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CMA Exam Requirements

Meeting the CMA exam requirements is one of the first steps to becoming a Certified Management Accountant, so it is important to know what all of the requirements are and which ones you need to satisfy before you start the CMA program.

The requirements to become a CMA are:

  1. Join the IMA
  2. Enroll in the CMA program
  3. Pass the CMA exam
  4. Have a four-year degree from an accredited college or university
  5. Have at least two years of management accounting or financial management experience

This page will break down each of these CMA requirements and explain how you can meet these requirements and begin your journey towards becoming a CMA.

IMA membership requirement

Good news, there is only one requirement you need to meet to start your CMA journey, and that is joining the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

IMA is the parent organization of the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA), which administers the CMA exam. Part of the process of becoming a CMA involves joining IMA and being an active member. Being an “active member” just requires you to pay the annual membership fee.

Joining IMA is a simple process that can be done in a few short minutes online:

  1. Go to IMA’s website
  2. Apply for your membership
  3. Pay the membership and one-time application fee

In addition to being the governing organization for CMAs, IMA membership provides a variety of benefits (e.g., discounted and free continuing education options, network opportunities, and access to a world-wide community of management accountants).

NOTE: CMAs are required to maintain an active membership to IMA in order to remain certified. However, if your membership falters, rejoining IMA will reinstate your membership (i.e., you won’t need to go through the process of becoming a CMA again).

CMA program requirement

In addition to joining IMA, you will need to enroll in the CMA program. Joining this program will require you to pay an enrollment fee (based on your membership type) to the ICMA. Aside from writing the CMA exam, the ICMA grades the exam, generates your score reports, notifies your employer once you’ve completed the program (if requested), and provides you with a personalized, numbered certification upon the completion of the program.

After you join the CMA program, you will have three years to complete both parts of the CMA exam. If you do not complete the CMA exam, you will need to enroll in the CMA program and pay the fee again.

Joining the CMA program will also provide you with access to the CMA support package. This package will include retired CMA exam questions and a glossary of terms.

NOTE: The ICMA also provides these questions to CMA review providers. By working with a review provider, you will receive hundreds of retired CMA review questions that have been sorted by topic area and improved with detailed answer explanations.

CMA exam requirement

In order to become a CMA, you have to pass the CMA exam. This exam will test your accounting, financial planning, and business knowledge. The CMA exam is split into two parts that you sign up for and take separately in any order. Part 1 covers financial reporting, planning, performance, and control. Part 2 covers financial decision making and strategic planning and management.

Passing the CMA exam is no easy matter. In a given year, only about one-third of candidates pass the first part of the CMA exam, and about half pass the second part. Sitting for the CMA exam without working with a CMA review system can result hundreds of extra dollars spent retaking the CMA exam and valuable time wasted.

You need to complete both parts of the CMA exam within the three year period your enrollment in the CMA program is valid for. If you don’t, any part you’ve passed will expire and you’ll have to retake both, as well as pay the entrance fee again.

The CMA exam is offered in English worldwide and is available in Simplified Chinese in China. There are no plans to bring the CMA exam to other languages at present.

CMA education requirement

The 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, degrees from any country will be accepted as long as the institution is accredited.

NOTE: Students at unaccredited institutions can have their degree evaluated by an independent agency. Additionally, there are several professional certificates from around the world that can substitute for a degree.

Your education requirement does not need to be completed before you enroll in the CMA program or sit for the CMA exam. You are required to complete the education requirement and send in verification (i.e., transcripts) within seven years of passing the CMA exam.

Benefits of sitting for the CMA exam as a student

Sitting for the CMA exam as a student offers several benefits. For one, you’ll 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 as you prepare for the CMA exam.

Gleim even offers a 20% discount on CMA exam review materials for students.

If you’re interested in seeing an example study plan for becoming a CMA as a student, check out this infographic that details the route to passing the CMA and CPA exams as a college student.

CMA experience requirement

The IMA requires that CMA candidates have at least two continuous years of full-time work experience in management accounting or financial management. This 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 does not need to be completed before you enroll in the CMA program or sit for the CMA exam. You are required to complete the experience requirement and send in verification within seven years of passing the CMA exam.

Management accounting or financial management experience can come in a variety of forms. To determine if your experience meets the requirements set by IMA, you will need to look at the routine tasks you complete as a part of your position:

Does the position routinely need to make judgments using the principles of management accounting and financial management?

  • Preparing financial statements
  • Financial planning and analysis
  • Internal or external auditing
  • Budget preparation and reporting
  • Management of general ledger or balance sheets
  • Financial forecasting
  • Investment decision making
  • Cost analysis
  • Risk evaluation

Does the position involve routine analysis, such as analyzing financial statements or reporting for decision-making?

Basically, if your position only involves management accounting principles such as in computer operations, sales and marketing, manufacturing, engineering, personnel, and general management, it will not satisfy the requirement.

Was the position temporary or an internship?

To qualify for your experience requirement, the position cannot have been an internship or a clerical or non-technical position.

Does part-time experience meet the CMA requirement?

You can use continuous part-time experience to satisfy the CMA experience requirement as long as it was at least 20 hours a week. In this case, two years of part-time experience will count as one year of full-time experience.

Does teaching experience satisfy the CMA requirement?

Teaching experience can be qualified experience if it is full-time and at least 60% of the course load taught is accounting or finance above the principle level.

In fact, the IMA works to help full-time faculty earn their CMA credential by waiving some CMA fees. Learn more about the CMA Opportunity Program and get your application on our cost to become a CMA resource page.

Continuing education requirement

Each year, CMAs have to complete 30 hours of continuing professional education (CPE), at least 2 hours of which must be in ethics. Gleim offers hundreds of hours of CPE courses that you can choose from each year, and IMA chapters sometimes offer free CPE opportunities throughout the year.

NOTE: You will not be required to complete the continuing education requirement until after you have passed both parts of the CMA exam. However, this may mean that you will need to complete CPE before you have met the other CMA requirements (such as the experience and education requirements). The CPE reporting period begins Jan. 1, so you will not have to complete continuing education until the period beginning Jan. 1 following your completion of the CMA exam.