A guide to CGMA vs CMA certifications (with structures)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 14 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When it comes to choosing the right accounting certification, there are two main options, the CGMA vs CMA. Both certifications are globally recognised and may prove essential when looking for jobs in your field. Deciding between the two requires you to complete research and due diligence. In this article, we compare CGMA vs CMA certifications to help you decide which one is right for your career path.

What are the CGMA vs CMA certifications?

Both CGMA vs CMA certifications are something accountants could pursue. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) jointly created the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) qualification in 2012. The AICPA is a national professional organisation of Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) in the United States, while the CIMA is a professional body headquartered in the U.K. that offers qualifications in management accounting.

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation is a prestigious title in the accounting profession. The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) established the CMA in 1972 to recognise the professional competence of management accountants.

Related: How to gain CIMA certification: definition and importance

Structures of the programmes

The CGMA designation recognises the unique expertise of management accountants in providing insights and decision support to organisations. To be eligible for the CGMA designation, candidates require a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and at least three years of professional experience. The CGMA designation is valid for one year. To maintain the CGMA title, holders pay a subscription fee and complete continuing education requirements. This allows them to stay up to date on the latest trends and developments in the accounting field.

IMA grants the CMA designation. The IMA sets a minimum education requirement and administers exams to determine whether a person has met those requirements. To qualify for the CMA designation, candidates require a bachelor's degree and at least two years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management.

Syllabus and exams

The CGMA and CMA syllabi are designed to prepare students for careers in management accounting. The CGMA syllabus focuses on strategic, financial and risk management, while the CMA syllabus emphasises financial management and accounting for businesses. Here's more about the syllabus and exams for these two certifications programmes:

CGMA syllabus

The CGMA syllabus covers four key areas of skills development:

  • Technical skills: This section covers financial accounting, management accounting, financial reporting and other related topics.

  • Business skills: This section covers topics such as strategy, marketing, business relations and operations.

  • People skills: This section covers communication, negotiation and decision-making, partnering, influence and conflict resolution.

  • Leadership skills: This section covers topics such as motivation, team building and change management.

Related: How to become a financial accountant (with certifications)

CGMA exam

In the past, candidates for CGMA certifications only had to be active AICPA members to be eligible for a CGMA certification. But in 2015, the AICPA introduced exams for the CGMA certification to add more legitimacy to the credential. The CGMA exam tests your knowledge of the business environment and prepares you for a real-world application of this knowledge.

Examiners provide candidates with information about a fictional organisation seven weeks beforehand. This allows candidates to gain a deeper understanding of the organisation and its inner workings, giving them an edge in the exam. The exam tests a candidate's ability to think strategically and make sound decisions in a real-world business setting.

CMA syllabus and exam

IMA administers the CMA exam, which has two parts. Part one covers financial planning, performance and analytics. Part two covers strategic financial management. The content area coverage percentages for part one are:

  • external financial reporting decisions: 15%

  • planning, budgeting and forecasting: 20%

  • performance management: 20%

  • cost management: 15%

  • internal controls: 15%

  • technology and analytics: 15%

The content area coverage percentages for part two are:

  • financial statement analysis: 20%

  • corporate finance: 20%

  • decision analysis: 25%

  • risk management: 10%

  • investment decisions: 10%

  • professional ethics: 15%

What's the focus of CGMA?

CGMA focuses more on strategic decision-making, an essential skill for managers. AICPA and CIMA offer the CGMA, two accounting organisations that are among the world's most respected. The CGMA is a newer designation that's more relevant to the modern business world. The CGMA designation is the most widely held management accounting qualification, with more than 150,000 credential holders worldwide. It provides holders with a wealth of networking opportunities and access to exclusive resources and tools.

What's the focus of CMA?

For one, the CMA is more widely recognised and respected by businesses and organisations. This gives you an advantage when applying for jobs or seeking promotions. The CMA is also more focused on financial management, which is beneficial if you're hoping to specialise in this area. The CMA has a more rigorous exam process, which can better prepare you for the real-world challenges of working in the finance industry.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Here are some FAQs regarding these qualifications:

How long does it take to get either qualification?

To earn the CGMA, candidates complete a nine to 12-month programme, which includes passing an exam and meeting experience requirements. The time it takes to complete the educational requirements for CMA and pass the examination is longer. Most people who qualify as certified management accountants do so within six years of beginning their studies.

What is the main difference between CGMA and CMA certification?

The CGMA provides an educational framework for accountants who want to pursue advanced management and leadership skills. Whereas, the CMA credential focuses more on management accounting and corporate finance. Both certifications are valuable, but the CGMA credential represents the skills and knowledge you possess to successfully manage finances and help organisations in leadership and decision-making.

Which certification is more widely recognised?

The CMA credential is more widely recognised than the CGMA credential. This is due to the fact that the CMA credential has been around for much longer. IMA also offers the CMA credential. CMA is the recommended choice if you're looking for a certification that employers and peers highly respect.

Related: Q&A: What can I do with an accounting and finance degree?

Career options

Your CMA or CGMA designation helps you secure a range of different jobs. Here are some examples:

1. Financial analyst

National average salary: £36,539 per year

Primary duties: A financial analyst performs financial analysis, a job concerned with forecasting financial performance and managing financial risks. Financial analysts work in various industries, including banking, insurance, accounting and investment. They typically have a strong background in economics and finance and use their skills to assess financial reports, identify trends and make recommendations.

Related: How to become a financial analyst (plus job and salary info)

2. Corporate controller

National average salary: £39,343 per year

Primary duties: A corporate controller is responsible for the financial statements, taxes and budgets. As financial supervisors, they make sure the company is following all financial regulations. Controllers also develop financial plans to help the company grow. They work closely with the CEO and other executives to make sure the company is making sound financial decisions.

Related: 13 accountancy degree jobs for graduates (with salaries)

3. Cost accountant

National average salary: £39,964 per year

Primary duties: Cost accountants are professionals who track and analyse the costs of producing goods and services. They work with businesses to help them understand where their money is going and how they can save money. To be successful, cost accountants have strong analytical and problem-solving skills and experience in accounting and cost-control systems.

4. Financial risk manager

National average salary: £57,753 per year

Primary duties: A financial risk manager is responsible for assessing and managing the financial risks associated with an organisation. Financial risks include anything from market risks to credit risks. The goal of a financial risk manager is to minimise the negative impact of these risks on the organisation. They do this through various methods, including hedging, diversification and risk mitigation.

Related: 7 types of careers in accounting (with duties and salaries)

5. Chief financial officer

National average salary: £117,321 per year

Primary duties: The role of a chief financial officer (CFO) is to provide leadership and direction for an organisation's financial planning and execution. A CFO is responsible for the organisation's financial health and works to ensure it meets its financial goals. They're also responsible for providing accurate and timely financial information to the organisation's board of directors and other stakeholders.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.‌ Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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