How to Become a CMA: The Beginner’s Guide

How to become a CMAThis page is dedicated to professionals who would like to enhance their career with a CMA certification.

(To find out the benefits of becoming a CMA, click the link here.)

How to Become a CMA

There are 5 steps to embark on to become a CMA in the US:

  1. Join the IMA and pay entrance fee
  2. Fulfill the educational requirements
  3. Take the CMA exam
  4. Satisfy the experience requirements
  5. Comply with the IMA’s ethical practice

1. Join IMA Membership

(i) Pay Membership Fees

The Institute of Management Accountant, or the IMA,  is the administrator of the CMA exam and the certification. You are required to become a member to start the process.

The standard membership fee is $225 but if you are a student, a “young professional” (i.e. before your 33rd birthday) or work in the academia in the related subject, you can get a considerable discount.

(ii) Pay Entrance Fee

Once you are ready to join the CMA program (i.e. to get the CMA qualification), you can pay the entrance fee.

Once you pay the entrance fee, you must:

  • Start taking the CMA exam within 12 months;
  • Complete the CMA program within 3 years.

Check out the CMA exam fee breakdown here.

2. Fulfill CMA Educational Requirements

Unlike the CPA exam, pretty much anyone with a bachelor degree anywhere around the world can take the CMA exam. Your degree is recognized as long as your college / university is on this list.

In the event that your school is not listed, you can still get your transcript evaluated by one of the credential evaluation agencies under the membership of NACES or AICE and send an official transcript (in English) to IMA for reference.

Tips: you can take the CMA exam before graduation. As long as you are taking at least 6 credit hours per semester in the year, you are qualified to sit for the exam.

Check out the details of CMA exam requirements.

3. Take the CMA Exam

The examination itself consists of 2 parts:

  • Financial Planning, Performance and Control – 4 hours
  • Financial Decision Making – 4 hours

For details of the content and format of the exam, please refer to this page on CMA entrance exam.

You can register the exam online of by phone with credit card information. You can also choose to register by mailing or faxing the registration form. The examination fee (which is different from the entrance fee) is $350 for each part but if you are taking the two parts in the same testing window, it would be $300 per part.

Candidates can take the exam in any prometric centers in US and around the world. For US, the center is 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.

Check out the important CMA exam dates here.

4. Complete CMA Working Experience Requirements

The candidate must have two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management. The requirement can be completed prior to or within 7 years of passing the exam.

Teaching experience can be counted as long as the courses are related to accounting or corporate financial management above introductory level. Part-time (defined as 20 hours per week) can be counted at a rate of 1 year of full-time for every 2 years of part-time employment.

Definition of Relevant Work Experience

The nature of work can include the following:

  • Financial analysis
  • Budget preparation
  • Management information systems analysis
  • Financial management
  • Management accounting
  • Auditing in Government, Corporation and Public Accounting
  • Management consulting
  • Research, teaching and consulting in related field

Please note the internships, trainee programs as well as non-technical positions in sales & marketing, IT, HR and administration will not be considered as relevant.

If you aren’t sure whether your job fits the definition of relevant experience, drop me a note below, or contact the IMA directly. They have been helpful in answering my questions.

5. Compliance of Ethical Standard

After completing the two parts of the CMA exam and fulfill the experience requirement, you can 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.

Further Reading

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.

Comments

  1. ankit agarwal says

    hi stephanie,
    Plz let me know, if i want to self study the cma course which books i should refer?

  2. ankit says

    Hi stephanie,
    I have done my B.Com & currently pursuing MCA(Master of Computer Applications) from university which is in the list.Can i eligible for the student discount.If yes ,then ,Is there any problems in future in case i dont able to continue with my MCA course.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Ankit, yes you should be able to qualify for student discount as long as you are taking at least 6 credit hours in each semester. You can use this discount for up to 6 years. Stephanie

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Sure you are welcome Jinesh. In fact I haven’t finished answering your questions (was about to take a plane):
      2. Well it is generally true that American companies look for the American version of CMA, but I probably won’t put it as strongly. It also depends on the type of company you are working in. For financial services for example, I don’t think they value CMA as much as, say, manufacturing companies like P&G and all that.

      3. No, there is no “certificate” or any proof after passing the CMA exam, because the CMA program is not completed. You will only get the certificate after fulfilling all the requirements including the experience. But it isn’t tough to get done.

      4. Yes either classroom training or online class is fine. More info here: http://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-cpe-requirements/

  3. jinesh says

    ohh,that is very great of you.actually what i thought is that only my first question is relevant or other questions can be get answered by myself(if i try) or something like that.in fact the first question was the one which i definitely needed a clear answer and i got it. whatever it is i admire your commitment

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  5. Manikanta R says

    I Have completed B.com Degree in Bangalore University with the aggregate of 60%, now i am planning to do CMA, just let me know the Eligibility criteria for applying CMA… and the fee structure also

  6. says

    Hi,

    I have been all over the internet for help on the CMA course and finally got to this site. I am a Chartered Accountant from India with a BCom degree too. I have recently moved to Seattle and have planned to take the CMA exam. I am actually stuck on finding some good online classes (extensive training, not just revision classes) which are affordable too (since I couldn’t find any classroom classes in Seattle) as I don’t feel very confident going with self studies. It would be a great help if you could suggest some from your experience. Thanks in advance. :)

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Priyamvada, I’ve got a post that’s perfect for you :) http://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-review-course/
      Sounds like Gleim is the one that works for you, better than Wiley and Hock in your case because the focus is on training/working on practice questions. Typically people get the CMA review system, but depending on how tight your budget is, you can consider only the test prep software.

      Hope it helps! Let me know if you have further questions. You are always welcome here. Stephanie

  7. safdar khan says

    hi,
    I am a CA final student doing my articleship thinking to join this course but, will my articleship be considered as work experience.
    please reply ASAP.

    Regards,
    Safdar Khan

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi safdar, typically internships and trainee programs don’t count, but not sure if this is the same as articleship. You can check directly with IMA to make sure. It would be great if you can let us know IMA’s views. Thanks, Stephanie

  8. Amit says

    Hi, I am a CMA India, how many papers do I supposed to give for CMA…. any exemption available or I need to give all the papers?????

  9. Binoy Chacko says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I have an MBA in Finance and planning to do the CMA course and I heard that there is a little changes in the Syllabus going to effect from 1 Jan 2015.Is it advisable to get trained and take the two exam before the changes effect. Also heard that if we take exam in sep/oct window there is great chance of passing the exam ,I mean the passing percentage will be more.Can you reply your suggestion

    Thanks

    Binoy

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Binoy,
      Yes there are some changes coming up, not minor though. I have a write up here:
      http://ipassthecmaexam.com/new-cma-exam-changes/

      There might be some seasonal fluctuation but I wouldn’t say a “great chance of passing” in a specific testing window. In any case IMA doesn’t publish pass rates for each window so it’s hard to verify the source. In short, I wouldn’t worry about timing the exam based on this information. Regards, Stephanie

  10. kanchetianeel says

    HI Sir,

    1.What is the age maximum limit.
    2.Maximum how many attempts are there .
    3.TOtal how many subjects are there.
    4.I am pure IT(Software) employee,is this experince sufficient or do i need extra experince for econamics .
    5.Total how much cost it will take.
    6.To comlete entire CMA,how long does it take.
    7.I am average at spoken english, that’s why i am asking.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Kanchetianeel, here are the answers to your questions:
      1. There is no age limit.
      2. Unlimited attempts, but technically you need to complete the CMA program within 3 years or else you need to pay again (but once you pay you are allowed to do it again).
      3. It’s hard to say the number of “subjects” as each exam section covers a lot of subjects… there are two exam sections for the exam.
      4. No you need to get relevant experience to get the CMA certification, but you can do it after taking the exam. For details please take a look at this page: http://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-exam-requirements/
      5. You can get an estimate here: http://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-exam-fees/
      6. Typically people can complete within a year, but you can technically get it done within weeks if you can pass the two exams in one go.
      7. You won’t be tested in your communication skills in English, but there are two essays so good business writing in English is essential.

      Hope it helps! Regards, Stephanie

  11. Dhakshay says

    Hii i am dhakshay

    I am done with Indian CA inter !st group and i am pursuing my articleship under a chartered accountant in dubai. Am i eligible to join CMA? i dont have a degree.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Dhakshay, generally you need a bachelor degree to get qualified. In your case, I encourage you email the IMA directly to see if there is any way around it. They can be reached at ima@imanet.org. Good luck!

      Alternatively, you can become a member of ICAI which has reciprocal agreement with the IMA.
      Regards, Stephanie

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Tanya, yes you can, but you may need to do some extra studying in basic accounting, because candidates are assumed to have basic accounting knowledge. Also, you need to work in relevant field for two years before getting the certification. Regards, Stephanie

  12. Trevor says

    Once you pass all exams and meet all other requirements how long until you receive your certification number?

  13. Asha says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I have just passed my CMA Part 1 exam, I wanted to know, how much time do I have to prepare and give my Part 2 exam. Do the credits i received expire after a certain time ?

    Thanks a lot,
    Asha

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Asha,
      Congratulations! It depends on your background and knowledge on financial management, but roughly speaking, the time required is similar to what it took you for Part 1. We need to complete the CMA program within 3 years. Cheers, Stephanie

  14. nayef says

    hi , how are you , i’m nayef from jordan , can you tell me what is the bset way to study cma and i’m using the hock material .and should i write notes or just reading, i want to aske you also if i studied gliem questions is this enough .

    thanks

  15. Koti Reddy Mukku says

    Hi
    I am Bachelor of commerce graduate under distance education mode from Indira Gandhi National open university(IGNOU) which is a good accredited/ recognised university in India. I am having 3 years experience in Accounts and Finance related jobs. I want to do your CMA USA course. Am I eligible to appear for CMA exams and can get certified.
    Gradate means any graduate whether regular full time or through correspondence/ under distance education mode from good recognised university in India. In other words Graduate under distance education stream from good recognised university is also eligible to appear for IMA’s CMA examination and can get CMA certificate upon successful pass of his exams conducted by IMA.

    Please clarify my doubt at the earliest possible.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Koti, please check whether your school is on this list:
      http://univ.cc/world.php

      If so, the IMA will most likely recognize your school.

      I am actually not the exam administrator, just someone who went through the CMA exam and want to share the experience. To get an official answer, please double check with the IMA at ima@imanet.org. They are friendly people with prompt replies. Cheers, Stephanie

  16. jialin says

    hi, I’m now in my last semester of master in management, and I registered 6 credit hours in this semester. will I qualify the student discount even if I will graduate and will not get 6 credit hours after this semester?

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Jialin, the criteria is that you need 6 credit hours in each semester, but I believe it is calculated based on last 12 months instead of calendar year, maybe you can still get student discounts for a year. It is best to check with IMA directly at ima@imanet.org. Cheers, Stephanie

  17. Pallavi Dalal says

    Hi Stephanie

    I am thinking of pursuing CMA and want to start preparing for the exam. I intend to take the exam in Jan 2015 (part I) and May 2015 (part II). I have a Bachelors in Financial Accounting and Auditing and MBA from India. Currently I am a housewife and mother of 14 month old son in USA. I have also done CFE. I graduated around 12 years back and I am not in touch with books and studies since then. I have 9 years of work experience in capital market surveillance and compliance and I am looking for job in Columbus Indiana. I had certain doubts, which I wanted to get cleared.

    1) I intend to buy the Gleim Study Material (both parts together) for preparation. Is this enough?
    2) If I buy the Gleim material in this week, will the syllabus pertain to the year 2015? The gleim website doesn’t specify anything like that.
    3) Can I start studying for the exam without registering with the IMA. I feel once I am comfortable with the material, I will register and pay the entrance fee in Nov 2014, and then schedule a exam date for Jan 2015.

    Your help is appreciated.

    Regards
    Pallavi

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Pallavi,
      Thank you for your note and I am glad that you are taking the initiative and take the CMA exam. On your first question, if you get the CMA Review System which is completely online, then you don’t need to worry about when you get it because it is regularly and automatically updated online. If you are getting anything that is text based, then it is worth noting that Part 1 will undergo some changes in Jan 2015 so in this you do want to postpone getting anything that is NOT online.

      On your second question, it is very smart for you to do that actually. I ran out of time to study myself before so I am suggesting to readers exactly what you have in mind.

      Your son must be so cute at 14 months old! It’s a great idea to take up some studies besides taking care of the little one. Please let me know if I can be helpful along the way. Cheers, Stephanie

  18. Malek says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I’m an industrial engineer and I work in a manufacturing firm, during my 2 years of experience I changed many positions, first i was a production engineer, where i created cost formulas for all products and prepared production budgets from sales forecasts, then i became the acting head for production where i was responsible for purchase orders for my department in addition to the production engineer’s tasks, now I’m the acting head of quality assurance, and I’m responsible for preparing the department’s budget as well as analyzing quality costs, and cost cutting projects.

    I already passed part two and waiting for my part 1 result this week, so do you think this experience is OK with the IMA?

    Thank you

  19. Pallavi Dalal says

    Hi Stephanie

    I have ordered for the Full Gleim Review course for 2015. I have the online access, however the text books are shipped and will take some time to reach me. Since I am away from studies for a long time, I wanted to know from you, what should be the first step to start studying.

    1) I feel I should read from the text book and then visit the review course and answer the multiple choice questions.?? Whats your opinion??

    2) Does the text book cover all the topics in detail?? Eg. Definitions, examples, accounting concepts etc.

    3) I do not have the syllabus with me. Thus with no text book in hand, the Gleim review directly starts with multiple choice quiz in the study unit. With only the online review course, I feel lost.

    Need your help.

    Regards
    Pallavi

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Pallavi,
      That’s good progress! Assuming you get the CMA Review System, they actually have everything online including the text book (in electronic format, known as the Knowledge Transfer). They have a specially designed system for you to follow. I would just do that. I tried it before and it works great for me.

      2. The text book does cover things in a lot of detail, which is good and bad depending on your existing knowledge in the area. The system is supposed to help you filter some part of the book that you don’t need to study, so I encourage you to do that.

      3. Yes I know it’s odd to start with the multiple choice questions, but it is specifically designed for you to get to the studying mode, as well as to check how much you already know the material. For example, if you score 20% in the first MC, it is completely ok because it simply shows you need to study more thoroughly in the topic. If you score 90%, then you might want to skip the book and focus only on the practice questions.

      It’s totally fine if you feel uncomfortable with this new method. Just give it a try for a few days. If you still don’t like it, then email me/drop me a note here again. You can also contact your personal counselor at Gleim.

      Hope it helps? Stpehanie

  20. tom says

    Hi.
    I passed the CPA exam 2 years ago. i work as a cost accountant currently for the past 10 years. I wanted to take a crack the CMA exam but i am concerned about the experience requirement. I know IMA website says 2 years of Management or Financial accounting experience. Does my cost accounting experience consider management experience? does it mean a controller/manager position experience? i dont have such experience. i report to the controller directly.

  21. Shafeek says

    Hi Stpehanie,
    I am B.com graduate from India, now i am working in Saudi Arabia the last 4 years as an Accountant. I am interested to get CMA.
    1. Is Gleim Review course enough for self study.
    2. Is it possible that to join IMA and attend exam after i self study Gleim Review course.

    Regards,
    Shafeek

  22. sushant says

    i am currently 22 having no work experience giving ca finals . i m interested inthis course as its of short duration and globally recognised .. but i am confused about the work experience how can i get that … it would be hard to find one . can you guide more about the work exp requirement

  23. ronald davis says

    I PRACTICED ALL QUESTIONS OF WILEY, HOCK AND GLEIM,PROVIDERS WITH AN AIM OF PASS IN FIRST ATTEMPT OF CMA PART 2 , IS THAT ENOUGH TO PASS CMA EXAM? REPLY MUST………

  24. Glenda says

    HI. I’m wondering about the experience requirement. (I have a BA from an accredited university, so no problem there). I have had my own consulting/bookkeeping business for 16 years, so the CMA is perfect for me. In this case, what would be appropriate verification of my experience?

    Thanks.

  25. Glenda says

    Hi Stephanie,

    I know I have some learning gaps. Should I do some background study before signing up with Gleim? Or, is there enough study materials to help me within the program? I see there is a suggested reading list. Should I do that first?

    Thanks,
    Glenda

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Glenda, that would be great for your accounting knowledge. It’s not necessary though. If you run out of time, going through lots and lots of the practice questions work wonders. Good luck! Stephanie

      • Glenda says

        Thanks Stephanie. By the way, I contacted IMA about the job experience requirements. I’ve had my own business for 16 years. They asked me to give them some details about the nature of what I do. Once I gave them the information, they told me I meet the requirements. Thought others who are self-employed might like to know this.

  26. Harihar says

    Hi ,

    Thanks for the informative article ship. I am a sales engineer with 5 years of work exp in manufacturing sector( 1.5 years in Engg maintenance and 3.5 years in sales). After consulting with many financial experts regarding my intention to stay in Engg sector itself but to learn abt finance so that in some years down the line, this knowledge would surely help me climb the ladder soon, they advised me to take up CMA. Now my doubt is since I require 6 months of article ship/training in finance field before taking final exam , how can I manage to accomplish this crieteria as I am a full time employee and working in non finance profile ?. Also can I use grad. Acma after completing final exam if I don’t complete 3 years training ?. Please guide. Thanks in advance for your time and response.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      Hi Harihar, thank you for your note. I agree that you may need to take a closer look at how you can fulfill the experience requirements. First of all, articleship/training or what we call internships in the US is not counted as experience requirements. Also, you need to gain this experience for two consecutive years (not 6 months).

      In your case, you may need to convince your company for an internal transfer so you can accumulate the experience.

      On your last question, I am sorry but I don’t exactly know what you mean by “grad.Acma”. Could you spell this in full? Please note that the terms and education system varies in different countries.

  27. Ryan says

    I am curious if I would meet the requirements to become a CMA. I worked six years as a Staff Accountant, performing financial statement analysis, various balance sheet reconciliations, served as the equipment management support in relations to Financial activity to the operations area, LIFO restatements, and other month and year end activity. This was done at a equipment dealership, not a manufacturing company. Currently, I am a Financial Analyst, where i review budget to actual for various nonprofits, as well as provide other analytical support.

    • Stephanie Ng says

      It sounds perfectly fine to get qualified, Ryan. But if you want to make sure (which I encourage you to do), please email IMA to confirm. You should be able to do this before registering for the CMA program. Stephanie

  28. Arun says

    Hi , Stephanie I am a bit confused between CMA or MBA . What do you think which should be done first?? and one more thing which is better CMA from India or from US? or do they have equal value??
    Pls let me know ASAP..
    Thanks!!

  29. Ravi says

    Hi Stephanie

    Would appreciate if you could answer the below queries.

    1. Will i be eligible for US CMA membership if i successfully complete the CMA (ICWAI)
    2. And currently i am working as an RM for Business loan group in a bank, where we scrutinize the B/S of small companies and then grant loan or reject the file.. so will this experience be counted if i am undertaking US CMA.

  30. gaurav kawa says

    hi
    i have done my graduation …now looking for cma..
    can u plzz tell me about how much experience i need n in which field….

  31. Muhammad Jassim says

    Hello Stephanie,

    I wanted to know..

    1) What are the possible ways for an Indian to be eligible for both the CMA and ICAI qualifications?

    2) On passing the CMA exam do we get any proof that we have passed it???

    3) Does just passing the examination ( without the experience criterion) help fetch a job? Do firms employ people just on the basis of their passing the exam?

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