When we consider the CMA vs CPA landscape, they’re quite different. If you review the exam course material for both, the CMA centers on higher-level concepts and business applications. Conversely, the CPA focuses on the more technical components of accounting, tax laws, and financial governance.
In exploring the difference between CPA and CMA accounting professionals, it’s helpful to review the roles that a qualified person might hold. For instance, a CMA typically uses financial and accounting knowledge and data to influence business strategy. As financial strategists, they can, as the IMA says, “explain the ‘why’ behind the numbers.” Usually, they will hold the role of Cost Accountant, Risk Manager, Chief Financial Officer, VP of Finance, or Corporate Controller. Their exact title will depend on the employer and how involved they are in the strategic direction of the business.
The difference between a CPA and CMA, therefore, is that CPAs focus on taxation, day-to-day auditing, and accounting, whereas CMAs take on tactical business management roles.
Due to their additional licensed capabilities, CPAs tend to work for a broader range of organizations than CMAs – from public office to the private sector and as independent practitioners.
One thing that CPAs and CMAs share, though, is that they are both better paid than non-certified accountants, and by quite a margin.