This page is dedicated to professionals who would like to enhance their career with a CMA certification.
The first 5 steps are important decisions to make before the application process. Step 6-12 shows exactly what you need to do from registration, planning, studying, passing the exam to getting the certification.
How to Become a CMA
The first step is NOT about filling out application forms and paying the fees.
The first step is to make sure you understand what you are getting into, and whether this certification has tangible benefits to your career.
1. Identify Benefits of the CMA Certification
The CMA certification is granted by a US institution called the Institute of Management Accountant, or the IMA. In order to take the exam and maintain active status of the CMA title, you must first sign up as a member.
What do you gain as an IMA member? Besides the ticket to the CMA exam, does it help in networking and developing your skill as a management accountant?
- My 5 reasons to become a CMA
- The official benefits of IMA membership
- Number of IMA members and CMA certificate holders (i.e. do you have an edge)
2. Compare CMA with Other Accounting Certifications
Getting this certification is a substantial investment in time, energy and effort. Please take the time and determine how CMA is going to help you in your personal and career development, and whether this qualification is the best choice given your background and aspiration:
- CMA vs CIMA vs CGMA vs CMA in Canada and Australia
- Accounting related certifications and credentials
- Constant Analysts’ discussion on the same topic
- Is the CMA designation worth it?
3. Analyze Your Ability: Can You Make It?
Now that you are certain CMA is the way to go, can you handle the exam itself? What does it test anyway, and how difficult is it?
- Difficulty of this exam when compared to other accounting professional examinations
- Exam experiences according to CPAs, CFAs and CMAs
- Historical pass rates, and what the trend is telling you
4. Perform Your Benefit Cost Analysis
Short term consideration: It will cost around $2,000. Can you afford the exam fees?
Long term consideration: Can the title help you negotiate a higher salary?
- CMA vs non-CMA salary comparison
- What can you do with CMA certification
- IMA salary survey by region
- Net present value of CMA
- News articles on salary increase among IMA members
5. Fulfill CMA Educational Requirements
Good news: the rule is quite standard. Candidates are required to have a bachelor degree, and it can be obtained in any “recognized” universities around the world, and in any discipline.
Please follow these steps to determine your eligibility:
- Check if your university is on this list.
- Request an original transcript to be sent directly to the IMA.
- A week later, log on your profile on the IMA website, and check if your transcript is on file
In the event that your school is not listed, you can still get your transcript evaluated by one of the credential evaluation agencies and send an official transcript to IMA for reference.
- A more detailed guide and common questions on how to fulfill exam requirements
- Exemptions for full members of ACCA and ICWAI
6. Pay IMA Membership Fee
Once confirm your interest and eligibility for the exam, you may join the IMA as a professional member.
If you are a US or Canadian resident aged 33 or below, go for the discount “young professional member” category. If you are a current student (defined as taking at least 6 credit hours of courses this semester), check out the student discount. The student discount applies to candidates around the world.
Here are the steps:
- Select your home country.
- Select the appropriate membership category and click “Join Today”.
- Click “Join” to confirm your selection and continue with your application.
- Fill out the online application.
- Look out for an e-mail that confirms your successful enrollment as an IMA member.
In the online application form, you will be asked to fill out your personal and professional information, such as other professional credentials, education, job title and responsibility, followed by a request to pay the annual fee by credit card. The whole process shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes.
7. Join the CMA Program
Joining the IMA membership does NOT automatically kick off the CMA exam process. In order to do that, you need to enroll in the CMA program. Many candidates join the membership and CMA program together (i.e. Step 6 and 7 together), but it is not mandatory.
You should join the CMA program only when you are ready to take the exam. Once you enroll in the program and pay the entrance fee, you must:
- Start taking the CMA exam within 12 months; and
- Complete the CMA program within 3 years.
Here are the steps of enrollment:
- Pay the CMA Entrance Fee ($240 for professional membership).
- Look out for an e-mail that confirms your successful enrollment in the CMA program.
- Read the instruction (in the email) on how to access the CMA Exam Support Package.
8. Register for the Exam Parts
After enrolling in the CMA program, you may register for the exam. The examination consists of 2 parts:
- Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance and Control
- Part 2: Financial Decision Making
It does not matter which part you take first. I suggest that you take the part you feel more comfortable with. If confident enough, you can even take two parts within the same testing window.
You may choose to register online, by phone with credit card information, or by mailing / faxing the registration form.
Here are the steps:
- Determine which exam part(s) to take, and in which testing window.
- Pay for the exam registration fees ($395 per part for professional membership).
- Look out for an e-mail that confirms your successful registration in the exam part(s).
Articles for your reference:
- CMA exam format and syllabus
- CMA exam part 1: overview, syllabus and pass rate
- CMA exam part 2: overview, syllabus and pass rate
- CMA exam content specification outline
9. Locate the Closest Test Center and Schedule the Exam
Upon successful registration, you can schedule the date and time of the exam parts at prometric centers in the US and around the world. The centers are open every weekday during the following testing window:
- January and February
- May and June
- September and October
You can typically cancel an appointment within 72 hours. A refund (minus $25 administrative fee) is available within 30 days of registration.
- When are you allowed to take the test?
- Which months can you take the exam?
- Prometric center website (for availability lookup and exam scheduling)
10. Prepare for the Exam
New candidates joining the CMA program receive a 6-month free access to the Exam Support Package on the IMA Learning Center, beginning on the day you pay the entrance fee (see Step 7 above).
This package includes a glossary of terms, and downloadable and printable multiple-choice and essay practice questions.
To increase your chance of passing success, I highly recommend you get additional learning tools from CMA review courses. Here are the pros and cons of major providers, together with my recommendation:
11. Complete Working Experience Requirements
The candidate must have two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management. Part-time work is accepted but internships and training programs are not considered.
- List of relevant experience, and common questions on the requirements
- Experience requirements from IMA (CMA Handbook p.5)
- CMA experience requirement verification form
12. Comply with Ethical Standard and CPE
After completing the two parts of the CMA exam and fulfill the experience requirement, you may apply for the CMA certificate.
CMAs are required to take 30 hours of CPE (continuing professional education), 2 of which has to be in the area of ethics. You should also expect to pay the annual membership fee to maintain your certification.
Here is a Summary
This is a video summarizing the process on how to become a CMA.
Can I be More Helpful?
I know the process sounds complicated, but once you take the first step on how to become a CMA, it’s completely doable. I am more than happy to help you along the way!
If you find this article helpful, please consider signing up to my mini-course which is completely free. You can learn more about this mini e-course here.