanks for your contribution Appreciated :)

    • C K Tang says

      It is more important to find out what the rules on the validity period of prior experience are from IL or ND because the CPA license is issued by the state, not by AICPA. Moreover, membership with AICPA (though useful) is purely voluntary.

      For the CMA, your prior experience (at least two years) should count whether in India or elsewhere.

  37. Aruna says

    Hi Stephanie, I’m an accountant working in Sri Lanka and currently following CMA-Australia. Could you please let me know whether this would be an entry qualification for CPA-Australia or whether I can directly enrol for CPA-Australia with my work experience and primary educational qualifications?



  38. FAHAD says

    Hi.. i was doing ACCA i completed my 8 papers but now i wants to go for CMA so what will be the procedure ? and guide me please that it will be a good decision or i should complete my ACCA first ?

    • C K Tang says

      Hi Fahad
      To enter into the CMA exams, you need to have a first degree (any major).

      Unless you have good reason otherwise, I would complete the ACCA before embarking on the CMA.

      It is generally not a good idea to leave a certification partially done because either you are an ACCA or not. There is no such thing as part qualified (PQ) in the articles, by laws or constitution of ACCA. One is either a member (A/FCCA) or a registered student.

      PQ is just a convenient way of denoting that one’s examination taking is still in progress.

  39. Usman says

    I have passed three modules comprising of 8 papers of Institiute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and now i am going to US on immigirant visa to texas. Please advise me the way out for me for better career there.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Usman, I have to say the CA is not as recognized in the US, but it does show that you are a professional accounting in your original country. I would say you take the time to settle down first, and talk to the recruiters in your local area. In the longer run you may want to consider US qualifications such as CPA or CMA, but it is best to have a sense of accounting job demand in your area, as well as your own career aspiration, before deciding what to do. Best of luck for a smooth transition! Regards, Stephanie

  40. Umair Hiader says

    HI Stephanie!

    Nice to see so much guidance here. I have recently moved to Woodland, California from Pakistan. I was at the final stage of Chartered Accountancy program by Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan and passed 15 out of 21 exams. I have also completed successfully 3 and half year mandatory training from a Chartered Accountant Firm. Its been 3 months that i am here and i didn’t find any positive results after applying even for initial level accounting jobs. kindly guide me whats the best path for me in the profession here.
    Thanks and regards
    Umair Haider

  41. Karim eid says

    Hello there
    Im an egyptian and i just got my cma certificate and i wanted to know if it would be recognized by cpa australia or do i need additional studies to be approved

  42. Adam says

    Hi Stephaine,

    Great advice you give here!!

    I’m a CIMA qualified accountant from the UK with 7 years expereince at a major Telecoms company in London. I have an undergraduate degree in Maths for Business Analysis and currently work as a Commercial Finance Manager.

    I’m moving to the States on a marriage visa and i’m concered that because CIMA is not well recognised that I may struggle to find work. The CGMA doesn’t seem established either.

    I believe the path to take CPA to be too long as I don’t have a pure accounting degree and I believe CIMA is not enough to gain entry.

    Is it worth while doing CMA, or should I just job hunt with my CIMA and experience?

    Lastely CIMA took me 3 years and around 15 exams – once entered does CPA and CMA take the same length of time?

    Thanks in advance


  43. Chee Kin Tang says

    Hi Adam

    I too am a CIMA member and a CPA. Actually, I would not be too quick to write off your CIMA because there is a possibility that it could count toward the 150 hours together with your undergrad degree and even a-levels.

    Once you get your SSN, you may want to consider VA CPA board because VA has been known to accept certifications. It did accept my CIMA back in 2005 and gave the 16 courses a total of 96 credits. My three a-levels gave me a further 30 and my MBA did the rest to put me above 150 credit hours.

    Your math degree could play the same role as my MBA. You may have some gaps but these can easily be made up with specific courses that will give you those missing credits.

    Once you are approved, the CPA exams can be completed within 6-12 months.

    I am recommending the CPA because it is still the 800 lb gorilla in the US.

    One other nice thing about VA. Your experience need not be signed off by a CPA. Therefore your prior experience counts.

    All the best
    Chee Kin

    • Adam says

      Hi Chee Kin,

      Thank you so much for this!!

      I think you are right- CPA really can’t be ignored.I see that there are a number of States that do not require the 150 hours (although this is changing soon).

      I will check these out first and hopefully they also waive the need for CPA sign off experience- else I think VA may be the way to go.

      Thanks again


      • C K Tang says

        Hi Adam

        Glad to be of help. Just to be sure, many states do accept 120 hours to write the exam, but few if any allow only 120 to be fully licensed.

        The goal is to have you fully licensed. The other state that may accept certifications and also not require a CPA sign off on the experience is IL. But I prefer VA because IL is very prescriptive of the type of courses required to make the 150.

        Finally I am not sure if those states that require CPA sign off would necessarily allow this requirement to be waived for two reasons. The requirement is written into their rules, and the application forms have a section for the CPA to sign off. The exceptions that I have seen often pertain to SSN waiver and that too is written onto the forms to allow the waiver.

        Ideally, you want to be licensed in the state in which you will work. But if that is not possible, an out of state license would suffice if you are not in public practice.

        Even so, some states are really strict like MD that requires everyone who holds oneself out as a CPA and makes MD the principal place of employment or business to obtain an MD CPA license even if one is not in public practice.

        Therefore, it is best to check with the state board. For instance, I checked with the DC board if I needed a DC license to work in non public accounting. Fortunately, it was not needed.

        The CGMA in my opinion will not make it in the USA so long as it does not have a stand alone value I.e. all other things being equal Employers continue to recruit on the basis of one being a CPA and a CGMA and not on either CPA or CGMA.

        In other words, CGMA has complementary value not substitutional value right now. And I do not see why CPAs would prefer the latter as it introduces unnecessary competition.

        Best wishes

  44. Adam says

    **Edit** it appears only Colorado still offter this however it will stop on the 1st July 2015 at which point you need to be certified (including a year of working under a CPA).

    I will investigate the VA route and hopefully they still give credit for CIMA.

    Thanks again Chee Kin

  45. tracey says

    I am 49 and looking to change careers. I am researching cpa vs cma. I worked in retail mgmt for ten years and have worked for my current employer for 17 years as a Service Manager and District Manager. Any advice on deciding between the cpa and camera certifications?

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Tracey, it sounds like CMA is one that would really fit your current profile, but in reality the decision is more on your career aspirations. What type of career would you like to switch to?

      Also, qualification is another important consideration. CPA will likely open more doors for you but then it is more difficult to get qualified.


  46. Shan says

    I am planning to migrate to Australia using my US CMA qualification. I have a MSc in Finance too. In addition I have been working as a Management Accountant for a reputed organization over 5years. I wonder whether the US CMA is recognized in Australia? Could you please shed some light into this.

  47. sandeep says

    Hi , I am a CMA (IMA USA), MBA, and I want to do CPA Usa course. Can you pl. guide. I surfed the website ..but its a lot of information and cant derive the actual cost. Further which is the state that will issue me a cpa certificate (I don’t want a licence). Furhter I do not have any body in USA so cant go to use to practice under a cpa. but once I complete my cpa will think of migrating to us based on the skilled labour. pl. guide me. I am 34 years old having a 3 year old daughter.

  48. Syed ali says

    I m working in bank, I just wanted to Know that currently would CMA help me in Financial service industry?
    Is there any better alternative?

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Syed,
      For banking and other service oriented industry, I think the value add is lower than say manufacturing sector, mostly due to the fact that costing analysis is simpler for service companies (no inventory, production etc). Having said that some big financial institutions do value CMA.

      If you are in the accounting department in banks, then CPA is certainly the way to go (or local equivalent depending on your country). If you are or aspire to work in front-office investment and asset management, then CFA is useful. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  49. huda amjad says

    Hello I have done Bachelor in commerce of two years from pakistan then i have done CMA from institute of chartered accountants of Pakistan. I wanna ask should I am eligible to give CPA us exam.

      • huda amjad says

        thanks for your reply. Actually my Cost and management accounting professional certification is of three years plus my two years, now tell me do you have any idea about CPA eligibility? plus on which visa I come to us for CPA and how many practice time i have given to stay and practice to obtain my license? If there is time gap between two papers Can i stay in us between this time or i have to go back and come again for second paper? Am i am allowed to work in US during my CPA? I am planning to do CPA from washington state and then to obtain license from there, kindly answer my queries as soon as possible.

        • Stephanie Ng says

          Hi Huda, for CMA I don’t think certification counts, but since I am not exactly sure which qualification you get, please double check with IMA.

          For CPA eligibility, it’s a lot more strict. It sounds like you may not be qualified as of now, but please refer to this page:

          Taking the CPA exam is not a reason to stay in the US because most non-US candidates take the exam using tourist visa. But if your tourist or other visa allow you to stay, then it’s fine. Working is a completely different story though. You do not need to work in the US to gain the experience required for the license. For details, please refer to this frequently asked questions page:

          Regards, Stephanie

  50. vahini says

    Im presently pursuving b.b.a llb which is a integrated courseof degree n law duration of 5 years
    My question is when can i apply for CMA and CPA?
    Can i apply for both or any1?

  51. Kashif says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am going to sit in my first part of CMA exam on June 13,2015 exam window. I have opted Hock study materials and almost completed my study. I would like your thoughts about the essay questions which may help me to brush up for my final exam.

    Thanks, Kashif

  52. Reinisa Cabual says

    Hi Stephanie, I’m an accountancy major in the Philippines. If I become a CPA can I still take the CMA board exams? My school is listed in the accredited schools to take in the list. :) Thank you!

  53. Aly Eslam Aly Senosy says

    Hi Stephanie, i’m fresh graduate , i can’t take a decision about taking cpa or cma after all waht you said . I khnow what i need but as u said CPA is more prestigious but CMA is more practical so i can’t take a decision so please , i need your advice .

  54. Kevin A says

    Hi Stephanie, if I am still in college and wanted to apply to take the CMA exam do I have to write a petition to someone or can I just apply with the implications that I will graduate with my bachelor’s degree?

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Kevin, student candidates are welcome, and they actually encourage you to take the exam now with the student discount on IMA membership and on exam fee. All you need to do is to upload your transcript and they will know that you are currently studying in college. Cheers, Stephanie

      • Kevin A says

        Thank you so much! one more thing, if I were to pass on the first try would i have to continue doing the further education requirement after i pass or can i wait until i actually get the 2 year experience and become certified?

  55. Jack B says

    Hi stephanie, i’m ready to schedule the cma exam, can i schedule both parts of the exam in one testing window?

  56. Jake M says

    Is it possible to get a full time job that satisfies both cma and cpa experience requirements at the same time?

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Sure. General accounting jobs e.g. audit or accountant in the financial or managerial accounting department should be recognized by IMA (for CMA) and by most state boards (for the CPA). There are a few state boards that require specifically public accounting experience. As long as you aren’t registering through those state boards, you should be fine. Regards, Stephanie

  57. Michael C says

    If i get an entry level financial planner job would that qualify for CMA experience? Because I know the handbook says financial planning as one of them things that can qualify, but if its the only thing out of all the options does it still count towards experience?

    • Stephanie Ng says

      I think it does Michael. But to make sure it works, you can email a job description to IMA and they will let you know. They are pretty helpful in this regard. Cheers, Stephanie

  58. says

    Hi Stephanie,

    How are you? I have done Cost & Management Accountant(CMA) from India. I want migrate to Australia. There is an MOU with CMA India with IPA Australia.My questions are:

    1) am I eligible for work in Australia
    2) Is there any recognition for US CMAs’ in Australia.
    3) is CMA Australia and IPA Austrlia be same.

    Please help me to understand.

    Thanks & Regards

  59. Anand says

    If I complete my CMA & get certified, would that help in meeting the 150 hours requirement for CPA. I did get my current educational transcripts verified by the US agency and it only fetches 140 hours. Will it help filling this gap?

  60. Rob says

    Hi Stephanie,
    I don’t know if this was covered or not, but I am just wondering strictly on a difficulty level examiner marking-wise. Would you say both designation markers are about equal in difficulty?
    because you mentioned that the pass rates likely vary because of entry requirement differences.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hmm… I honestly don’t know. The only difference would be in the essay section (which is only 15% in one of the parts in the CPA exam). The rest is 100% objective. Regards, Stephanie

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