CMA USA vs CFA: Ultimate Guide to Upscale your Career

Are you confused when selecting account or finance courses with almost the same subjects? The CMA USA and CFA are the two certifications gaining popularity among commerce background students and working professionals. The career prospects for CMA USA vs CFA are not very similar, so specific vital differences are discussed to know all about them.
If you plan to do either of these courses, then it is essential to have complete information about them to ultimately decide which is the best career option for you. 

What is the US CMA?

US CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant. CMA is a professional credential that signifies that a candidate possesses expertise in management accounting and financial accounting. It is globally recognized and provides candidates with fantastic career opportunities. 
A candidate with the CMA USA certification can work in any part of the world. Candidates must put in the effort and hard work as it is a challenging exam. One needs to have a thorough knowledge in areas like analysis, financial planning, decision support, control, ethics, etc. 
Let us begin by discussing some key points regarding the CMA USA exam. 

Eligibility Criteria 

Now, coming to the eligibility criteria of the CMA USA exam, candidates have to fulfill the following requirements. Let's have a look! 
  • Candidates must have an IMA Membership. 
  • They must have a bachelor's degree from a renowned college or university. 
  • Candidates must possess at least two years of work experience in financial and management accounting. 
  • Candidates must abide by the IMA's Statement of Ethical Professional Practice. 

Exam Structure

The CMA USA certification exam has-
  • You can attempt two Exam Parts (Part 1 and Part 2) separately.
  • Part 1 is Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics and Part 2 is Strategic Financial Management.
  • Both the exam parts are conducted for 4 hours and carry 500 marks. You need around 360 out of 500 marks in each of them to clear the exam. 
  • There are 100 MCQs and 2 Essay type questions in both exam parts.

Exam Fee 

The CMA USA fee structure differs for students and working professionals.
  • For Students 
Particulars Fees ($)
Membership Registration fee (Valid for 3 years) $45*3 135
IMA Entrance fee 210
Part 1 Exam fee 345
Part 2 Exam fee 345
Total 1035
  • For Working Professionals 
Particulars Fees($)
IMA Membership Registration fee (Valid for 1year) 260
IMA Entrance fee 280
Part 1 Exam fee 460
Part 2 Exam fee 460
Total 1460

What is CFA? 

Before knowing the difference between CMA USA vs CFA, candidates must understand some key facts about the CFA certification program. So, here we go! 
CFA stands for Chartered Financial Analyst. CFA is one of the most sought-after courses in the field of Finance. This course is for those interested in Investment Management, Consulting, and Risk Management. The CFA exam is quite challenging, just like CMA USA. 
There are three levels of CFA (discussed below), wherein the skills and knowledge of a candidate are tested. Once candidates pass the CFA exam, they get lucrative job opportunities in India and abroad. Here are some key highlights for the CFA exam. Let's have a look!   
Before discussing CMA USA vs CFA, specific vital points need to be addressed regarding CFA. So, let us first discuss them. 

Eligibility Criteria 

First, one must know the eligibility criteria before applying for the CFA exam. Here's what you need to know! 
  • A bachelor's degree from a renowned college.
  • A combination of 4000 hours of professional work experience and higher education. 
  • Professional work experience in the field of Finance is a must for CFA Aspirants. Candidates can do paid internships. 

Exam Structure 

CFA is a globally acclaimed qualification offered by the CFA institute. Unlike CMA USA, the exam pattern of CFA is quite different. 
  • CFA includes three levels of exam. 
  • Level 1 is conducted every year in June and December.
  • Levels 2 and 3 are conducted in June only. 
  • The syllabus consists of investment management. 
  • CFA exams are conducted four times a year, wherein the levels are held quarterly. 

Fee Structure

We have broken down the CMA fee structure so that you get a fair idea of how much you have to pay. 
  • Program Enrollment Fee - $450
  • Early Registration Fee - $700
  • Standard Registration Fee - $1000
  • Late Registration Fee - $1450
To know about CMA USA vs CFA, a candidate must thoroughly know both courses. Let us discuss some more key points regarding these two courses. 

CMA vs CFA Which to opt for? 

Most candidates who apply for the courses face a dilemma as to which is better CMA USA vs CFA. If we look at the course structure, eligibility, and other factors, then CMA is much easier than CFA.
Both the exams are complicated, and the pass percentage for both the courses is low. But when it comes to the difficulty level, then CFA is more complex than CMA. 
Below is the table showing the difference between the two. Have a look!
Particulars CFA CMA USA
Full Form Chartered Financial Analyst Certified Management Accountant
Organizing Body The Institute of CFA Institute of Management Accountants, USA.
Number of levels There are three levels in the CFA. There are two levels (exam parts) in the CMA USA Exam.
Registration Fee The registration fee for CFA is $450. The registration fee for CMA is $135(student) and $260(professionals).
Average Salary A CFA earns Rs. 7-10 Lakhs per annum. A CMA USA earns Rs. 6-7 Lakhs per annum.
Pass rate CFA has a pass rate of 45% globally. CMA USA has a pass rate of 50% globally.
Job roles CFA Job Roles include:Investment BankingCorporate Financial AnalystPortfolio ManagerRisk Analyst CMA USA Job Roles include:Cost AccountantFinancial AnalystSenior AccountantCost AccountantFinancial Manager
Exam Dates All the levels of CFA take place quarterly, i.e., Level 1 in August, Level 2 in November, and Level 3 in August. CMA USA takes place in June and ends in December/ January.
So, these are some critical differences between CMA USA vs CFA. By looking at the differences above, candidates can have proper knowledge regarding which exam they need to take. 
Let us have a look at the combination salary of CMA and CFA. 

 CMA and CFA Combination salary

After knowing CMA USA vs CFA, we have made a table regarding a candidate's combination salary after pursuing both courses. YES! You can follow both CMA USA and CFA together or one after another. They can give one's career a great start. Have a look at the combined salaries for different job roles.
Top Roles CMA Salary CFA Salary
Chief Finance Officer $140,000 $316,000
Financial Analyst $99,000 $80,000
Portfolio Manager Equities $88,000 $344,000
These are the top three roles that a candidate can apply for after pursuing both CFA and CMA courses. CMA USA and CFA provide candidates with high pay grades in middle and senior-level positions in top companies across the globe. 

Are CMA USA and CFA together a good career option? 

Yes, it is! Pursuing CMA with CFA is a great career option. Pursuing both courses together can be too hectic for the candidates. However, they complete both one by one to gain the dual certification, boosting their career growth and providing fantastic career opportunities. 
CMA and CFA are high-quality credentials designed to measure the candidates' critical accounting and financial management skills. Thus, doing CMA USA and CFA would be a good step if you want your career to reach new heights. If you have understood the details of the CMA USA vs CFA comparison, then it should be clear that both are good and in combination, are even better.

CFA vs CMA in India

Be it India or any other part of the world, the eligibility criteria, exam pattern, fee, etc., remain the same for both CFA and CMA USA. The CMA USA and CFA difference is already given in the above section. 
Now, talking about the CMA USA and CFA courses, candidates can gain the credentials by applying for a CMA certification course in India via an institution. If you have decided to pursue a US CMA course, using the NorthStar Academy is best. The academy provides all the preparatory study material for the CMA USA course. Additionally, pre-recorded sessions and live classes with mentors also help the candidates prepare for the exam. 
Candidates can pursue the course in India and get jobs in any part of the world because both the courses are globally acclaimed. 

CMA USA vs CFA Salary in India 

After acquiring the credential, CFAs and CMAs get high-paid jobs in India and abroad. Salary is one of the significant aspects when we talk about CMA USA vs CFA. 
The salary of a CMA USA in India ranges from Rs. 5-7 lakhs per annum. Similarly, the salary of a CFA in India ranges from Rs. 6-8 lakhs per annum. 
The salaries can differ based on the experience of the candidate. Candidates must gain proper knowledge and experience to get good job posts in India and abroad. 

Can I do CFA after US CMA?

Yes! You can do the CFA after the CMA USA certification. Both the certifications are pretty different in terms of their scope. Pursuing and gaining both will undoubtedly increase the scope of your career. However, one thing to note is that CMA USA-certified professionals do not get exemptions in the CFA certification program. 


1.Which is difficult CMA USA vs CFA?

CFA is relatively more complicated to do than US CMA. The global pass rate for the CFA exam is 45%, while the pass rate for CMA is 50%. Both the exams are challenging when you do not have the proper guidance and materials, but CMA is easy to handle, unlike CFA.

2.Who earns more CFA vs CMA?

Comparing CMA USA vs CFA shows that CFAs earn slightly higher than CMAs. A CFA earns Rs. 7-10 lakhs, while a CMA earns Rs. 6-7 lakhs. Depending upon the experience, the salary can waver a bit.

3.Can I do CFA after CMA USA?

Yes! You can pursue the CFA certification after the CMA USA.

4.Is CMA good for Financial Analysts? 

CMA USA is an excellent credential for candidates who wish to work in Finance and accounting. If a candidate wishes to be only in the finance and investment department, they must apply for the CFA course and exam. 


After discussing the CMA USA vs CFA, it is evident that both are lucrative qualifications with many career opportunities and growth. Candidates can pursue either of the courses or both of them together for better career prospects.
To gain the designation, candidates first need to excel at the exams. To prepare for CFA and CMA USA, candidates can apply to NorthStar Academy. By enrolling in the CMA USA and CFA certification courses, the candidates are provided with exclusive study material, pre-recorded classes, and live sessions, which help the candidates understand basic and complex concepts. NSA has a unique and organized approach to assisting candidates at every step.
Candidates signing up for the academy get free demo classes as well. Isn't this amazing? 
So, what are you waiting for? Apply now to NorthStar Academy.
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