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Choosing the Right Path: US CMA vs CFA


Graduates in the field of commerce are frequently at a crossroads, uncertain of which specialization to pursue. While there were once few options for a successful career, the landscape has changed. Banking and accounting have remained important sectors of the Commerce field despite the changing job market. The US CMA and CFA certifications are gaining popularity among Commerce students and professionals. In this article, we will provide a thorough comparison of US CMA vs CFA to assist you in making an informed career decision.

What is CMA USA?

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation in the United States is a specialized credential that allows professionals to oversee strategic management and corporate financial accounting. The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), a well-known accounting organization based in the United States, awards this certification. It is well-known around the world and has seen a significant increase in demand, not only in India but also in many other countries.

What is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA)?

The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification is highly sought after in the finance industry. The CFA exam is renowned for its difficulty and is designed for individuals interested in Investment Management, Consulting, or Risk Management. It is an excellent choice for those interested in working in investment banking or financial management.

Key Differences: US CMA vs CFA

Eligibility Criteria:

  • US CMA: After completing the 12th grade, you can begin your US CMA preparation. A bachelor’s degree, two years of work experience, and IMA membership are required to become a CMA USA.
  • CFA: You can start studying for the CFA Level 1 exam during your final year of high school. If you have at least four years of relevant work experience, you may be eligible for the CFA.

Exam Structure:

  • US CMA: There are two exam parts (Part 1 and Part 2) that can be taken separately within 18 months. Each section contains 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and two essay questions.
  • CFA: There are three levels, with Level 1 being held twice a year and Levels 2 and 3 being held in June. Each level’s exams are structured differently.

Course Structure:

  • US CMA: The CMA exam in the United States is divided into two parts, each of which covers six subjects related to financial planning and strategic financial management.
  • CFA: You must pass all three levels, which cover the same ten subjects but with different weightages. MCQs and essay questions are included in the format.


  • US CMA: Recognized in China, India, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Middle East.
  • CFA: A globally recognized qualification that opens doors to lucrative career opportunities in a variety of industries.

Job Prospects:

  • US CMA: Suitable for roles in cost accounting, risk management, FP&A management, and other areas. The demand for CMA professionals is increasing.
  • CFA: Excellent for positions in asset management, investment research, and finance. CFAs frequently advance to top positions and enjoy rapid career advancement.

Salary in India:

  • US CMA: Salary in India typically ranges between Rs. 5-7 lakhs per year.
  • CFA: The annual salary for a CFA in India ranges between Rs. 6-8 lakhs.

Combining Both Certifications:

  • Gaining both the CMA and the CFA can significantly improve your career prospects. Here are some examples of combined salaries for various roles:

Job Role CMA Salary CFA Salary
Chief Finance Officer
CMA : $140,000 CFA: $316,000
Financial Analyst
CMA: $99,000 CFA: $80,000
Portfolio Manager – Equities
CMA: $88,000 CFA: $344,000


  1. What are the key differences between US CMA and CFA?
    • US CMA focuses on management accounting, while CFA is for investment management and finance.
  2. What are the eligibility requirements for these certifications?
    • CMA requires a bachelor’s degree, two years of work experience, and IMA membership. CFA eligibility is more flexible, allowing graduation or relevant work experience.
  3. How do the career prospects differ between CMA and CFA?
    • US CMAs often work in cost accounting and FP&A, while CFAs excel in asset management and investment research.
  4. Can I pursue both the US CMA and CFA certifications simultaneously?
    • Yes, combining both certifications can lead to higher-paying positions in various fields.
  5. Which certification should I choose, CMA USA or CFA, for my career goals?
    • Choose CMA for management accounting, CFA for investment management and finance.

To summarize, understanding the differences between US CMA and CFA is critical for making an informed career decision. Whether you choose the CMA or the CFA, both certifications have the potential to lead to exciting career opportunities.

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