The CMA Exam is less expensive than a few other accounting and finance professional exams, but you still need to put in thousands of dollars of exam and review course fees. Is there any way to spend less?
Solution: Ask Your Employer For Sponsorship
Many employers are willing to pay for the CPA and CFA exam, but this is less common in the case of CMA. A major reason is that CMA is not perceived as a must-have in corporations and therefore employers do not have the tradition to pay on behalf of candidate.
Having said that, if you truly believe in the value of the CMA qualification and if you are able to articulate it eloquently, you have a good chance of success.
This is my suggestion on how you can achieve this.
The Game Plan
1. Study the Training / Tuition Reimbursement Policy
First of all, if you work in a relatively large company in the US, chances are that each business unit is given a training and education budget.
I used to work in strategic planning and you will be surprised how many times this budget is left untouched, because the boss is busy running the business and forgets about it. You will be even surprised that he actually wants to spend this money, because as management it is his job to invest in staff training and he wants suggestion on how to make good use of the money.
Even if you work in a medium-size company, you can still check with the benefits section of your company (it is easy to get if you have a helpful HR colleague) and read the details on how you can become eligible for tuition reimbursement.
2. Highlight the Benefit of CMA Qualification to Your Company
Think hard to come up with good reasons why the company wants to sponsor your CMA exam. Highlight the benefits to the company (not to yourself) and how your new skills can help you achieve more and deliver more in the current role.
In the first paragraph, you can mention that you are aware of the benefits policy and how you would like to apply for the CMA exam. The point is to emphasize that you are not asking your boss to do something out of policy.
Then, describe the coverage of CMA exam. The paragraph should be carefully worded so it is relevant to your existing job. This is a difficult but most important step so try your best to package it the best you can. Here is a sample to get you started:
The CMA certification is a globally recognized qualification with a rigorous program that tests candidates’ ability in both management accounting and financial decision making. The heavy focus on inventory and cost accounting is especially relevant for my expertise, and the other focus on strategic planning is useful for my role as senior finance professional in the company.
Part1 of the CMA exam covers planning, budgeting, and forecasting, performance management, cost management, internal controls and professional ethics. Part 2 of the CMA exam covers financial decision making including financial statement analysis, corporate finance, risk management, investment decision and professional ethics.”
In the second paragraph, highlight why your company can benefit from an employee who is a CMA. Below are some general examples but you should tailor made the benefits to your unique situation to make it more persuasive:
- Improve the company’s image with your globally recognized qualification. This is especially useful if you have a client-facing job
- Perform high-quality analytical assignment in the standard recommended by the Institute of Management Accountants
- Perform management accounting task with an additional financial management perspective.
In the third paragraph, you can quote how big corporations such as coca-cola value the CMA certification. You can find this type of information on IMA’s website.
In the last paragraph, you can ask for a time to discuss this proposal in person. Don’t try to be demanding, as in “approve this because I deserve it”, but you shouldn’t sound too submissive and weak either. The point is to convince the person in charge, and it is most effective to sound logical and persuasive with good examples.
3. Send the Email to the Most Appropriate Personnel
Find out in advance the person who approves the training budget or tuition reimbursement. You can then schedule a time to meet and discuss the details with this person.
4. Prepare to Negotiate
Depending on your boss’ background, he may not be familiar with the CMA. Be prepared to provide specific answers about the qualification and the tangible benefits.
Be prepared to address his concerns, including:
- I don’t see how this is relevant to the job. You can repeat what you wrote, but be prepared to give more examples on exactly what you can be more value-add after getting the qualification
- This is costly. You can quote the exam fees on CPA and CFA and tell him that this qualification is in fact a greater value for money.
- Would the studying affect your work performance? Emphasize that the CMA program is meant to be a part-time commitment and most candidates take it with a full-time job.
- The pass rate is low and wouldn’t it be a waste of money? You can choose to offer no pass, no pay arrangement, i.e. the company only pays when you pass the exam. This is very common in both CPA and CFA exam sponsorship.
- Would you actually stay in the company after getting certified?
- Emphasize how you plan to train your subordinates with your new knowledge. Sound passionate enough to convince your boss that you do want to stay.
- If needed, you can propose an additional contract on the minimum number of years you need to stay after getting sponsorship of the exam.
- If the company wants a more tangible protection, you can propose that you can repay X amount of money if you leave early.
5. If Everything Fails…
Try asking for a few days off before the exam. Might turn out to be better than getting reimbursed 😉
There is Nothing to Lose to Give It a Try!
As long as you don’t sound too pushy and arrogant, there is nothing negative about asking your company to sponsor your continuous professional education through a CMA certification. If you succeed, you can save thousands of money on the exam fee, and even the review course fee if you are persuasive enough to get their full support.
Best of luck, and let me know how it goes!