Most students get overwhelmed about CPA and CMA exams and find it harder to choose between two. But here’s the deal. It all depends on what you want to become. To know more about this read this article.

Updated by Akshay Nair P R on 11th June 2018


Choosing the right accounting certification between CMA and CPA can be a very daunting task.

So, before choosing any one of them you should consider this fact that what next after completing this certification.

If you want to join public enterprises then you should definitely go for CPA and if you want to be an accountant or financial advisor for any private organization then CMA is for you.

Difference between CMA and CPA

The main difference between both is that CMA is a combination of both financial accounting and strategic management, they have to take strategic decisions using financial information.

On the other hand, CPAs have to perform/ sign audit, they have to be deeply involved with tax work mostly involving tax work.




Certification By

It is organized by American Institute of CPAs. But the licensing authority is of the Board of Accountancy of the particular state you pass out from.

It is approved and sponsored by Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA). ICMA is affiliated by Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). ICMA has more than 40,000 members in 100 countries.

The number of Levels

Fewer levels in comparison in comparison to CMA. You need to clear only one level.

It only has one level but what makes it complicated is that it has two parts. First part is about Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control. The second part is about the financial decision making.

Mode and duration 

It takes a Herculean effort to complete this exam, as this exam lasts for 14 hours.

For this, you have to sit for two exams. with a 100 multiple choice questions and two thirty minute essays. This exam last for 4 hours each.


  1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)

  2. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)

  3. Regulation (REG)

  4. Business Environment Concept (BEC)

It is a two-part exam so subjects are divided accordingly


  1. External Financial Reporting Decision

  2. Internal Controls 

  3. Performance Management

  4. Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting

  5. Cost Management


  1. Investment Decisions

  2. Corporate Finance

  3. Professional Ethics

  4. Financial Statement Analysis

  5. Decision Analysis

  6. Risk Management

Passing Criteria

Historically the passing percentage has been 50 % for each section.

For 2017 the passing criteria for each subject at different quarters are given below.

  1. AUD:- Q1-45%, Q2:- Q2-49%, Q3:- 45%, Q4:- 44%

  2. FAR:- Q1-45%, Q2:- Q2-46%, Q3:- 48%, Q4:- 43%

  3. REG:- Q1-48%, Q2:- Q2-50%, Q3:- 46%, Q4:- 48%

  4. BEC:- Q1-55%, Q2:- Q2-56%, Q3:- 58%, Q4:- 53%

Since we are waiting for 2017 results, for 2016 the exam pass rate was 49% and the breakdown of pass percentage for each window is as follows.

  1. Part 1:- Jan-Feb-36%, May-June-35%, Sept-Jun-35%

  2. Part 2:- Jan-Feb-55%, May-June-52%, Sept-Jun-50%

Job Titles

  1. Can work in a consulting firm or regional or local firms as an accountant or financial advisor

  2. Public Accountant

  3. Internal auditor

  4. Management Accountant

  1. Management & Cost Accountant

  2. Financial Accountant

  3. Financial Risk Manager

  4. Management Consulting

  5. Performance Management



Like two side of the same coin, they both have their advantages and their disadvantages. The best option available if you are confused between both is to choose the one that you can imagine yourself doing even after 20 years and you are enjoying it. Both of them take a lot of hard work and dedication to complete. One possibility is that if you want the most lucrative option, then go for both.