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CPA Vs. CMA: Salary & Certification

Certified public accountants (CPAs) and certified management accountants (CMAs) both assist clients with finances; however, their areas of focus differ. This article will cover the job descriptions and outlook for each career.

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Comparing CPAs to CMAs

A career as a CPA or CMA may appeal to individuals with excellent analytical skills, strong attention to detail, and strong organizational skills. Both of these careers involve financial analysis, but in different capacities. A CPA works with individuals or organizations, while a CMA focuses only on assisting corporate clients. Both require specific education and professional certification or licensure.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)**
CPA Bachelor's degree $63,547 10% (Accountants & Auditors)
CMA Bachelor's degree $56,925 (Management Accountant) 10% (Accountants & Auditors)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of CPAs vs. CMAs

CPAs and CMAs both utilize their accounting and analytical skills to improve clients' financial health. A CPA assists individual or organizational clients with issues like taxes, financial reporting, and audits. In contrast, a CMA provides corporate clients with comprehensive financial services, such as risk management, audits, or compliance.

CPA

CPAs analyze individuals' or organizations' financial records and produce reports based on their analyses. They can work for a public accounting firm or operate their own business. A primary focus of a CPA is ensuring clients' records do not contain discrepancies or violate any tax standards. Other general job responsibilities can include creating and monitoring budgets, performing bookkeeping duties, and providing recommendations on methods to streamline operations and maximize revenue. CPAs will need a bachelor's degree in accounting. In most states, they must complete thirty hours of coursework beyond the traditional bachelor's degree. CPAs will also need applicable work experience, to pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and become licensed in their state.

Job responsibilities of a CPA include:

  • Developing and implementing audit methods
  • Assisting executive management with strategic planning and fraud prevention efforts
  • Completing clients' taxes and submitting appropriate forms
  • Creating and analyzing financial reports

CMA

CMAs are trained to assist organizations in making sound business decisions based on their current financial situation. They can work for nonprofits, government agencies, or private organizations. Job responsibilities for CMAs can include developing budgets, assisting executive management in selecting investments, and supervising junior accounting personnel who handle basic accounting tasks, such as recording expenses and income. CMAs will need a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance and two years of relevant work experience in order to be eligible for the CMA exam. Upon passing the exam, CMAs will have a global certification. Interested individuals can join a professional organization, like the Institute of Management Accountants.

Job responsibilities of a CMA include:

  • Examining financial records to create predictions and measure performance
  • Identify organizational and market trends in order to develop areas for improvement
  • Overseeing an organization's data processors or bookkeepers
  • Managing risk and ensuring an organization is in compliance with federal and state regulations

Related Careers

If the path of a CPA interests you, consider a career as a financial analyst, as both careers focus on individuals' or organizations' fiscal health. Individuals interested in a career as a CMA may be interested in a job as a financial manager, since both careers work with corporate clients.

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