This 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:
- Join the IMA and pay entrance fee
- Fulfill the educational requirements
- Take the CMA exam
- Satisfy the experience requirements
- 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.
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.
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, you may refer to the CMA Handbook published by IMA, or refer to this page on CMA exam overview.
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.
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.
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.
- Next step: what are the CMA exam requirements?
- Is CMA exam site available in my country?
- IMA official site
- CMA Handbook
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.