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CPA or CMA?

CPA or CMA?

Dona DeZube, Monster Finance Careers Expert

When you’re searching for accounting jobs, a credential next to your name can help your resume stand out. But which one is right for you: certified public accountant (CPA) or certified management accountant (CMA)? It depends on your career goals, but here are some points to consider.

What Do You Want to Do?

Because core areas of expertise for CPAs and CMAs differ, knowing the type of accounting you want to do is key, says Kathleen Downs, recruiting manager for Robert Half International in Orlando, Florida.

CPAs perform and sign audits and do tax work, which includes representing companies during IRS audits. CMAs focus on cost accounting, management reporting, financial planning and analysis, says Joe Taylor, vice president of Hudson Financial Solutions in Chicago.

CMAs have the edge in manufacturing and in certain positions, such as plant control and management accounting. But at the corporate level and in financial-reporting positions, the CPA is king, says Mitch Blasko, CPA and president of MBI Financial Staffing in Greenville, South Carolina.

Do travel and variety appeal to you? “If you want exposure to many industries and public auditing skills, CPA is the way to go,” Downs says. “If you want to hang your hat in the same office every day and make a difference with one company, the CPA is good, but the CMA is extremely relevant.”

Are You Qualified?

Before sitting for the CPA exam, you must meet state licensing rules. Most states require 150 hours of post-undergraduate coursework. Some states also require public accounting experience before you take the CPA exam.

If your job is demanding or requires a lot of travel, you may not have time for more accounting education. And if you’ve worked only in private accounting, you may have to take a pay cut to get the needed public experience, Taylor explains. If that’s the case, it might be easier to pursue the CMA, which does not require this experience, he says.