US CMA vs CFA: Whats the Difference Between Them?


Students who have graduated from Commerce are often unsure about the specialization they want to pursue. Over a decade ago, there were just a few possibilities for such students to pursue a successful profession, but that is no longer the case. Despite this increase in employment opportunities, the fundamental sectors in the field of Commerce remain banking and accounting.
Among students and professionals with a background in Commerce, the CMA USA and CFA certifications are rising in popularity. 
US Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is for individuals interested in the accounting side of finance. In contrast, Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) is an international credential obtained by people who want to work in the investment business & portfolio management. If you intend to enroll in any of these courses, you must be fully informed about them to make the best possible career choice. In this article, we will take a look at everything about US CMA vs CFA.

What is CMA USA?

A US Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a specialist who is authorized to audit and manage a company's strategic management and corporate financial accounting. The certification is granted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), a US-based accounting organization, and this credential is recognized worldwide. In India and many other countries, there has been a significant rise in demand for professionals with a US CMA degree in recent years.

What is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

CFA is a highly sought-after professional certification in the field of finance. Its course is intended for individuals with an interest in Investment Management, Consulting, or Risk Management. The CFA test, like the CMA USA, is highly difficult. This course is ideal for students who want to work in investment banking or financial management.
Let's start by going over some key differences between these two important courses US CMA vs CFA.

US CMA vs CFA - Eligibility Criteria

After finishing their 12th grade, students can start their US CMA preparation. However, you must have a bachelor's degree, two years of work experience, and apply for IMA membership in order to get certified as a CMA USA.
The CFA qualifying criteria are straightforward; once you are in your last year of graduating, you can begin studying for your CFA level 1 test. However, you may be qualified for CFA without graduating if you have a minimum of four years of relevant job experience.

US CMA vs CFA - Exam Structure

The CMA USA certification exam includes the following components:
  • Two Exam Parts (Part 1 & Part 2) could be attempted separately in the span of 18 months.
  • Each test section carries 500 points and lasts for four hours. To pass the test, you must receive an average of 360 out of 500 in each one.
  • There are 100 MCQs and two essay questions in both exam parts. You are allowed to attempt the essay question only after answering 50% of the MCQs.
The CFA institute offers the CFA a credential of international reputation. The CFA test is structured quite differently from CMA USA:
  • The CFA exam has three levels.
  • Level 1 is held twice a year, in June and December.
  • Levels 2 and 3 are conducted in June only. 
  • The CFA examinations are held four times a year, with these levels held quarterly.

US CMA vs CFA - Course Structure

 The CMA Exam is divided into two halves, Part 1 and Part 2. Each of these components is separated into six different subjects, as listed below:
CMA Part 1 Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
  • Financial Reporting
  • Planning, Budgeting, & Forecasting
  • Performance Management
  • Cost Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Technology and Analysis

CMA Part 2 Strategic Financial Management

  • Financial Statement Analysis
  • Corporate Finance
  • Decision Analysis
  • Risk Management
  • Investment Decisions
  • Professional Ethics
To accomplish CFA, you must pass all three levels of the test (CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2, and CFA Level 3). The same ten subjects are covered throughout all three levels. However, each level's marking weights are different. The topics covered in CFA are as follows:
  1. Quantitative Methods
  2. Ethical and Professional Standards
  3. Economics
  4. Financial Statement and Analysis
  5. Equity Investment
  6. Corporate Issuers
  7. Fixed Income
  8. Derivatives
  9. Alternative Investments
  10. Portfolio Management & Wealth Planning
CFA Level 1 Only MCQs (no negative marking) 
CFA Level 2 MCQs in a case study format
CFA Level 3 MCQs in a case study format + Subjective questions
You can see that the US CMA vs CFA curriculum patterns significantly differ from one another.

CMA USA vs CFA - Recognition

The CMA (USA) is one of the world's highest management accounting degrees. This certification is recognized in countries like China, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Middle East.
CFA is a truly international qualification. A significant benefit of getting a CFA is that even after finishing just one or two levels of CFA, you can begin working in finance for better pay than a standard graduate. Combining this degree with other certifications such as CA, ACCA, or MBA would only boost the number of profitable employment prospects available to you.

US CMA vs CFA - Job Prospects

All businesses require accounting experts, although some also require financial experts in terms of employment opportunities. In addition to cost accountants, CMAs frequently serve as risk managers, FP&A managers, corporate accountants, management accountants, financial strategists, and senior decision-makers. A somewhat greater demand exists for CMA certification.
The CFA designation, recognized in the asset management and investment fund sectors, is for equities research. But since they have such specialized expertise, CFAs are also known to attain very top positions in many businesses. They experience rapid growth and receive highly alluring pay. CFA should be your pick if you desire the status of working in well-known corporations in areas like Wall Street in the USA.

US CMA vs CFA - Salary in India

CFAs and CMAs get high-paying positions in India and overseas after obtaining their degree. When comparing US CMA vs CFA, salary is one of the most important factors to consider. In India, the remuneration of a CMA USA usually ranges from Rs. 5-7 lakhs per year. A CFA's annual pay in India ranges from Rs. 6-8 lakhs.
Salaries may vary depending on the candidate's level of experience. Candidates must get appropriate information and experience to be considered for suitable career opportunities in India and overseas.

CMA USA and CFA - Combination salary

After learning about US CMA vs CFA, we created a table comparing a candidate's combined income after completing both courses. If you follow both CMA USA and CFA concurrently or sequentially, they can provide your career with a wonderful start. Check the combined salaries for various employment positions;
Job RoleCMA salaryCFA salary
Chief Finance Officer$140,000$316,000
Financial Analyst$99,000$80,000
Portfolio Manager Equities$88,000$344,000
Candidates must fully understand both courses to compare US CMA vs CFA. Let's go over some other important issues relating to these two courses.

Why should you pursue the CFA course?

When it comes to the financial sector, CFA is one of the most well-known degrees to study throughout the world. A vast number of enterprises, particularly hedge fund management firms and finance and accounting firms, are continually trying to employ CFA experts. So, if you want to work in financial reporting and management, earning a CFA is a great way to get started.
Professionals who have pursued CFA after taking CA, ACCA, or even MBA are known to earn much more than they would have otherwise if they hadn't done CFA. With CFA + MBA or CFA + ACCA, you can start working as a hedge fund manager or even an investment banker with starting salaries that are significantly greater than those of a typical graduate.
The CFA is a fantastic professional option for people who want to lead an exciting, fast-paced lifestyle between US CMA vs CFA . You could already be qualified to get a CFA if you recently graduated or are doing your final semester exams.

Why should you select CMA USA?

A course like CMA is certainly on your list of preferred courses if you intend to enter the profession of management accounting. The CMA will introduce you to the management side of accounting and business in any organization or sector. So, if you are a student wishing to enter the profession of management accounting in a relatively short period of time and if you have already passed your class 12, studying US CMA is the best option for you.
We hope this information clears up any doubts you may have about choosing between US US CMA vs CFA.


1. Who earns more - US CMA vs CFA?

CFAs make somewhat more money than CMAs, according to a comparison of CMA USA v/s CFA. A CFA makes between Rs. 7 and 10 lakhs, whereas a CMA makes between Rs. The pay may fluctuate a little depending on experience. In general, market prospects and pay for CFAs are substantially higher than for CMAs.

2. Which is better: CFA or CPA or CMA?

Professionals having a CPA, CMA, or CFA qualification mostly differ in their areas of specialization. A CMA is a specialist in management accounting, whereas a CPA focuses on general accounting and finance, and a CFA on finance and financial services. The CPA is a better certification if one wishes to work in the accounting industry of finance. At the same time, CFA is ideal for people working in commercial finance or portfolio management. Which course is better totally depends on your academic qualification and your interest.

3. Is CFA good with CMA?

You can pursue the CFA after completing the CMA USA certification. In terms of scope, both certificates are somewhat different. Pursuing and obtaining both will surely broaden your career's reach. However, CMA USA-certified professionals do not receive exemptions from the CFA certification program.

4. Can a CMA be a financial analyst?

Yes, CMA can work as a Financial Analyst after being US CMA certified. Candidates who want to work in finance and accounting may consider getting a CMA USA certificate. You can work as a financial analyst at a bank, an insurance firm, a startup, or a large corporation.

5. CMA USA v/s CFA - Which is harder?

CFA is more difficult to execute than US CMA. The CFA test has a global pass rate of 45%, whereas the CMA exam has a pass rate of 50%. As opposed to the four parts of the previous system, the CMA presently just has two parts, which makes it more manageable. The three levels of the CFA increase in difficulty as they progress. Both exams are difficult if you do not have the necessary guidance and study material, although CMA is easier to handle than CFA. So, if you compare US CMA vs CFA , passing the CMA exam would be more difficult.

6. What is the CFA level 1 cost in India?

The enrollment fee for CFA Level 1 will be around 33,722 rupees in India. Then, as an early registration fee, you must pay around 52 456 rupees. You must pay somewhere in the range of 74,938 rupees to register at the normal rate.

7. US CMA vs CFA - what is the duration of the course?

CMA USA can be finished in 6 months to 3 years, depending on your level of commitment. The IMA allows students a maximum of three years from the date of enrolment to finish the course.
The required amount of time to get a CFA is two years. The majority of students finish the course in roughly 34 years, depending on their academic standing.


After comparing the US CMA vs CFA , it is clear that both are valuable credentials with lots of room for professional advancement. For better employment possibilities, candidates might enroll in either of the courses individually or together.
If you are thinking of pursuing the quicker yet more lucrative option, CMA USA might be the best choice for you. Candidates must do well on the CMA USA exam to receive the designation. 
You enroll at the top CMA coaching institute - NorthStar Academy - to prepare in an organized and efficient way for the certification exam. Candidates who join the CMA USA certification course of NSA have access to special study materials, recorded lessons, and live sessions that aid in their comprehension of simple and complex concepts. The experienced mentors at the NSA assist the applicants at every stage of the certification providing the complete roadmap for desired success.
What are you still holding out for? Visit the NorthStar Academy website right now to know more.
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