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 Payscale.com, 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.
- CMA Exam Toolkit: Everything you ever wanted to know about taking and passing the CMA exam
- Self-Study Guide: Learn how to tackle the exam with this short guide
As always, thanks for reading,