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CGMA Designation: Is the Title Worth Your Time and Money?

CGMA designationGGMA®, which stands for Chartered Global Management Accountant, is a relatively new designation for management accountants. The title is granted by a joint venture between the AICPA and CIMA.

(For those who need some background, AICPA is a national association of US CPAs. CIMA is essentially the UK/commonwealth countries version of CMA.)

Why the CGMA Designation?

The CGMA website has the “official” reasons why you want to become a CGMA. The following are my reasons in the practical point of view.

1. You Can Were Able to “Buy” This Designation

Before the launch of CGMA exam in January 2015, CIMA members are automatically qualified for CGMA. The same applies to AICPA members as long as they fulfill the 3-year experience requirements.

Since January 2015, applicants need to take the CGMA exam to get the designation. But I bet the vast majority of CGMAs got the title simply by filling a form and pay the fee prior to 2015.

2. Most AICPA Members Work in the Industry Anyway

Here is the rationale behind this joint venture in my opinion: most AICPA members actually work in corporates instead of public accounting firms. These CPAs are looking for recognition of their management accounting expertise. CGMA is an easy way to ride on AICPA’s existing membership.

3. AICPA / CIMA Really Want to Build a Global Brand

Accounting standards used to be different across the globe. Because of this, it is very hard to build a global designation for accountants. Now that the accounting standards are converging, and that management accounting concepts are similar across countries anyway, AICPA and CIMA decide to join hands to establish a new, truly global brand.

The CFA Institute has been wildly successful in monopolizing the finance designation on a global scale. The IIA also grants only internal audit certification in the world. It is possible that the two institutes are able to pull this off.

CGMA vs CMA

1. Now, Both Designations Require an Exam

CMA

The CMA designation granted by the IMA has been established for more than 40 years. Although membership is much smaller than that of the AICPA, it has a sizable community of around 20,000 active CMAs and 70,000 IMA members. It has also established a strong footprint in China and the Middle East.

The CMA program is rigorous requiring the passing of a difficult 2-part exam together with 2 years of relevant experience. Employers pay more respect to a title that is earned rather than paid.

CGMA

The exam has been launched in January 2015 and it has become mandatory for the CGMA designation.

The exam is developed by CGMA to test a candidate’s problem solving skills in real business situations. Coverage includes financial strategy, risk management and strategic management, as well as research, data analysis and communication skills. The exam is delivered online in case study format.

In my opinion, it is similar to the format of the CIMA exam. Please click here for my latest finding of the CGMA exam.

2. More Titles = More Maintenance Fees + More CPE?

The fee is now $100 to 150 per year for AICPA members (more details below). For now, the CPE requirement for AICPA member and CGMA designation holders is the same.

3. Risk of Being Seen as Title Collectors?

Some employers may not like this CGMA idea (especially if the boss is a CMA). You may be seen as someone who collect titles for the sake of it.

4. Can the CGMA Designation Hold Up to Its Name?

AICPA has ventured out to certifications peripheral to accounting, without much success in my opinion. PFS (Personal Financial Specialist) hasn’t done well in comparison to CFP. The IT certification (for IT auditors) is less recognized than CISA.

More Comparison in Video Format

How to Become a CGMA

This summary is based on my latest understanding of the CGMA exam and certification requirement. Given this is a new designation, rules may change frequently. Please double check this information with that on the official website.

1. Become an AICPA or CIMA Member

The CGMA certification is open to AICPA or CIMA members only.

2. Complete the CGMA Exam

You must also take and pass the CGMA exam.

3. Fulfill the Experience Requirement

For AICPA Members

After the exam, you will need to accumulate 3 years of relevant experience based on the “competency framework”. According to my research, this includes:

  • financial accounting, management accounting or internal audit in business, industry or government; or
  • financial/management accounting experience on a consulting basis; or
  • management accounting role focused on the management and operation of an accounting firm.

Note:

  • You can also replace 1 year of the above with 1 year of public accounting experience.
  • Personal financial services experience does not qualify for eligibility.

For CIMA Members

The experience required to become a CIMA is sufficient for the CGMA designation. Therefore, CIMA members are automatically entitled to become CGMA at no extra cost. All fees are included in the CIMA subscription.

3. Other Designation Holders

CPA licensees who are not AICPA members are not eligible to become a CGMA. Generally speaking, the administrator encourages US candidates to choose the AICPA route, and others to choose the CIMA.

How Much Does It Cost?

The CGMA designation is free for CIMA members. For AICPA members who are eligible, the registration fee is $150 per year. Dual state CPA society-AICPA members receive a $50 savings, making the cost $100 per year.

My Thoughts

CGMA is duplicating what IMA is trying to achieve. In my opinion, the designation is created largely for CIMA and (especially) AICPA to promote their brands, add value to the membership and increase revenue stream.

IMA could have done better in growing its brand among business and corporations, but it’s still more credible. For now, I am happy to stick with the CMA designation 🙂

Step 2: Understand the
CGMA Exam Structure and Difficulty

From Our Blogger…
CGMA vs CMA vs CPA

For Your Further Reading

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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34 comments
George Jones says March 30, 2019

The CGMA is a scam designation. The AICPA gave it away like candy without any requirement to take an examination. They had to do this, as no one in the midst of their career if going to waste time to take a rigorous examination to get a meaningless title – hence, let’s give it way for just a fee, promote it like crazy, flood the market with it and THEN try to make it legit by requiring an exam, so kids coming out of college will now see all those who have it (virtually none of whom took the exam), and they will think it’s a worthy designation. I contacted the AICPA about this once, and asked how do they distinguish between who took an exam and who did not – they said they were “working on it”…after a few follow ups, they said they don’t keep records of who took the exam (I’m not making this up), and they had no further comment on it. Even the person at the AICPA, sent me a winky face emoji in his email saying he got it before the test was required. I have yet to meet anyone with a CGMA designation that took the exam, nor many who even have managerial accounting experience. The CMA is the only, real designation for anyone wanting a certification in managerial accounting. Shame on the AICPA. I sit through conferences in Vegas, to hear the President of the AICPA boast we are the “profession of integrity”, yet in my view they are deceiving the public, all just to generate a new source of revenue. If they were going to compete with the IMA, they should have done it with integrity and transparency.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says May 8, 2019

    Thanks for this feedback! We strongly encourage anyone who wants to work as a management account to become a CMA (IMA CMA).

    Kind regards,
    Stephanie

    Reply
ooi kin chee says January 26, 2018

I am an accounting student currently studying Bachelor of Accounting Degree Year 2. Initially I think ACCA is my target to achieve, but as time goes on, I found myself CGMA syllabus is suitable for me regarding the knowledge learnt. I want to know that, in future I want to take CGMA instead of ACCA, even Audit and Tax CGMA does not focus much, but in the future CGMA holder can be an auditor? I prefer internal audit over external, and my final destination is to be an advisory in Finance industry such as Bursa Malaysia, Rakuten Stock Trade. CGMA qualification worth the recognition itself? I already registered as CIMA member and paid the fees until Management Case Study level. Kindly reply me as soon as possible, thank you.

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    Nihar Musthapha says August 27, 2018

    Dear,
    All depend on what you would like to be…If you want to become a CEO or want to run your own business while being the owner/CEO..etc, then CIMA (CGMA ) is a better option, as it focuses on ‘… becoming a CEO…’.
    Regards,
    Nihar

    Reply
    Yung Jun says October 11, 2018

    Dear Ooi,

    In Malaysia, a CGMA holder can’t be an auditor without registered Malaysia Institute of Accountant membership and holding an audit license by Audit Oversight Board (AOB).

    If your final destination would be an advisory role in Finance Industry, a CIMA or ACCA qualification doesn’t make much difference. For long term, I do encourage you to take CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) if you want to keep going in Finance industry.

    Regards,
    Your Malaysia Counterpart

    Reply
      Stephanie Ng says December 3, 2018

      Thanks for your feedback Yung 🙂

      Reply
Nikhil Jindal says August 22, 2017

hey..I want to join CGMA course in India anyone please help me and provide me a right guidance to pursue this course or not..? Is this course is beneficial for my future or not.?
Actually I am CA drop out and cleared my CA-IPCC 1st group in 1st attempt after that I didn’t cleared any exam because result didn’t come in my favour so now I am thinking to pursure CGMA course.
Help me

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says September 8, 2017

    Hi Nikhil, there is a prerequisite to take the CGMA exam… please check if you are qualified? Thanks, Stephanie

    Reply
NIHAR MUSTHAPHA says June 9, 2017

I am a CGMA.

In my opinion, a business finance professional should have the skill set CGMA possess, as it leads to CEO, a top level Strategic Business Partner.

Look at it as a set of skills, rather than a qualification.

I personally see the difference in my working environment.

Best regards.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says June 19, 2017

    Excellent point — Look at it as a set of skills, rather than a qualification 🙂

    Reply
Richard Nkwocha says May 12, 2017

every one who has registered for CIMA examination and STUDYING ,OR have passed and qualified as a CGMA ( cima+AICPA) holder has a testimony .Their careers have changed and those in private business will tell you the same.
Focus, register, study and eventually pass your exams.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says May 14, 2017

    I haven’t got a testimonial and heard one myself, but I would love to someday.

    Reply
Dipti says May 10, 2017

CMA and CGMA seem like a joke compared to the CPA.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says May 11, 2017

    Hi Dipti,
    Why did you say that? Please elaborate.

    Reply
richard nkwocha says January 20, 2017

Average time investment to go through CIMA exams is 4 years.I did self study is tougher. I am a balanced accountant.I am not managing numbers but relationships

Reply
Theodore says January 20, 2017

Hi Stephanie, I successfully wrote the CIMA Strategic Case Study exam in November 2016. I believe it should be quite similar to the CGMA one. It is a tough exam and the time pressure is huge. I believe the pass rate for November was 65%.It tests Leadership skills, technical skills, people skills and business skills as well as integration.Given this I do not think it can be said that the CGMA designation comes easily.

Reply
richard nkwocha says January 18, 2017

I have taken the CGMA exams, I took , E3 ,passed and sat fhe strategic case study and passed on the third attempt.It is a pretty tough examination. Is time pressured and looks very real to life.
But was a good investment .It changed every thing around me.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says January 19, 2017

    Hi Richard, great to know. It sounds like the experience people have on CIMA (which administers the CGMA exam).

    Reply
Sam says January 18, 2017

Hi I have taken the CGMA exam in Nov 2016. It is very tough and challenging exam and there a huge time pressure.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says January 19, 2017

    Hi Sam, thanks for the feedback! Your comment is the first ever on the CGMA exam and I really appreciate it.
    So for those who are going to take it… make sure you get fully prepared and be mindful of time management. Sounds like a beast!

    Reply
Hassan Khan says January 5, 2017

Hi Richard,
I agree with stephanie , I also want to know about CGMA scope and exam value in USA especially New York, so if you know anything about CGMA designation and scope then please share with us. I need information about it. I shall be very thankful to you.

Reply
Richard Nkwocha says January 4, 2017

No one buys the CGMA certificate, especially since the new 2015 syllabus.The CGMA exams are rigorous and pressured .They simulate real life situations.
As an accountant, you probably will realize that the merger between CIMA and AICPA will create such a huge synergy and enlarge the brand.In Europe and the United Kingdom, CIMA is a much sort after accounting qualification for those who want to be in the industry and CPA’s are a big deal in the US.The merger will strengthen the CIMA qualification with public sector accounting and CIMA strengthens CPA holders with cutting edge cost and management accounting , driven by IT and founded on strong ethical principles and a superior risk management skills.Unfortunately with IMA especially in Canada and North America , it would have made sense to join the merger and strengthen the new body as opposed to making a self serving argument. Mid to long term , CGMA will be most sort after business accounting qualification.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says January 4, 2017

    Hi Richard,
    You almost sound like an advertisement for CGMA 😉 Just kidding, I respect your opinion, and thanks a lot for sharing.

    Have you taken the CGMA exam? How does it feel like? I haven’t heard from any readers (anyone) taking this exam and I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Reply
      James says August 29, 2017

      It is a tough exam. I took the CIMA Masters Gateway exam which is designed for MBA and MSc Accounting grads. Masters Gateway candidates who pass are exempt from 10 courses in the CIMA syllabus. The passrate is typically between 26% – 40%.

      https://www.cimaglobal.com/About-us/Examinations/

      Reply
        Stephanie Ng says September 8, 2017

        Hi James, thanks for the info. It’s helpful because so far it’s hard for me to get further info. My gut feeling is that it is definitely not easy, so thanks again for confirming that. Cheers, Stephanie

        Reply
Hassan Khan says November 28, 2016

Thnx Stephanie, can you please give me one more favour, actually I want to know about the scope of cima in New York, is there any job opportunities in NY OR USA, if you know then please tell me I shall be very thankfuuhl to you
.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says December 3, 2016

    Hi Hassan, in my opinion, CIMA is rarely recognized in the US… but you should check with a few others as well.

    Reply
Hassan Khan says November 23, 2016

Hi everyone! I wanna ask that is there any scope or opportunities for cgma in US, because I have mind for cima then cgma, and I have to move to US in future so should I go for cgma or not, please suggest

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says November 23, 2016

    Hi Hassan, I feel like CGMA is still suffering from the label that it is a designation you can just pay to get. It is no longer the case (for AICPA members), but the stigma remains.

    In your case, people would know that your CGMA designation is simply an extension of CIMA… so in this way it also doesn’t add value. Just my opinion, of course. I guess the folks at the AICPA / CIMA wouldn’t agree with me 😉

    Reply
Ken Ashe says November 8, 2015

I became a CGMA before the test was required. I agree that it doesn’t mean much now, but hopefully it will carry some weight 10 years down the road. Of course, it may not…

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says November 9, 2015

    Yes Ken, as long as we are willing to pay the annual fees, why not 🙂

    Reply
Safwan says February 20, 2015

Mate you sound like who has got good knowledge of the field, I am currently preparing for my CMA part 2 exam, and i am gonna be moving to US in couple of months, i wanted to know if just being CMA is worthed? i.e, has it got any recognition amongst the employers in US?

Reply
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