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What is the CMA certification?

The CMA is a globally recognized certification for management accounting and finance professionals. Accountants equipped with their CMA certification work in accounting, strategy, and corporate finance teams across many different industries. The positions they hold include cost accountant, financial strategist, risk manager, and CFO. Many Certified Management Accountants function as executive decision-makers within their teams.

What is a Certified Management Accountant?

A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a management accounting and financial management professional who has passed the CMA exam and met the other CMA certification requirements. CMAs often work closely with upper management, where their knowledge, skills, and experience influence the direction of their organizations. CMAs provide meaningful financial data and analysis that help companies answer important financial questions, such as:

  • How much will this new sales initiative cost me?
  • What’s the expected return on investment if we acquire a company or launch a new product?
  • How can we mitigate risks for this new initiative?

Ultimately, this page and the content it links to are meant to act as a hub to give you everything you need to know about CMA certification requirements. Keep exploring this page to learn:

Gleim CMA Exam Guide
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  • How to study for the exam
  • Where to sit for the exam
  • How to allocate time during the exam
  • How the exam is graded
  • And more!

Top 4 Reasons to Become a Certified Management Accountant

Why go through all the effort of becoming a CMA? For starters, the CMA certification is one of a few major accounting certifications that can fuel career growth and propel you toward success. Plus, it’s globally recognized and opens doors at large companies and accounting firms. It’s comparable to the CPA certification, and deciding which one to obtain often depends on your career goals. CMAs blend accounting acumen with business knowledge, which positions them to be managers and decision-makers.

These are the top 4 reasons to become a CMA:


CMA certification opens doors into the business world

If you’re an accountant hoping to be highly involved in a business, getting your CMA is one of the most important things you can do to make that happen. CMAs hold a unique position between the finance side and management side of a business. They often work closely with upper management, and their knowledge, skills, and experience influence the direction of organizations. 


CMA certification advances your career

The CMA sets you apart from other accountants by clearly expressing your career goals. Plus, CMAs are in demand so you can count on career stability. Not only can you carve your place in the business world with the CMA certification—you can claim a chair at the conference room table! With their deep grasp of both finance and business concepts, many CMAs rise through the ranks until they lead companies. 


CMA certification increases your earning potential

CMAs earn more than non-CMAs. It’s that simple. Globally, CMAs make nearly 58% more than non-CMAs, which translates to $29,000 per year. CMAs are better qualified to take management positions, which is where big money lies in the corporate world. Plus, getting certified requires that you demonstrate high-level management-related skills, and companies are willing to pay a premium for skilled individuals.


CMA certification gives you credibility and status

CMAs understand numbers and finance at a deeper level than other accountants. So once you earn the CMA, people will go to you for answers to big picture, business-related finance questions. When you’re the expert people turn to for advice, you can expect greater responsibility as well as more credibility and status. CMAs fill the consultant role perfectly and thereby distinguish themselves as an important facet of company operations.

The 5 steps to becoming a CMA

Get ready for exciting leadership opportunities with serious earning potential as a Certified Management Accountant once you fulfill these five CMA certification requirements:

  1. Join IMA
  2. Enroll in the CMA program
  3. Pass the CMA exam
  4. Meet the CMA education requirement
  5. Meet the CMA experience requirement

Looking for more than just an overview?
Click below to get our detailed guide to meeting the CMA certification requirements!
See Guide

Step 1: Join IMA

The first CMA certification requirement is to join IMA (Institute of Management Accountants), which is the organization that administers the CMA. IMA membership comes with perks like discounted and free continuing education options, networking opportunities, and access to a world-wide community of management accountants.

Step 2: Enroll in the CMA Program

Once you’re an IMA member, enroll in the CMA program with the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) and pay their fee. No one likes fees, but keep in mind that the CMA certification can pay for its cost many times over in salary.

Aside from writing the CMA exam, ICMA grades the exam, generates your score reports, notifies your employer once you’ve completed the program, and provides you with a personalized, numbered certification upon completion of the program.

After you join the CMA program, you have three years to pass both parts of the CMA exam. If you don’t pass the CMA exam in that timeframe, you’ll need to enroll in the CMA program and pay the fee again.

Step 3: Pass the CMA Exam

After you’ve joined IMA and enrolled in the CMA program, you’re ready to prep for the pivotal CMA certification requirement—the CMA exam. The CMA exam is split into two parts.  Both parts have the same structure:

  • 100 multiple choice questions
  • 2 essay scenarios

Part 1 of the CMA exam covers financial planning, performance, and analytics. Part 2 covers strategic financial management. Passing the CMA exam is the most difficult step for most people. A solid study plan can make all the difference.

Did you know?

In a given year, only about half of candidates pass each part of the CMA exam. This is why a CMA review system is so important to help you commit, study, and prepare. 

Get the CMA Review System

Part of passing the CMA exam is ensuring you also have a grasp on the logistical aspects of preparing for the test, and monitoring your results. There is also a fee associated with the CMA exam, and specific windows in which the CMA exam is offered.

Step 4: Meet the CMA education requirement

ICMA requires CMA candidates to earn a four-year degree from an accredited college or university.

Although the CMA is based in the United States, it has global reach. Degrees from any country are accepted without question, as long as the institution is accredited.

Even students at unaccredited institutions can meet this requirement if they have their degree evaluated and cleared by an independent agency. Additionally, there are several professional certificates from around the world that can substitute for a degree.

Your education requirement doesn’t need to be completed before you enroll in the CMA program or sit for the CMA exam. You’ll just need to complete the education requirement and send in verification (i.e., transcripts) within 7 years of passing the CMA exam.

Step 5: Meet the CMA experience requirement

ICMA requires that CMA candidates have at least two continuous years of full-time work experience in management accounting or financial management. This CMA certification requirement can also be met by working part-time at least 20 hours per week. Two years of qualifying part-time work will count as one year of full-time work.

Your experience requirement doesn’t need to be completed before you enroll in the CMA program or sit for the CMA exam. You have 7 years from the date you pass the exam to complete the experience requirement and submit a work verification form.

Frequently Asked Questions
About the CMA Certification

Can students take the CMA exam?

Yes, and there are several benefits of taking the CMA exam while you’re a student. You can receive discounts on your IMA membership, CMA program, and CMA exam fees! Plus, your college coursework will help prepare you for the CMA exam, saving valuable study time and reinforcing the concepts. Gleim helps students save up to 20% on CMA exam review materials!

What's the difference between IMA and ICMA?

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) focuses on education, research, and professional events for management accountants.

The Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) is the exam administration and certification division of IMA. It creates the CMA exam, writes the syllabus and exam questions, grades your exam, and ensures the integrity of the exam process.

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