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CA VS CMA: Which Course Should You Pursue?

As a student, one of your foremost goals will be to choose a career. You could be in a dilemma about pursuing a CA or CMA course. Do you have a knack for playing with numbers? If so, these are the courses you would pursue and build a career. However, one should realize that these courses are considered the toughest in India. You will require a brilliant IQ to crack them. CA VS CMA

Before discussing CA vs CMA and clarifying these courses, it is important to understand each acronym. The term CA as we know, refers to a chartered accountant, and CMA is the short term for a cost management accountant. A student who has successfully passed the 10+2 exams can select a career option among any of these two courses. In this blog, we will discuss these two courses and will shed light on the key differences. Here are the details of these two courses.


A brief introduction to the CA course:

The CA, as you know, is a renowned course in the commerce stream. You must sit for exams conducted by The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) to acquire the degree and start practising. The ICAI is a renowned institute and the second-largest accounting body in the world today. 

By completing the CA course, you can look forward to getting a lucrative job in the corporate sector. A CA handles the financial & legal matters of a company, and it is a responsible position. The profession is challenging because there are constant adjustments to financial & legal matters, and you need to be updated. You need to be aware of case studies and amended laws. A CA must be an accounting & auditing, taxation, and finances expert.

The job profile of a CA can be varied, ranging from an internal auditor to portfolio management to even a financial advisor. There are abundant career opportunities, and you can pursue the course to rise. 

An introduction to the CMA course

As you evaluate the career options between CA vs CMA, it is also important to know about the latter. The term refers to a cost management accountant, and it is a certified program you can complete in three years. The Institute of Cost Accountants in India (ICAI) conducts this exam. The primary goal of the course is to educate students about their work in various firms and corporate capacities. The teachings in the course are based on four knowledgeable pillars. They are as follows:

  • Strategy 
  • Management 
  • Regulatory Framework 
  • Financial Reporting 

A cost accountant must provide professional services for investment planning and profit management. To pursue this course, you will require meeting the eligibility criterion and completing the registration process. 

How can I become a CA

Let us understand the process to follow as you intend to become a chartered accountant. A student who has completed the 10+2 exams is eligible to go through the process of becoming a chartered accountant. After the 12th standard, you can appear for the CA Foundation exam. There is also the option to appear directly for the CA Intermediate after graduation. 

During the study period, the CA student also needs some work experience and must work in an authorized professional CA firm for three years. They can sit for the CA final exams only if the candidate can show this work. The candidate could enrol in an IT course that provides in-depth knowledge of varied skills such as Excel & word. 

A candidate is eligible to sit for the CA Final exam after successfully passing the foundation and intermediate courses and going through the compulsory trainee period. Before writing the CA Final paper, a student must complete 100 hours of soft skill development. It teaches a CA trainee how to deal with clients. A student can now sit for the CA Final paper; upon passing the exam, they can collect the degree. The CA Final passing criteria states a student must score 40% marks in each paper and an aggregate of 50% in each group. On securing this mark, a student can now pursue a career as a chartered accountant. 

Understand the steps to become a CMA

As you intend to know the better career option between a CA vs CMA, it is also essential to know the process of becoming a CMA. You will need to pass some exams, and you can sit for them after completing your 12th standard. Like the CA, the first step to becoming a CMA is passing The Foundation Course. At the Foundation level, the teaching focuses on cost management strategies. 

Upon passing the CMA Foundation course, you must sit for the CMA intermediate exam. Here a candidate learns about various topics of financial reporting in detail. A student gets to learn about direct and indirect taxation in this stage. 

On clearing this stage, a candidate can now sit for the CMA Final exams. It is the level 3 stage and the most difficult to pass. The course provides perspective on key financial parameters such as strategic financial management and specific legislation on various taxation issues. 

Both these courses have a few similarities:

As you select a career option between a CA vs CMA, you will find both these courses have a few similarities. Here are the details for readers in brief.

  • A student can enrol in both these courses after 10+2 exams. 
  • Both these courses have three levels of study. A candidate must pass each level to go to the next stage. 
  • A candidate will have to undergo physical training alongside studies in both these courses. 

These are the similarities between a CA & CMA course for a student who intends to pick a career option. 

Understand the main differences between a CA & CMA

Let us now discuss the key differences between CA vs CMA, and this should guide you on a possible career option between the two.

  • The CA is a longer duration course than the CMA. It will take about 4.5 years to pass the CA course. A student can clear the CMA course within 3 to 4 years. 
  • The articleship period in a CA course is rather lengthy, and a student must complete at least three years of such training. In a CMA course, the articleship period is significantly less. 
  • A CA can work in multiple job profiles, but it is not the case for a cost management accountant. 
  • Companies are looking for candidates who can handle varied tasks, and the CA professional should easily fit. The demand for a cost management accountant is limited but expected to rise shortly. 

This is the basic difference between a CA & CMA, but there are more things to note before you decide on a career option. 

The CA is a tougher course to pass:

The CA is always the tougher course to pass, and the study duration is four and a half years. Students have passed the CMA in 3 to 4 years. The pass percentage for a CA course ranges from 8 to 12%. 

Understand the difference in job profiles:

This is an important consideration as you discuss CA vs CMA from a career option perspective. A candidate who obtains a chartered accountant degree can work in multiple job profiles, and here are the details for readers. 

  • A CA can work as a statutory and internal auditor for the company.
  • They can be an advisor for direct and indirect taxation matters.
  • A CA degree holder can handle transfer pricing 
  • They can handle financial & accounting matters. 
  • The CA can also take part in the company’s investment decisions. 
  • The CA can also handle the legal matters of the company.

Let us now understand the job profile of a candidate who has passed the CMA course. Such a professional will also have some responsibilities, and here are the details. 

  • A cost auditor
  • Cost accounting
  • Financial planning
  • Determining the value of goods and services
  • Management accountant 
  • Financial analyst 

These are the basic job profiles of these respective domains of work, and you can see that there is more responsibility for a chartered accountant. This is precisely the reason why the CA enjoys a more lucrative salary. 

A CA enjoys a more lucrative pay package

The salary package for a CA is certainly more lucrative than a CMA. It should also be an important consideration when discussing CA vs CMA as a career option. The entry-level salary for CA could be anywhere in the range of 6 to 7 lakhs. Candidates who have passed the CA course on their first attempt can expect an annual pay package of 10 to 12 lakhs. Rank holders can expect an annual pay of 25 lakhs.

A CMA may have to be satisfied with an entry-level package of 5 to 7 lakhs. However, there is a scope for salary increase over time depending upon the candidate’s ability to perform. Hence, there is certainly an earnings difference between these two job profiles. 

Some reasons why you would want to do a CA course

Despite being a tough course, there are enough reasons why you would want to pursue a CA course. Here are the details for readers in brief. 

  • This course should be your entry pass into the corporate world. Once the company takes you on board, you will be given complete responsibilities to handle the financial & accounting segment of the company. 
  • A CA can choose from a wide range of career options. Upon getting an ICAI degree, you can work with either the private sector or government organizations. 
  • A CA can even offer their services as a business consultant. 
  • Global exposure is one of the biggest reasons you would desire to pursue a career as a CA. There is the scope to establish yourself and pursue a career with MNCs.
  • Prominent universities have often appointed chartered accountants as lecturers. Hence, this is one more earnings scope for a person who holds a degree as a chartered accountant. 
  • A CA can always climb the corporate ladder in the latter stages of their career. There have been instances of chartered accountants occupying prominent positions on the company board.
  • A CA has the scope to do higher studies, and this should allow them to pursue bigger career growth. 

The career prospects for a CMA are limited:

This is one of the major drawbacks for a person who intends to make a career as a CMA. Such a professional does not have many opportunities beyond this stage. However, there is nothing to lose heart because every company requires a CMA. Hence, there should be enough job prospects for a CMA candidate. In the future, there is bound to be a steady growth in demand for cost management professionals. Hence, despite limited opportunities at this stage, the prospects are bright for a candidate pursuing a career as a cost management accountant. 

Which course to study right now

So, at the end of it, you would want a direct answer as to which course to pursue between a CA vs CMA. Pursuing a career as a chartered accountant is always lucrative, and you can see the salary packages are considerably higher. The job profile is greater than the CMA, and these are the positives of doing a CA course. However, the tough study period and the strenuous exams are why plenty of students are discouraged. The pass percentage in the CA is ridiculously low; at the end of it, students dread having wasted four and a half years. 

The cost management course, on the contrary, is easier to pass, but the currently limited job profile is a cause of concern. There could be growth prospects in the future, but currently, you will have to struggle more than someone with a CA degree.

If you assess both these conditions, students who are good at numbers and confident about their capability can pursue a CA course. You will get help in the form of study material from the institute, and there is always the scope to seek tuition from renowned CA coaching centres all over the country. With expert guidance to crack the CA paper, you will surely come up with flying colours. You can then pursue a lucrative career as a CA. 

FAQ on CA vs CMA: 

What is the age limit to apply for a CMA course

There is no age limit to apply for a CMA course. You can always study this course to pursue better career opportunities in life. You will, however, need the basic educational qualification of 10+2. 

Can I pursue a CMA course while doing a job

Yes, there are no regulations to prevent you from pursuing this course while doing a job. However, despite a hectic job schedule, you must regularly attend classes and follow the study module. It is a tough exam, and so you must be prepared for a gruelling study schedule along with the job. 

How many attempts do I get to pass the cost management intermediate course?

There are no restrictions on the number of attempts to pass the intermediate stage of the CMA course. The candidates can give any number of attempts for any course level. 

How many times are CMA exams conducted in a year

The CMA exams are conducted twice a year. A candidate can sit for the June and December term examinations. 

How many attempts are you allowed for the CA course?

The initial registration for the final course is valid for 5 years. Since two exams are conducted annually, you get 10 attempts to pass the course. 

Is there any age limit to attempt the CA course?

The CA is a professional course that involves testing skills and knowledge assessment. A student can sit for this exam at any stage of their life. 

What are the main topics in the CA syllabus?

The syllabus included topics such as accounting & auditing, and taxation. 

Which is the most difficult subject in the CA Inter exam?

By far, auditing is known to be the most difficult subject in the CA inter exam. Most students are known to take professional help to crack this paper. 

Which is more difficult, the CA or the CMA course

Both these exams are difficult, but if you have to pick, it would be the CA course. This is a vast course, and a student will need more in-depth study to pass with flying colours. 

Who earns more CA vs CMA?

Chartered Accountants (CAs) and Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) earnings can vary based on factors such as experience, industry, and geographic location. Generally, both professions have the potential for high salaries, but it ultimately depends on individual circumstances and career paths.

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