CPA vs CMA
CPA Exam Basics
Your 1-stop-shop to CPA requirements, exam content & structure, plus tips to pass!
CPA and CMA Syllabus Overlaps
You can expect approximately a 30–35% overlap between the CPA and CMA syllabuses.
- CPA Exam sections FAR and REG and Part 1 of the CMA exam, involve external financial reporting.
- CPA Exam BEC section and CMA Part 1 share planning, budgeting, and forecasting, performance management, and cost management in common.
- Internal controls are addressed in both the CMA exam Part 1 and the CPA Exam AUD section.
Let’s understand the overlaps in the syllabus in detail from the table below:
|CPA Syllabus||Overlap with CMA Part 1 Syllabus|
|FAR and REG (Tax Implications)||External Financial Reporting Decisions (15%)|
|BEC||Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting (30%)|
|BEC||Performance Management (20%)|
|BEC||Cost Management (20%)|
|AUD||Internal Controls (15%)|
|CPA Syllabus||Overlap with CMA Part 2 Syllabus|
|FAR and AUD (Analytical Review)||Financial Statement Analysis (25%)|
|BEC||Corporate Finance (20%)|
|BEC||Decision Analysis (20%)|
|BEC and possibly AUD (Audit Risk)||Risk Management (10%)|
|BEC||Investment Decisions (15%)|
|AUD||Professional Ethics (10%)|
Furthermore, holding both the CPA and the CMA requires continuing professional education (CPE) hours. CPA credits are points that professionals receive for participating in specialized activity. Candidates can meet CPE requirements for both qualifications by completing a range of continuing education courses.
CPA vs CMA Exam Difficulty
Determining whether a CPA or CMA is easier depends on your skillset, preferences, and exam preparation. But, to attain a CPA, you must complete 16 hours of exams spread across four sections of the examination. In comparison, the CMA exam is divided into two parts, with a total timeframe of eight hours.
Historically, the CMA exam has a slightly lower pass rate of around 45% for Part 1, Part 2 combined, compared to close to 50% for the combined CPA exam.
Candidates for the CMA have three years to pass both parts of the exam. The clock starts ticking from the date you were accepted into the CMA program. For the CPA exam, however, you have 18 months to pass all four parts from the time you take the first exam.
CPA Average Salary by profession
|Financial Risk Manager||$102,325|
|Chief Financial Officer (CFO)||$137,121|
Why CPA Might Be A Better Choice?
So, now that you know the major differences between a CPA and a CMA, it's time to make a choice. What you choose will depend on a number of factors and can also be determined by your preferences. However, in our opinion, getting a CPA would be a better choice for an accounting professional. Here’s why:Raised Entry Barrier
The AICPA and NASBA have advocated for a common CPA prerequisite in all states—the so-called "3E" CPA requirements need 150 credit hours with a focus on accounting, as well as one to two years of experience validated by an active CPA licensee. Because the entry barrier is so high, becoming a CPA is a prestige that few can obtain, making the qualification extremely valuable.Suitable for All Accounting Positions
The CPA credential is highly recognized, and you can earn it no matter where you work in finance and accounting, whether in public or non-public accounting. The CMA, on the other hand, is solely useful for individuals who want to work and stay in the corporate world.