CMA vs CIA: which one should I go for?
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CMA vs CIA: which one should I go for?

Shawn Parikh
Shawn Parikh
  • September 24, 2021 06:11 PM EST

If you are into management accounting, you may have considered some qualifications you would want for a promising career in your field. Although these qualifications require a similar mindset and skillset, they are actually different in terms of specialization. However, first you need to establish which niche of accounting you would want to master. This blog will shed some light on the nuances of Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and (CMA).

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The holders of CMA certification qualify to work in corporate financial accounting and strategic management. Its courses are different from CPA as they actually cover topics that are not included in the CPA course. Accountants pursue this qualification to attain more versatile job roles that help them become CFO and their salaries typically surpass their non certified counterparts.

The CMA credential is provided by the Institute of Management Accountants. It is one of the oldest certifications in this area and has become more and more prominent with passing generations. By getting this certification, professionals can strengthen their knowledge in financial management and command their critical accounting skills, including :

  • Financial planning
  • Decision support
  • Control
  • Analysis
  • Professional Ethics

In order to become certified as a CMA, one needs to pass a prometric examination that is conducted in two parts. Each part contains 100 MCQs, along with two essays lasting for 30 minutes each and they last for around 4 hours.

Within the initial 12 months after you enter the CMA program, you need to register and take a minimum of one examination. It takes three years altogether to clear the entire examination. Once you are done with the examination and documentation processes, you need to work for at least two years in management accounting to obtain the CMA certification.

With a CMA title, you can have a combination of accounting skills along with managerial decision making ability. This can lead to top executive positions of a company as it equips you with strategic caliber in accounting too.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is the only globally recognized professional qualification for internal auditors and is awarded by Institute of Internal Auditors. The CIA certification is based on the International Professional Practices Framework.

The CIA is the flagship certification for internal auditors and the designation that the IIA recommends for all internal auditors to pursue and possess. This certification is based on the International Professional Practices Framework. Therefore, not only does the CIA demonstrate your credibility as an internal audit professional, but it gives you a competitive edge over your peers.

It equips accountants with the practical knowledge of conducting internal audits. It is a unique designation. CIA qualification is handy for those accountants who are planning to work in auditing for various organizations such as government agencies, financial institutions or corporations. They have a critical role to play as they peruse documents related to financial transactions of a client or employer for deficiencies or discrepancies in internal controls.

Currently there are 165,000+ CIA certified professionals globally.

In contrast to a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who is recognized primarily in the USA, a CIA is globally recognized. Additionally, a CIA title is more micro-focussed than CPA. CIAs are also employed directly by a company for the role of an auditor whereas CPAs perform the same role externally for a client. Both these professionals, however, are tied to a stringent code of ethics. Violation of the same can and has led to major scams and loss to the public, for instance the Lehman Brothers scandal of 2008.

What are the CPE Requirements?

You need to earn 30 CPE credits every year including 2 hours of ethics. The reporting period begins on January 1 following successful completion of the examination. myCPE is one such platform where professionals can earn all credits bundled in packaged courses and keep track of the CPEs without any hassle.

CMA vs CIA: What to choose?

If you ask which course is right for you, then honestly the answer lies within yourself. It mostly depends upon how much time, education and work experience you are willing to put into earning one designation or the other.

If your aptitude is more towards auditing finances and you have an eye for detail, then CIA is a better choice for you. On the other hand, being a CMA implies a more managerial role and hence yields higher salaries.

We hope this blog has provided you with some knowledge regarding these two in-demand qualifications. Do check out our other blogs on for in-depth content related to tax, finance and accounting. is also home to a large number of webinars and study materials for professionals who are already CMA and CIA certified and wish to earn the necessary CPE.

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Shawn Parikh

Shawn Parikh

CEO, Entigrity Offshore Staffing

The author, Shawn Parikh is a qualified accountant and has been in accounting industry for more than a decade now. He has always been a big believer and advocate of social enterprises and small accounting firms and business.

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