What Is the Difference Between a CMA and a CPA?


Quick Answer

The primary difference between those with a certified public accountant, CPA, and a certified management accountant, CMA, credential lies in the types of environments where they work. According to the Constant Analyst, these credentials also differ by their education and hands-on experience requirements. Also, the regulatory bodies that issue these credentials are different.

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Full Answer

CPAs are the most recognized type of accountants. A person with a CPA credential is legally allowed to practice accounting with all types of accounts, ranging from an individual's tax return to large corporate accounts. The Constant Analyst describes CMAs as working solely in the world of corporate finance.

The Constant Analyst states that the education and work experience requirements for CMAs are less stringent than those for CPAs. CPAs must typically complete 150 credit hours of higher education with 30 to 36 of those directly related to accounting. Additionally, prospective CPAs must have 1 to 2 years of experience working under the supervision of a practicing CPA. In contrast, the CMA credential is open to those with accounting degrees as well as those in marketing, finance, economics and other business-related fields. The CMA credential requires 1 to 2 years of relevant work experience, but it does not need to be under the supervision of a CMA.

According to the Constant Analyst, the CPA credential is regulated by a state board of accountants. Passing the state examination gives a CPA the right to practice only in that state. The CMA credential is recognized globally and administered by the Institute of Management Accountants, but it does not give a person the same rights to practice as a CPA.

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