CPA/CMA vs. MBA in Accounting

May 29, 2012
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I need some advice on which career path would have the greatest return on investment for the start of my accounting career. Next spring, I will graduate with bachelor's degree in accounting and with experience from co-oping with Toyota and over 150 hours (my state's CPA requirement) which leads to my question. Which would be most beneficial for my career take the CPA or CMA or continue my education with an MBA?

The MBA tuition at university I am looking at is about $15,000 while the CMA/CPA would cost roughly around $4,000 which includes preparation class.

I would appreciate any advice from the perspective of accounting professionals to help me best utilize my time in my career. Thanks in advance.


Jun 4, 2012
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I've done a lot of looking into this myself. We're all guilty of money motivation. It really depends upon the route and end position you're interested. If you're going to take the highest paying one you can then I would say it's the CMA. My girlfriend is working on her CPA, she'll have her MBA by the end of fall Quarter. I have my Bachelor's and will hopefully have the CMA sometime in 2013. They both look amazing on paper but one test prepares you better than the other for certain styles of accounting. Do you want to do management accounting or financial accounting? Knowing that is more important then the money. Personally, I am skipping the student loans that are inherent with an MBA and going straight for my certification. My girlfriend tells me that her MBA classes have "cleared some fog" on advanced accounting principles. Weigh your options...

Anyway enough of my opinion and on to someone with credentials:

"The IMA published the following information to
estimate one’s salary as a management
• Start with a base amount of $64,625. If you are
top-level management, then add $22,970. If you
are entry-level management subtract $20,725.
• Multiply the number of years in the field by $521.
If you have an advanced degree, then add
$13,737. If you hold a CMA, then add $8,786. If
you hold a CPA, then add $8,619.
• For example, if you make it to top-level
management in ten years and have an advanced
degree and a CMA, then your estimated salary
would be $115,328 ($64,625 + $22,970 + (10 ×
$521) + $13,737 +$8,786)."

Taken from my Managerial Accounting book by Garrison/Noreen/Brewer

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