Difference between CMA India & CMA USA

What is CMA?

CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant. This qualification is an approved professional qualification from International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) which is the world wide apex body for controlling all the financial professional qualifications in the world.

India is having two such financial professional course which IFAC approves. Chartered Accountant (CA) by Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and the other is Certified Management Accountant (CMA) by Institute of Cost Accountants of India.

USA has two financial professional courses approved by IFAC. One is Certified Public Accountant (CPA) by Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and the other is Certified Management Accountant (CMA) by Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

See the complete list of IFAC approve professional bodies here

As you can see, both USA and India have professional qualification of CMA with the same name. However, the structure, exam pattern, evaluation strategy, recognition, job profile, pass ratio, duration, etc are completely different.

This blog is an attempt to educate the prospective finance professionals on which CMA to choose for and what are the benefits and advantages of both of these courses.


The CMA India has recognition only in India. It has little or no value the moment you are outside Indian border.

The CMA US is recognized globally across more than 50+ countries. Since the CMA US follows the US-GAPP accounting standard, any countries following the US-GAAP standard will need CMA(US) qualified professionals.

Exams & Pass Ratio

The CMA India has divided their course into 3 levels

  • Foundation (4 papers)
  • Intermediate (2 groups with 4 papers each)
  • Final (2 groups with 4 papers each)

So, in total, a student will have to clear around 20 exams to be a qualified CMA India. In case the student is already a graduate, they will need to clear only the Intermediate and the Final which consists of 16 papers. You need to give the exams in sequence. Which means, you need to clear Foundation to be eligible for Intermediate and clear Intermediate to be eligible for Final. Due to the large number of papers, the time taken to complete the CMA India is between 3 to 5 years.

The pass ratio becomes difficult with the level. The Foundation has the highest pass ratio which hovers between 50-60%. The Intermediate sees a pass ratio of 18-20%. Final exams maintain a pass ratio of 5-7% only. Hence the final pass rate of a CMA India is only 5-7%

The CMA USA on the other hand has a completely different structure. The course has 12 subjects between only 2 exams. 6 subjects in each exams is evaluated. However the exam for all the 6 subjects are only 1. Hence clearing 1 exam confirms that you have cleared all the 6 subjects. Therefore, the time taken to become a CMA US qualified is between 6-9 months only. The exams are not inter dependent, which means you can take any exam first and there is no sequence to be followed.

Part 1 is Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics

Part 2 is Strategic Financial Management

The pass rate of Part 1 is around 40-50% while the pass rate of Part 2 is higher and is around 50-60%. Hence we can assume that the CMA US pass rate is around 45-55% which is much higher than the Indian counterpart

Exam structure & Evaluation Strategy

CMA India exams consists of groups which has 4 papers each. In order to pass the group, you will need to appear for 4 exams. In each of the papers, you will need to score a minimum of 40% to pass. However, you will need to score an aggregate of 50% to pass the group. In case you fail in any of the above two conditions, you will have to re-appear in all the 4 papers in the group. This is the major reason that CMA India takes 3-5 years to pass and there are major dropout.

The exams for CMA India happens 2 times a year. June and in Dec. So in case you are repeating a group due to a fail, you will need to wait for 6 months to re-appear.

The CMA India exams are held manually and the question patters is descriptive in nature. This means that the date of the exam is fixed and you will need to go to the exam center for each and every paper and sit for the exam on that particular date.

CMA USA exams on the other hand consists of 2 exams only. Each exams have 6 subjects. However, there is no separate pass marks which needs to be achieved in each of the separate 6 subjects. In total, you will need to score 72% to pass.

There are no fixed date for the exam. The exams have to be given during exam window. A student can choose their own date and time based on availability to sit for the exam. The exams are computer based. There are two ways to give the exam. Either you can visit your nearest Prometric Center to appear for the exam OR you can appear for the exam from your home/office in case there are not Centers nearby.

Exam windows are Jan-Feb | May-Jun | Sep-Oct. This means, that during these period, you can give the exam on any date and time as per availability

The exam consists of 100 Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) and the time given is 3 hours. Once you score correct in 50 questions, you move to the next section with 2 descriptive questions. The time given for this section is 1 hour. So the total time for the exam is 3+1=4 hours


The cost is the amount which you pay to ICAI or IMA for registration and exam fees.

For CMA India, the total cost is around INR 1 lac

In case of CMA USA, the total cost is around USD 600 for University students and USD 990 for Working professionals. Anyhow, it is cheaper than the Indian counter part

Job opportunity

Since the recognition of CMA India is only in India, hence job opportunities are available in all Indian companies including Govt services. The starting salary for a fresher is around 5-6 lacs p.a.

CMA USA being globally recognized has more job opportunities. In India, top MNCs like TCS, Wipro, CTS, Infosys, Capgemini, etc recruits US qualified professionals. The major reason being that most of these companies outsource 90% of their work from the USA. Hence they have more need of USA based qualified professionals rather than the Indian version.

Other than India, the major countries with job opportunities will be North America, Africa, Middle East and South East Asia. There are more than 50+ countries which will recognize this qualification.


The table below will summarize all the points mentioned above

2 thoughts on “Difference between CMA India & CMA USA

    1. Hi Anshul,

      There are no grouping system. There are only 2 exams which you need to clear. Each exam has 6 subjects, but the evaluation is not done on a subject level

      Team IPFC

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