It’s no secret, there are several different accounting certifications. Identifying the core differences between them is essential when you’re trying to decide which is right for you though.
Things can become confusing with so many abbreviations and similarities, so I’m going to break things down real simple.
After popular demand, I am going to compare the CMA vs CIA designations.
CIA is short for Certified Internal Auditor. Not surprisingly, your role is to conduct internal audits. You are responsible for completing all final audits on a company’s finances, essentially there to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. It goes without saying that having an eye for detail is crucial.
To ensure that a company’s money is not being defrauded or misused, people who hold this position require a high level of morality and ethics.
On the other hand, a CMA (Certified Management Accountant) primarily handles the planning, analysis, control and decision making of a company’s finances.
CMA’s must pass 2 comprehensive tests to become licensed by the IMA.
Education and Work Requirements
There are certain educational requirements you must meet before you can become a Certified Internal Auditor.
CIA candidates are required to complete a 4 year postsecondary degree from an accredited university, for which you must show proof of completion. This can be in the form of a copy of your degree or transcripts, or a letter of confirmation from your university.
Once your degree is complete, you then have to fulfil two years of audit work experience. If you choose to stay in school and work towards a Master’s degree, this will count for 12 of the 24 months.
Previously no amount of work experience was considered an alternative to getting a degree, but the rules have changed recently. You may now take the CIA exam if you:
- Complete 2 years post-secondary school accompanied by 5 years of work experience in the auditing field. Or…
- Complete 7 years of verified work experience in the auditing field.
One of the major differences between a CIA and CMA is their education requirements. As long as you hold a bachelor degree and two consecutive years of eligible managerial work experience, you qualify to become a CMA. However, you can still take the CMA exam prior to fulfilling one or both of these requirements.
The barrier of entry is quite low in comparison to the CIA exam, which may be a contributing factor to the low global pass rates.
Taking the Exam
Not too long ago the CIA exam chose to condense their exam from four parts to three parts.
Part one of the CIA exam focuses on internal audit activity, objectivity and concepts of governance. Additionally, it covers how to identify risks, management and planning.
Part two encompasses everything from audit engagements and fraud, to document and report audits.
Finally, Part three of the CIA exam covers business analysis and information technology.
To become a CMA you must pass just two exams. The two sections of the CMA exam are:
- Financial reporting, planning, performance, and control
- Financial decision making
Regardless of which path you choose to take, both potential careers require a lot of schooling, work experience and exam preparation. If you aren’t interested in the actual job description, then chances are the decision will come down to which will be most profitable in the future. So, let’s talk salary.
Salaries vary based on your position (entry level vs senior partner for example). Taking this into consideration, the average salary of a CIA employee is approximately $64,000.
As of 2015, CMA’s now make 31% more (on average) than their other finance-related peers. According to a recent study by the IMA, the average CMA now makes $115,763.
Of course, how much you earn can increase significantly if you have the drive and motivation to climb the corporate ladder and really make a name for yourself.
So, which is right for you?
There is no right answer to this question. You must decide how much time, education and work experience you are willing to put into earn each designation.
If you have an eye for detail and want the responsibility of auditing finances, then the CIA is likely best for you.
On the other hand, if you prefer a more managerial role and a higher salary then the CMA may be right for you.
More by Nathan Liao
I love sharing with you my weekly posts on exam strategies, coaching support and all CMA-related topics for free.
If you enjoy these articles, here are some links to other projects I created (and ways you can accelerate your path to your CMA designation).
- CMA Exam Academy: The exclusive online instructor-led course with a step-by-step study plan, personalized coaching and proven study strategies that guarantees you’ll pass the CMA exam
- Self-Study Guide: Learn how to tackle the exam with this short guide.
As always, thanks for reading,