When a finance or business student is looking to expand their accounting credentials, there are a wide variety of certifications available to choose from. Although it may be feasible for some to acquire multiple certifications such as both a CPA and CMA or perhaps a CPA and a CIA, this may not appeal to others for either financial or time investment reasons. Therefore, we have been compiling a number of articles that provide a brief overview into the different certifications which we hope will help you to gain some clarity on which to pursue. In this piece, we will briefly touch on the differences between the purpose and acquisition of the CPA licensure as opposed to the CGMA certificate.

What is a CPA?

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is someone who has passed the NASBA Uniform CPA exam in one of the US states and jurisdictions and subsequently received licensure to practice public accountancy in that locality. The license itself is issued by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA.) Although the prerequisites differ from state to state, there are certain basic requirements for licensure, such as receiving at least 75% for each section of the CPA exam within an 18-month window, meeting the 150 College Credit requirement and fulfilling some sort of work experience requirement. 

What is a CGMA?

A Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) is a certification offered jointly by the AICPA and Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) that indicates that the holder has achieved an advanced proficiency in management, operations, finance and strategy. However, when it was first created, it only required a paid subscription fee for certification without any need for examination. As such, although it has since gained a standardized exam, it is still not considered to be as prestigious as a CPA license or a CMA certification, at least in the US. However, the AICPA and CIMA are currently developing an association to standardize its value.

4-part exam3-part exam
US licensureGlobal certification
Available in EnglishAvailable in English
Requirements vary from state to stateComplete the CGMA course Acquire a bachelor’s degree or other relevant qualification 3 years of relevant experience prior to licensure
Broader topicsFocuses on management and organization
Exam available in 15 countriesExam available in over 5,000 test centers in 178 countries
Each exam part takes 4 hoursEach exam part takes approximately 3 hours
As of November 2021, there were 696,000 CPAs globally. 669,130 of these were based in the USAs of late 2021, over 137,000 accountants and financial professionals held this certification
The exam parts have a 46.37% – 61.76% pass rate (75% requirement to pass)The exam parts had a 46%-73% pass rate in 2021
The average exam cost is $4,400 (varies per state)The program costs $2,495 per level, $3,695 for 2 levels and $4,795 for all three levels (1-year course per level)
Average annual salary of $72,149.00The CGMA.org site estimates the average salary of a certificate holder to be $89,000
Exams available throughout the yearAll levels are available for a few different days in Feb., May, Aug. and Nov.