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CPA, CMA, and CFA: Accounting Certifications Explained

Need to know about Accounting Certifications? Grace College walks you through the CPA, CMA and CFA. Learn more about our top notch programs.

If you’re an aspiring accountant, you may already know about the Certified Public Accountant exam. But did you know you can also become a Certified Managerial Accountant or a Chartered Financial Analyst?

These three accounting certifications necessitate thorough knowledge of fundamental accounting and finance concepts, but they differ in their degree requirements, work experience requirements, and general salary. Because they emphasize different aspects of accounting, each accounting certification prepares you for a different set of possible careers within the field.

What’s the difference between CPA, CMA, and CFA accounting certifications? Read on to find out!


Certified Public Accountant

To become a CPA, you must pass the CPA exam, a cumulative exam broken into four different parts. Most states allow you to take the exam after you have earned 120 hours of college credit, but you cannot become a licensed CPA until you have passed all four parts of the exam, earned 150 hours of college or graduate credit, and worked at least 2,000 hours, or one year, while being supervised by another CPA.

Most people believe CPAs do taxes, and it is true that some only complete tax returns. However, most CPAs perform many kinds of accounting work that don’t involve others’ taxes. Though many CPAs work in the same jobs as CMAs and CFAs, some positions can only be performed by a CPA. For instance, the United States allows only CPAs to conduct financial statement audits.


Certified Management Accountant

To become a CMA, you must pass two different exam parts. You can take the exams at any time, but you have to earn a college degree and work for two years to be called a CMA.

CMAs often help businesses understand how much their products cost or prepare revenue and cost estimates for future years. Of the three certifications, CMAs are reported to earn the least amount of money. 

Most CMAs earn an accounting degree during college so they can do other accounting jobs for a business. But CMAs do not work for public accounting firms, so they do not help with audits, taxes, or business consulting projects.

Need to know about Accounting Certifications? Grace College walks you through the CPA, CMA and CFA. Learn more about our top notch programs.

Chartered Financial Analyst

To become a CFA, you must pass three different exams. You can take the first exam before you graduate from college, but there are specific requirements for when you can take the second and third. You also must finish your undergraduate degree and work 4,000 hours, or two years, before you can call yourself a CFA. 

CFAs generally spend more time analyzing stocks and markets than with a company’s books or accounting records. They often work as investment advisors, wealth managers, personal financial planners, or general financial analysts. CFAs are reported to make more money than CPAs or CMAs. 

Accounting at Grace College

Grace College offers an award-winning accounting program that equips future accountants to excel in the business world, no matter which of the accounting certifications they choose. Whether you’re seeking to work for a corporation, an organization, or somewhere else, you’ll gain career experience from a biblical perspective.

Adam Granger, a fourth year senior and accounting major, describes how the program has benefited him.

“The accounting major has been a fantastic experience for me,” said Granger. “Both Dr. Stitcher and Professor Deal have been very influential figures during my time at Grace. They’ve gone over and beyond to make the program beneficial and enjoyable.”

Thinking an accounting certification may be for you?


Learn more about accounting at Grace College and explore the School of Business here.

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