more-arw search

Q&A Forum

Which is better ( CMA , CPA or MBA )

Hi, I am Controlling and Accounting Manager. But I left my current role 3 months ago. I am now looking for another job and my target job is Finance Manager. Could you please advice which certification is most relevant to my target job as a Finance Manager. CMA , CPA or MBA. Thanks Ahmed

Answers

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

If you ever want to be a CFO and want the most respected then CPA wins hands down. MBA is not much more than a commodity these days. CMA may be best for an accounting job, but CPA is for a career and will open way more doors for you.

Ahmed Elhawary
Title: Controlling and Accounting Manager
Company: Hoffman LA Roche
(Controlling and Accounting Manager, Hoffman LA Roche) |

Thanks Ernie for the convincing reply. Then how do you rank the CFA?

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

The CFO role is evolving. Although in the past, a CPA will give you an advantage, I am predicting that the CPA will stereotype (or even limit his options) a candidate in the near future. As the role evolves past (is it shifting) the accounting/finance role and encompass strategic and operational, I believe that an MBA will cycle back to importance. Companies now have outsourced/consulting (other CPAs, Investment banks, lawyers, etc) options that can help a company answer for whatever specific "business need" they have and help the CFO.

As for the question, I would agree with Len (below) as far as determining near term and future goals. I would approach it from the perspective of his current situation and goal. Although his goal is too near sighted (Finance Manager), I would recommend still going for the CPA and get the MBA later on. If he plans on moving industry or niche, I would recommend going for the MBA.

NO combination of the 3 (I would even add CFA) stated certifications is bad. It is just a matter of near term and long term goals.

Jeff Durbin
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.
(Chief Financial Officer, F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.) |

I completely disagree with Ernie this time.

An MBA is an education whereas the CMA, CPA and CFA are certifications. A CPA is an auditor's certification and you cannot be awarded the CPA without working for two years in public accounting or being supervised by a CPA.

I have spent my entire career swinging back and forth through accounting and finance roles and virtually none of the finance people I have worked with have had CPAs. In fact, a CPA is probably a hindrance because finance isn't about looking at the past but rather using the numbers generated by the accounting organization to plan the future.

The CMA is a better certification for people who want to do accounting within industry and don't want to go the public accounting/CPA route. I think there is a great deal of value in having public accounting experience as a foundation and as Emerson Galfo states it used to be pretty much required in order to ascend to the CFO spot. The negative of a CMA is it doesn't have the street cred that a CPA has YET - but it is getting more respect than it used to. The CMA is broader than the CPA and more applicable to industry.

The MBA, if it is from a top 50 school, will open doors for you. If the career services office is a quality organization they will provide excellent support for your job-hunting. The network of a quality school will open doors. I spend a lot of time mentoring students at my alma mater and I introduce them to my network. You really don't get that from CPA and CMA organizations - to the same degree. But make sure that the school is strong in your interests. When I attended the University of Rochester almost 30 years ago it was pretty one-dimensional. It was (and is) considered one of the best finance programs in the world and since that is what I wanted I went there. Northwestern is great at Marketing. Penn, UCLA and Chicago are fantastic at Finance. Pick the right one. Don't waste your time with University of Phoenix or some other no-name place.

If you have an accounting or business undergrad you might want to consider getting an MS in Finance. These 1-year degrees are less costly and you get the same access to career services that MBA students get. For example, getting into UCLA's MS in Finance program is easier than getting into their MBA program. An MS degree avoids some redundancies that are inevitable if you get an MBA. The downside of a 1-year program is the lack of an internship in between 1st year and 2nd year but this is less of a problem for someone with work experience. Your work experience makes a HUGE impact on the offers you get. Hoffman La-Roche is a very well-known name so you have a great foundation. There are a ton of brand name business schools that are trying to get their MS degrees off the ground and they are casting wide nets to get students.

Finally, as for the CFA, I started that certification because the gentleman who was running the program was one of my former finance instructors in undergrad and he urged me to do it. Level I is broad and covers a lot of finance ground. Level II and III get more specialized in security analysis and portfolio management, respectively. I passed Level I years ago but then dropped out because I decided I didn't want to be a Wall Street stock analyst for the telecom industry which is where I was at during that phase of my life. Skip it unless you want to go to Wall Street.

There are a couple organizations which are trying to get financial analysis certifications off the ground but they are small and don't have credibility yet.

Sorry for the long answer.

Len Green
Title: Performance Improvement Consultant and E..
Company: Haygarth Consulting LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Performance Improvement Consultant and ERP Strategist, Haygarth Consulting LLC) |

Ahmed
I'd also think about these options:
Do you want public or private company experience? Do you want to be involved in operations more than corporate finance and accounting? What industries do you want to work in (manufacturing, distribution of products, or services and information?)

For example: a CMA may be great for manufacturing/operations/private because that's where you want to add value. You can always earn more than one certification as your career progresses:)

idris zubair
Title: accounting manager
Company: isam economics
(accounting manager, isam economics) |

Each certificate has its own characteristic and advantages. You should first determine which field you want to join it according to your current experiences. CMA is creative and powerful for professionals who work with top management.

Arthur Yip
Title: Audit Supervisor
Company: On Assignment Inc
(Audit Supervisor, On Assignment Inc) |

An MBA from a top Business school is probably most suited if you're target job is to be a Finance Manager. If you want to get back into Accounting, then you can pursue the CPA. Most States require 150 credits to take the CPA now. Those 2 are probably the most recognized business credentails out there.

Brian Dela Cruz
Title: Founder, CEO, CFO, Accountant, and Consu..
Company: Take Flight Business Solutions LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Founder, CEO, CFO, Accountant, and Consultant, Take Flight Business Solutions LLC) |

I have an MBA, CPA, and CMA.

From my perspective, if you can get into the Harvard MBA program or into a school that's got a strong brand reputation, you will probably get a great job. If you can't get into a highly ranked school, I would suggest getting the CPA because an MBA from a nonsense school isn't worth the time, effort, or money. The CPA has a lot of respect in the marketplace. The CPA has helped me bolster my confidence and win new clients. Both would help you get a job as a finance manager. The CMA isn't as highly valued in the job marketplace.

Just as important, don't forget to brush up on your interviewing skills and practice explaining your previous experience in an interesting way. These soft skills would go a long way to getting you a finance manager job, along with what you've actually done in you career. Line-up your references too, and get them ready for calls. What they say about you is really important to landing that finance manger job.

Jeff Durbin
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.
(Chief Financial Officer, F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.) |

I agree with all of this EXCEPT in 27 years I only know of two of my coworkers in finance who had CPAs. Both were flawed finance people - although not necessarily because of the CPA.

The CPA is the gold standard credential IN ACCOUNTING. It really doesn't mean much in finance. In my entry level and mid-career finance positions we were doing budgeting, ROI analysis, discounted cash-flow analysis, net present value analysis, variance analysis, etc. NONE of those are covered in CPA review courses or tested on CPA exams.

The CMA is more relevant for industry because it somewhat covers finance topics. Admittedly, it doesn't have the respect of the CPA although it has been building a following over the past 30 years. It is imperfect for finance because only part of it covers FP&A.

The folks who do the CTP certification are trying to grow a new certified FP&A credential but it is brand new. I met the folks a couple years ago and told them I would do it for free but until the credential has credibility it doesn't make sense to pay to get it.

CPA - not relevant

CMA - only partially relevant

MBA in finance - only worth it if it is the right school with the right network but may be partially redundant with your undergrad degree

MS in finance - might have value if it is the right school

FP&A certification by the AFP - spot on topic but no one has heard of it

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

If someone tells me they have an MBA, my reaction is "so what". If someone tells me they are a "CMA", I think, that is nice. If someone tells me they have a CPA, I know they know accounting. Yes, an MBA from a great school open doors, but what does it teach you? The variance and quality in what is covered in receiving an MBA is so wide I no longer see the value beyond networking. If you are skilled at LinkedIn you do not need an MBA to access who you want to impact your career in most cases.

Jeff Durbin
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.
(Chief Financial Officer, F. Gavina and Sons, Inc.) |

I agree with Ernie that the school makes all the difference with an MBA or MS. I also agree that if someone has a CPA they know accounting backwards and forwards. It is a tough series of tests. The same goes for the CFA which I have heard is even tougher than the CPA.

But the point where I disagree with Ernie and Brian is that accounting and finance are complementary but different. In my other post I listed the typical stuff we do in finance and it is nowhere on a CPA exam.

My big gigantic caveat with the MBA, other than my previous one about the quality of the program, is the potential redundancy factor. When I attended University of Rochester it was one of the top 3 or 4 finance programs in the country and I learned a lot of amazing stuff. As a practical matter I use the material I learned in undergrad because my undergrad was finance and accounting.

An MBA is great for someone who didn't have a business undergrad. If you had a business undergrad then you need to really evaluate what additional material you will learn and will it be material you use regularly.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

If someone tells me they have a CMA, I say "that's nice", but it may take another decade until it's really respected, but all it proved is you passed a test. This certification is for the economic benefit of the IMA.

If you have a CPA, you passed a really difficult test, worked like a dog for a CPA firm, but doesn't necessarily prove you know accounting. You knew the right answers for the test, but a test and real life are two different animals. This licence allows you to sign a public audit, but in reality does no good for an employer because you can't sign where you have a fiduciary relationship.

If you have a MBA, again that's nice, from a top school - you probably worked very hard, congratulations. But where have you worked? Think Rodney Dangerfield's "Easy Money". There is a tremendous difference between academia and reality. This is a degree by an "accredited" college or university (and there is a difference here between the two). But the degree is so mired in school politics and hype that one assumes the education from a top school has to be better than a bottom school. You know what happens when you assume.

Now, if you got your MBA 5 or 7 years down the road I'd been much more impressed in both the effort it took to get the MBA, and the real value.

Now fast forward. If its been more than 10 years since you got any degree, license or certification (and we as a group and the greater public has serious misunderstandings as what these three terms mean), and your work history doesn't really support the alleged value of the letters, then I'm totally unimpressed, the information you may have learned has evaporated and its window dressing.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

A bit of rant...a bit of humblebrag...a bit of wisdom (if you can call it that) or an opinion?.

These letters at the end of our names have different perceptions and importance to different people. What is more important is what it means to YOU.

I have my CPA, MBA (Major in Information Systems) and even an unfinished DBA. What is it worth? What does it mean? To me it means that I have tried to learn what I need to do the job I purport I can do and want to do. To me, it is worth alot in terms of my confidence to do the job, However, I do NOT expect others to value ME and what I can do based on the letters at the end of my name. Get the letters that you think will give you the tools to do what you want to do NOT what others think of those letters.

As I said in my first post in the thread, the CFO role is evolving and the role is being held responsible/accountable for more areas of the business than ever before. A CPA will "indicate" you are proficient in Accounting/Finance. What about IT? HR? Operations? The MBA will "indicate" that you have at least an understanding of business as a whole. Networking is just a side benefit.

We have been too focused on function/title that we forget about the role. My role is more important to me than the function or title Being a Chief of Staff to the CEO (to the truest sense of the function/role) and a perennial #2 in organizations gave me more skills and perspective than just being a "CFO".

Think of startups or new progressive companies. If not for regulations, employees will just be labeled Employee #1, #2 ...or Chief Fun Officer or Princess of Security or some silly name. The role is much more important than the title.

if you are an Accounting Manager (the function/title) with the hopes of being a Controller or some day, what you bring to the table and how you support the Controller (role) is much more important than having the Acctg Manager title. This is also one of the reasons why your resume is supposed to enumerate your accomplishments and NOT what you do (functional).

The function/title indicates you what you do. The role indicates your importance.

(steps off the box)

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

Ahmed, I am not as familiar with the CFA, but I would go CPA if you want the right letters behind your name to open the most doors (without having "an in" from networking).

"CPA" gives you a level of instant credibility which I believe the others just do not offer.

Brian Dela Cruz
Title: Founder, CEO, CFO, Accountant, and Consu..
Company: Take Flight Business Solutions LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Founder, CEO, CFO, Accountant, and Consultant, Take Flight Business Solutions LLC) |

The CPA exam covers discounted cash flows. It's the only way to value a bond to get at the bond price. Also, it does cover net present value and variance analysis.

Arthur Yip
Title: Audit Supervisor
Company: On Assignment Inc
(Audit Supervisor, On Assignment Inc) |

I agree with Brian that the CPA exam covered Discounted Cash Flow, Net Present Value, and Variance Analysis. At least it did back when I passed it back in the mid-90s!

Kenesha A Crafton, MPA
Title: MBALauncher
Company: Forte Foundation MBALaunch for Women
(MBALauncher, Forte Foundation MBALaunch for Women) |

Hi! @ Jeff: As a current CPA candidate, all of those subjects are tested on the BEC section of the CPA exam.

Get Free Membership

By signing up, you will receive emails from Proformative regarding Proformative programs, events, community news and activity. You can withdraw your consent at any time. Contact Us.

Business Exchange

Browse the Business Exchange to find information, resources and peer reviews to help you select the right solution for your business.

Learn more

Contribute to Community

If you’re interested in learning more about contributing to your Proformative community, we have many ways for you to get involved. Please email content@proformative.com to learn more about becoming a speaker or contributing to the blogs/Q&A Forum.