Which one is better? A CMA or an MBA?

When pursuing a career as an accountant there are many accreditation and university programs to consider that will help you to advance your career.

Often times people will find themselves deciding between becoming a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or getting a Master of Business Administration – also known as an MBA.

So how do you choose which is best for you?

Narrow Down The Scope

The CMA is an industry recognized professional designation while the MBA is an academic degree. Though both get high praise for being top notch career goals in the finance field, the CMA is focused on management accounting while the MBA covers a much broader scope of finance units.

Average Earning Potential

Salary is an important thing to consider when choosing which career path to go down. According to, the average MBA in accounting and business earned $102,665 in 2015. Those holding an Executive MBA in finance earned on average, $150,000.

As for CMA’s, depending on your position within a company you could earn anywhere between $39,974 to $215,561. It’s clear there is plenty of earning potential with both designations.

Education and Eligibility

Both the CMA and MBA are post-graduate options. The MBA requires an additional one to two years of schooling to complete after receiving a bachelor’s degree, whereas the CMA designation can be earned in six months after preparing and passing the CMA exam.

After spending upwards of four years working on that well deserved bachelor’s degree, two more years can seem like an eternity, especially when you can meet the CMA requirements in a fraction of the time.

Another thing you may want to consider is that being accepted into an MBA program is highly competitive and the school you choose can really influence your future employers impression of you.

There have been so many studies done on MBA programs and their return on investment (ROI). If you plan to work for an investment bank or in securities, an MBA will get your foot in the door. On the other hand, if you plan to work elsewhere, I would recommend the CMA.

Unlike the MBA where employers may judge the university reputation of where you studied, the CMA exam is an industry designated exam it is only issued through one institution. In other words, it is the same across the board so potential employers can not harbour the same bias.

The CMA is also self-taught so candidates can learn and prepare at their own pace using review courses like Wiley, Gleim, Hock, CMA Exam Academy or several others. They can also be working in the industry at the same time which is certainly a win-win situation.

Which Option Will Open More Doors?

Not to discourage anyone who is set on completing their MBA, but if you are an accountant looking to advance your career then the CMA will provide more opportunities. This is because the CMA is geared towards accounting and finance professionals, and due to the fact that it incorporates various business acumen courses.

Additionally, industry professionals say that the CMA designation will immediately improve your career whereas an MBA isn’t likely to open any more doors until 5-10 years down the road.

It also helps that the CMA designation can be earned in a significantly shorter period of time and is also far less expensive.

Ultimately the choice is yours, and my only goal is to help you make an informed decision. Whether you go down the road of becoming a CMA or working towards your MBA, you will be able to look forward to a successful career in the management accounting field.

Speaking of making informed decisions, did you know that where you choose to live and work in the world can affect how accepted your chosen designation is? From the USA to Canada to the UK and Australia, there are different governing bodies that may affect your decision. But don’t fret – we’ll be covering all those bases next time so hang in there!

How to Become a CMA

If you decided to become a CMA, check out this article that’ll walk you step by step.

Looking for More?

I love sharing my weekly emails with you on exam strategies, coaching support and all CMA-related topics for free.

If you enjoy these articles and are looking for even more great resources, here are some links to other posts, projects, and tools that will help you accelerate your path to your CMA designation.

As always, thanks for reading,


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41 Comments on “CMA vs MBA”

  1. Dear Nathan,

    I have been through your website CMA Coach and it is very helpful and motivational tool for everybody. I have been preparing for both parts from Gleim 16th edition and unfortunately could not go through any part after attempting 3-4 times. Please help….!

    1. Sandeep,

      Have you considered going for an instructor-led course? If self-studying for 3 to 4 times is not giving you the results you want, perhaps changing your approach will help. What areas are you struggling with the most? Let me know what you think.

  2. Dear Nathan
    I found your page very motivating and helpful.
    I passed part one in 2013 and will sit for part 2 in 2015 due to some work pressure and unforeseen delays.
    i was wondering after passing part 2 based on the new changes do i need to sit again for part one?

    1. Hi Wassim,

      No, you don’t need to sit for Part-One again if you already passed it. Isn’t that great news? 🙂

  3. Dear Nathan ,

    As iam doing my second year of my graduation degree( It was a very helpful article. Though i wanted to know about that are there any job opportunities for CMA in INDIA.
    And can an Indian appear the exam from India

    1. Hi Srinjoy,

      I’m very glad the article was helpful. The CMA designation is popular in India and there are definitely job opportunities, but I don’t live there so you may have to reach out to a recruiters to get more specifics. The CMA designation is a global credential so you can most definitely appear for the exam in India. There are Prometric testing centers all over the world.

  4. Hi Nathan,

    I was weighing my options whether to have an MBA or CMA. Are there specific requirements in order to take the CMA exam? I am a graduate of Management Accounting in University of Saint La Salle. Is the CMA title accepted here in the Philippines? When I search for job vacancies they always require CPA individuals.

    1. Hi Taha,

      I have written an article addressing this topic. Please check this link for the comparison of these two professional paths.

      Thanks and Regards,

  5. Hi lio,
    I’m preparing my self to go on final exam but unfortunately I’m too depressed when I have heard that the average salary is not high adequate in my country Egypt

  6. Hi nathan

    I am doing 1st year my will be completed next year. Can I do CMA in usa after graduation and how much scope it has in Usa? I am from pakistan and it has 2 year will this be acceptable for cma?


    1. Hi Abhishek,

      You may take the CMA while studying provided that you are enrolled for at least six credits per semester during the academic year.



    1. Hi Faize,

      If you want to work in the finance and accounting field, choose the CMA. Otherwise, MBA would be preferable.

      Thanks and Regards,

    1. Hi Sakthivel,

      I would consider the CMA designation. It takes significantly less time to complete the CMA exams, you can study at your own pace, and the CMA certification will also boost your career faster.

      Click here to learn more about the CMA designation.


  8. I am doing b com 2nd year .. i was planned to study for cat exam but i am under huge confusion abt my career.. cma is tough or mba (cat) is tough

    1. Hi Gokul,

      They are both relatively hard.

      A better question is which one is more beneficial for your career path?

  9. Dear nathan
    If I studied MBA course In my college. As well as my ICMA course in institution is it possible. My question is both thaa degree are in same value?

    1. The CMA certification will probably give you more benefits and opportunities than the MBA, so I recommend you to pursue the CMA designation regardless.

      Click here to learn more about the benefits of the CMA certification and how to obtain it.

  10. Dear Liao,
    This is Mustafa from Bangladesh. Will CMA qualification match with banking career? I have completed Masters degree from Bank Management. So that will CMA will add some value in future banking career.

    1. Hi Mustafa,

      If you aim for a managerial position, the CMA certification will definitely benefit you.

      Check this link to learn all the steps you need to take to obtain it.

    1. Hi Yami,

      Check here the education and experience qualifications you need to fulfill to become certified.

      Keep in mind that you can also fulfill them within 7 years after you’ve passed the exam.

  11. hello sir my self swaleha khan i have completed am here am confused regarding MBA Course or CMA COURSE so plz give me a suggesion what is the best course in job For CMA OR MBA

    1. Hi Swaleha,

      The CMA is currently in high demand, and if you want to kick-start your career and get into management accounting field faster, then I recommend you to opt for the CMA designation.

  12. Hi,


    Good Evening,

    This is Naveen. I am a working person and I have opted for CMA course but I am still confused because I can’t enough time to study. I just want an idea for completing CMA how much time should be required if I am a working person. I couldn’t explore more as there is more work pressure so kindly suggest the way how to clear CMA.

    Thanks & Regards,


    1. Hi Naveen,

      If you self-study, allocate between 25 to 30 hours per week to start. After a few weeks you’ll be able to better gauge the amount of hours you’ll need to study every week.

      What type of course did you enroll in? self-study? in class? online coaching course? etc.

  13. Hi Nathan

    I have 09 years and 6 month of experience in finance and accounting after completion my Post graduate diploma in management
    how CMA will be beneficial to me ?

    1. Hi Kafil,

      The CMA certification will boost your career and will open new opportunities for you. 

      As a CMA you’ll have the necessary management skills to make financial decisions for a business or corporation, obtain an executive role and a higher salary.

      Please check out the link to my blog post on how else the CMA designation benefit you:

      Let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

  14. Sir I am already qualified, persuing MBA and also want to do CMA with my MBA what are the opportunities that I will get and what will be my earning potential?

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