iStock_000032054424_SmallFor many accounting professionals, there comes a time when they’ll be asked or ask themselves which credential is better: CMA or MBA? The answer, of course, depends on what you want for your career. However, pursuing CMA certification may be more beneficial than an MBA for a number of reasons … 

Reason 1: It’s Faster

This, of course, depends on the MBA track and school, but earning your CMA certification is almost always faster than completing an MBA. You can even take the CMA Exam before finishing your undergraduate degree and then complete the certification process after you garner two years of experience in the field.

Most MBA programs take at least two years to complete if you’re attending full time and they almost always require you to have a few years of work experience beforehand. The CMA Exam can be completed in less than year, depending on how eager you are to earn your certification.

Reason #2: It’s Cheaper

This one should be obvious given ever-rising tuition rates, especially for graduate degrees. In general, MBA program costs can run anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000–an eye-popping amount, especially if you’re not attending an elite institution.

Even if you enter a lower-cost MBA program or your employer finances it, CMA certification is still a relative bargain. The total cost for IMA membership, taking the CMA exam and the entrance fee is between $920 (students) and $1,350 (professionals). You can even add the cost of Wiley CMAexcel online review course to the total and it still won’t be more than $3,000.

Reason #3: It Has A Specific Career Path

Both CMA certification and an MBA have very specific uses and are for certain career paths. An MBA, especially one with a tracked focus, is a great fit for entrepreneurs, business managers and/or professionals looking to transition out of accounting and into another area of business. It provides a much broader overview of business topics and general management strategies.

CMA certification, on the other hand, is very specific and focuses exclusively on cost accounting and management accounting topics. The CMA is recognized globally and highly respected because it demonstrates your professional expertise in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics – all high-demand skills in the accounting and finance worlds.

An MBA is a great addition to your resume or CV if you’re interested in areas outside of accounting, such as marketing, product development, or leadership. The CMA may not always lead to the corner office but you’ll still participate in and/or inform many key business decisions.

Reason #4: The Outcomes Are Similar

Heard the rumor that you’ll make more money with an MBA? Well, it’s true …

According to Fortune, in 2015, MBA graduates could expect to earn an additional $45,000.

Not bad. But here’s what CMA-holders report:


You don’t need an MBA or even a CMA to spot a pretty great ROI like that.

Here’s some more background on CMA salaries, if you’re interested..

Reason #5: It’s Still Unique

Admittedly, the CMA does not get close to hype and attention as an MBA. But here’s the thing–the MBA is quickly becoming commoditized. Nearly every university now offers some form of an MBA program and tens of thousands of people are earning them every year.

Honestly, if you don’t attend a top-tier business school or one with a good reputation or focus, an MBA might not mean all that much to employers.

However, with just 45,000 Certified Management Accountants in the world, the certification is still unique and offers you a great way of differentiating yourself–both to your current employer and on the job market.