Accounting Crossroads: How to Choose Which Certificate is Right For You

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If you’re considering entering the accounting arena you’ve probably come across some questions about the right certification for your career. You can choose a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) or a CMA (Certified Management Accountant) as well as a number of other certifications. How do you choose which one is right for you? Here is a closer look at these two options and what questions you need to ask yourself to make the best decision.


This is probably the most commonly discussed accounting certification in professional circles. Passing the CPA exam requires dedication and preparation. A CPA is primarily focused on taxes, compliance, reporting, and audits. While many private companies request a CPA for applicants the certification is actually a license to practice public accounting. Most people are familiar with CPAs as they are the professionals who help individuals with tax preparation each year.


This specialization is more focused on business analysis, strategy, and corporate financial management. While the CPA is more common and often request by businesses, the CMA may in fact be a better fit for an accountant looking to work within a corporation. Just like the CPA, a CMA also requires an examination process which will take a significant amount of preparation. Companies may not require a CMA when they assess accounting professionals but a candidate can easily prove its worth to interested employers.

Which should you chose?

Here are some questions you should ask yourself when deciding which certification you wish you pursue.

  • Do you want to practice public accounting?
  • Do you want to work within a corporation?
  • What aspects of accounting do you prefer?
  • What are the requirements of the jobs you for which are most interested?

Before you make a decision discuss your options with a professional mentor. Talk to individuals who have taken each path to learn more about the processes involved with certification. Research the preparation tools and exams for both options. This will allow you to make an informed decision that is best for your career focus.

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