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September 22, 2023

Compensation Watch ’19: Credentialed Accountants vs. Non-credentialed Accountants

In its annual salary survey, the Institute of Management Accountants always includes a section comparing compensation for accountants who are either CPAs, CMAs (Certified Management Accountants), or both with accountants who hold neither credential. And every year the IMA finds that credentialed accountants make more money than those without a CPA or CMA. Makes sense.

Caleb wrote a little about this back in 2012. So because it’s been nearly seven years since we posted anything on the site about this, and with the IMA just releasing its 2019 Global Salary Survey, I thought we should take a look at the latest compensation disparity between credentialed (CPAs and CMAs) and non-credentialed (non-CPAs and non-CMAs) accountants.

From the IMA’s U.S.-only salary survey:

Overall, those holding both the CMA and CPA earn a median total compensation that is 50% higher than those that hold neither the CMA nor the CPA. Those holding only the CMA have a median total compensation that is 31% higher compared to those holding neither certification. For respondents holding only the CPA, median total compensation is 22% higher.

The difference in median total compensation for different certifications is highest for those ages 40 to 49. Respondents in this age group holding the CMA, CPA, or both certifications have a higher median total compensation compared to those holding neither certification (30%, 40%, and 48%, respectively). The smallest difference is for respondents older than 50 holding only the CPA, where median total compensation is only 3% higher compared to those holding neither certification. Yet only 14% of respondents in this age group hold only the CPA, compared to 37% holding only the CMA and 18% holding both certifications. It is likely that the demographics of respondents is influencing this result.

You think? Anyway, here’s a table from the IMA with the only numbers you guys are really concerned about:

Obviously, given that it’s an IMA survey, there’s some CMA-bias going on here. Of the more than 1,600 U.S. professionals who responded to the survey, 50% hold the CMA, 25% are CPAs, and 13% hold both credentials. But the salary data is just another reminder to what you guys already know: Credentialed accountants, more often than not, make more money than non-credentialed accountants.

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