Accounting Certifications: Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a globally recognized accounting certification for management accounting and financial management. This certification is issued by the Institute of Management Accountants. In this article, we will discuss important aspects related to becoming a CMA: what a CMA is and is not; how to apply for and receive a CMA certification; how to prepare for and take the CMA exam; and finally, how to maintain your CMA license after you received it.

1. What is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)?

A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a certification (license) granted to an individual who demonstrates the knowledge of management accounting and financial management through education and training and who has gained some work experience in these areas of accounting.

CMAs work in various areas of accounting or management.  Sample jobs may include cost accountants, management accountants, financial analysts, budget analysts, treasurers, assistant controllers, controllers, vice presidents, and chief financial officers.

Perhaps a certification that is most compared to CMA is Certified Public Accountant (CPA).  The major difference between the two is spelled out in the names of these certifications: “management” vs “public.” CMAs perform a lot of work for the management of a company: cost accounting, management reporting, financial planning and analysis.  CPAs, on the other hand, usually work in areas that are important to the public. For example, CPAs are the only professionals who can perform financial statement audits and issue audit opinions that the public relies on.  It is not to say that CPAs can’t do what CMAs can do and vice versa; indeed, both certifications provide good foundation of accounting skills and knowledge.

The CMA designation is issued by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).  The CMA certification is known across the world and there are a lot of CMAs in different countries around the world.

2. How to become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

The requirements to become a Certified Management Accountant may be easier to meet compared to some other certifications (for example, requirements to become a Certified Public Accountant).  CMA requirements include the following:

  • Bachelor’s degree or professional accounting certification: this will be verified by submitting necessary transcripts (for a bachelor’s degree) or an official letter from the approved certifying organization (for a professional accounting certification).  The bachelor’s degree doesn’t have to be in accounting and can be from any field which opens this certification to a larger pool of candidates.  The ability to substitute the bachelor’s degree with a professional accounting certification can also be useful especially if we consider how internationally recognized and used the CMA designation is.  Such certifications may include various accounting certifications from different countries (refer to the IMA website for a full list); examples are Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), and others.
  • Two (2) years of work experience: the requirement is to have two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management.  The verification of work requirements is done by filling out a confirmation form of CMA experience (available on the IMA’s website).
  • Successful completion of the CMA exam.
  • Active membership in the IMA.
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