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CMA Certification Resource Center

What is the CMA Certification?

The CMA certification, Certified Management Accountant, is a globally recognized certification in strategic management and financial accounting. CMAs work in accounting, strategy, and corporate finance teams within an organization. Positions filled by CMAs include cost accountant, financial strategist, and risk manager, and many CMAs function as executive decision-makers within their team.

Becoming a CMA opens up new career opportunities, increases your earning potential, and can boost your job satisfaction. Learn everything you need to know about the CMA certification using this CMA Resource Center.

 

How to become a CMA

Becoming a CMA requires you to meet several requirements set by Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), which includes passing the CMA exam. Throughout this page, we cover the basic steps you need to complete in order to become a CMA.

For detailed information for a given topic, visit the quick links provided above.

Decide what benefits you’re looking for in your career

Staying motivated is one of the most important parts of earning your CMA certification, so it is important that you know which benefits you’re specifically looking for. This is the best way to keep your preparations in perspective and ensure your path to the CMA certification is a smooth one.

Passing the CMA exam takes a considerable investment, both financially and in opportunity costs, but the benefits of becoming a CMA are undeniable. Between a higher earning potential, upward mobility, increased job-satisfaction, and recognition, there are plenty of reasons to become a Certified Management Accountant.

Each year, IMA conducts a survey to determine how the CMA profession is developing. IMA surveys CMAs all over the world asking questions related to job satisfaction, salary, and professional responsibilities. They then release a comprehensive Salary Survey that details their findings. Gleim follows these closely to keep you informed so you’re well-equipped for your next salary negotiation.

Check out our CMA Salary Guide to see the latest findings on the great benefits earning your CMA can provide.

Decide what benefits you’re looking for in your career

Staying motivated is one of the most important parts of earning your CMA certification, so it is important that you know which benefits you’re specifically looking for. This is the best way to keep your preparations in perspective and ensure your path to the CMA certification is a smooth one.

Passing the CMA exam takes a considerable investment, both financially and in opportunity costs, but the benefits of becoming a CMA are undeniable. Between a higher earning potential, upward mobility, increased job-satisfaction, and recognition, there are plenty of reasons to become a Certified Management Accountant.

Each year, IMA conducts a survey to determine how the CMA profession is developing. IMA surveys CMAs all over the world asking questions related to job satisfaction, salary, and professional responsibilities. They then release a comprehensive Salary Survey that details their findings. Gleim follows these closely to keep you informed so you’re well-equipped for your next salary negotiation.

Check out our CMA Salary Guide to see the latest findings on the great benefits earning your CMA can provide.

Identify the CMA requirements you meet and make a plan

In order to become a CMA, you must meet IMA’s requirements. These include membership, education, experience, and examination requirements. You can sit for the CMA exam before you’ve completed the education and experience requirements.

Before you begin your CMA journey, check out the current CMA requirements to see which ones you already meet and which ones you’ll need to make plans to meet. Earning your CMA certification could take a lot less time than you’d think, depending on where you are in your accounting career.

Visit our CMA Requirements resource page for more information on all of the CMA requirements and how you can meet them.

Join IMA and pay the membership fee

Once you’re ready to get started on the path to earn your CMA certification, the first step is joining IMA, which is the association in charge of the CMA certification. It sets the requirements to become a CMA, one of which is active membership.

Joining IMA is a simple process that requires you to make an account and pay a membership fee. The amount of the fee you pay is based on your current career status, and it can vary significantly. Planning out your fees in advance will help you keep your finances in order and prevent you from paying more in the long run.

For more information on joining the IMA, visit our Applying for the CMA Exam resource page. For more information on all the CMA Exam fees and costs, check out our CMA Exam Costs resource page.

Enroll in CMA program

After you’ve joined IMA, you are eligible to enroll in the CMA program, which is run by the ICMA. You must enroll in the CMA program in order to register for the CMA exam and earn your CMA certification. Once you are enrolled in the CMA program, you have three years to pass both parts of the CMA exam.

While you have three years to pass the CMA exams, you have seven years to fulfill the education and experience requirements. You will not be considered a CMA until you have met all of the CMA requirements and requested your certificate.

For more information on enrolling in the CMA program, visit our Applying for the CMA Exam resource page.

Create a study plan for the CMA exam

Three years may seem like a long time to complete the CMA program, but without a study plan, you could quickly find that time dwindling down. The CMA exam is divided into two parts, which you will schedule, sit for, and pass separately in order to earn your CMA certification. In addition to testing your accounting knowledge, these exams test your financial planning, management, business, and IT knowledge.

It is important to begin thinking about your study plan early in the process. Once you sit down with a calendar and cross out all of the days you’re unable to study, you might find yourself with less time than you’d expect.
For more information on what both parts of the CMA exam will be like, visit the CMA Exam Parts resource page.

Tip for Studying

Find the review provider that best fits your needs

Knowing your study needs will help you decide what you need from a CMA exam review provider. We suggest you think about what you look for in a review system—exam questions, videos, outline material, etc.—to make sure you don’t need to retake either part of the CMA exam. You have to pay around $400 each time you sit for a part of the CMA exam, so it’s definitely not an exam you want to retake.

Study for the CMA exam

Work with your review provider to finalize your study plan. Each system has a suggested method to prepare you for the CMA exam, and the best review systems will include a coach or counselor to make sure you’re getting the most out of the review system.

We suggest you write down the milestones you want to reach on a calendar and keep to that plan as closely as possible. This will help ensure you don’t sit for the exam before you’re prepared and that you don’t spend time over-preparing for one part of the CMA exam.

We offer tips and tricks on studying for the CMA exam and strategies you can use during the exam on our CMA Exam Strategies resource page.

Study for the CMA exam

Work with your review provider to finalize your study plan. Each system has a suggested method to prepare you for the CMA exam, and the best review systems will include a coach or counselor to make sure you’re getting the most out of the review system.

We suggest you write down the milestones you want to reach on a calendar and keep to that plan as closely as possible. This will help ensure you don’t sit for the exam before you’re prepared and that you don’t spend time over-preparing for one part of the CMA exam.

We offer tips and tricks on studying for the CMA exam and strategies you can use during the exam on our CMA Exam Strategies resource page.

Register for the CMA exam

There are three steps you must complete to meet the CMA exam requirement:

Register for the exam

Schedule your appointment

Sit for the exam

When registering for the CMA exam, you will select the testing window you want to take the exam in and pay the CMA exam’s fees for the part(s) you are registering for. The CMA exam is available in three large testing windows with blackout dates in between.

If you are unable to take the CMA exam during the testing window you’ve registered for, you will not be able to reschedule the exam. Instead, you will have to register for a different testing window and pay another CMA exam fee (but not the IMA membership fee or CMA program fee). Because of this, it is important that you are confident your study preparations will be complete by your chosen testing window before you register.

For more information on registering for the CMA exam, visit our Applying for the CMA Exam resource page.

Schedule your CMA exam appointment

After you have registered for the CMA exam, you’ll schedule your testing appointment. This is done through Prometric, a third-party testing center.

Because testing dates can fill up quickly, it is important to plan out your testing appointments in advance. Otherwise, you may have to go to an inconvenient testing center or have to test at a non-ideal time.

You are able to reschedule your testing appointment for other dates within the same testing window, but depending on the notice you provide Prometric, you may have to pay a rescheduling fee.

For more information on scheduling the CMA exam, visit our CMA testing windows resource page.

Pass both parts of the CMA exam

After you’ve enrolled in the CMA program, you have three years to pass both sections of the CMA exam. The CMA exam is hard—fewer than half of test takers pass both sections of the CMA exam. Working with a great review system will help you reach this goal and save you a lot of time and money.

After you’ve passed both parts of the CMA exam, you’ll have 7 years to fulfill the education and experience requirements.

For more information on the CMA exams pass rates, visit our CMA Pass Rate resource page.

Become a CMA

Once you’ve met the examination, experience, and education requirements, you will be eligible for CMA certification.

To maintain your CMA certification, you must

Continue to be an active member of IMA

Comply with IMA’s ethical statement

Meet continuing education requirements

Meeting these requirements will not only ensure you continue to benefit from the CMA certification, but they will help you develop an even deeper knowledge of accounting, business, and management procedures, as well as stay on top of current trends.

FAQs by CMA Candidates

What is IMA?

Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is one of the largest associations focused on the management accountant profession. It has over 100,000 members and offers a variety of services and benefits. Being an active member of IMA is required to become a CMA.

What is ICMA?

Institute of Certified Management Accounts (ICMA) is the certification branch of IMA. ICMA is responsible for writing and grading the CMA exam and administering the CMA program. It ensures that the program maintains it’s integrity.

Where can I take the CMA exam?

You will take the CMA exam at a Prometric testing center. These centers are located throughout the U.S. and internationally.

To locate a testing center, visit http://www.prometric.com/ICMA.

When can I take the CMA exam?

    • The CMA exam is offered during three testing windows each year. You may take each part of the CMA exam only once during a testing window, but you may take both parts within the same testing window. The testing windows are:

      • January-February

      • May-June

      • September-October

How many times can I take the CMA exam?

  • You may take each part of the CMA exam once per testing window.
  • Once you have entered the CMA program, you may sit for the CMA exam in as many windows as you need to during the CMA program’s three-year period.
  • There are three testing windows a year, so during your CMA program, you could sit for each part of the CMA exam 9 times.

How long does it take to study for the CMA exam?

For most CMA candidates, completing one part of the CMA exam will take 100-120 hours. This means you’ll likely spend over 200 hours to complete both parts of the CMA exam. How long this takes will depend on your study schedule, but completing the exam within two testing windows is easily achievable for most candidates.

What is the format of the exam?

Each part of the CMA exam has 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 essay scenarios. You will have three hours to complete the multiple-choice section and 1 hour to complete the essay section. Any extra time you have left over after completing the multiple-choice section will carry over to the essays.

What is a passing score for the CMA exam?

In order to pass a part of the CMA exam, you will need to score at least a 360. The exam is scored on a scale between 0-500.

When are CMA scores released?

You will receive an email of your CMA exam score report approximately six weeks after the end of the month in which you took the CMA exam.

What languages is the CMA exam offered in?

The CMA exam is offered in English worldwide. It is also offered in Simplified Chinese in China.

Do I have to take part 1 and 2 of the CMA exam in order?

No, you may take the CMA exam in whichever order you would prefer. In addition, there is no limitation on how closely you can take both parts. As long as you pass both parts within the CMA program’s three-year time limit, you will meet the examination requirement.

Do I need to have a strong accounting/finance background to be successful on the CMA exam?

While you will need to have a basic knowledge of accounting principles and financial management, CMA candidates come from a wide variety of backgrounds. These backgrounds include, but are not limited to, engineering, economics, and business administration.

Do I need to memorize formulas to pass the CMA exam?

Yes, you will be required to memorize some formulas to pass the CMA exam. These formulas will be introduced throughout your studies, so they will be easy to learn.

What are the experience and education requirements?

  • You need to have a four-year degree from an accredited college or university to qualify for the CMA certification.
  • You need 2 years of work experience in management accounting or financial management to qualify for the CMA certification.