Continuing professional education, or CPE, is a requirement of many professional designations and certifications. The organizations that give out these certifications want to ensure that their members remain up to date on the best technology and practices in the field. Like most holders of professional qualifications, certified management accountants are required to fulfill CMA CPE requirements on an annual basis. I’ll walk you through these requirements and how to complete them.
Luckily, the CPE requirements of a CMA are fairly reasonable and easy to fulfill. You must complete:
If you accumulate more than 30 hours in one year, you can carry up to 10 hours forward to the following year. That means if you complete 40 hours of CPE in 2022, you can carry 10 of those hours over into 2023. However, if you complete 45 hours in 2022, you can still only carry over 10 of those hours.
If you earn more than two hours of ethics credits, you can carry up to two more hours forward to the following year. Thus, if you earn four hours of ethics CPE in 2022, you have already completed your ethics requirement for 2023, as well.
The IMA, or Institute of Management Accountants, is the governing organization that sets certified management accountant requirements. Thus, this organization also decides which courses count toward CPE credit requirements for a CMA. The IMA allows courses in the following topics:
Ethics education for the purpose of CPE requirements for a CMA should focus on the area of management accounting and financial management. The IMA encourages you to look at its Statement of Ethical Professional Practice in order to figure out which individual topics are appropriate. However, the IMA does suggest the following topics:
If you’re not sure whether a particular course or activity will meet the ethics requirement, you can submit a description of it to the IMA in advance.
When it comes to the methods by which you earn your CPE hours, there is a great deal of flexibility. You can take regular college courses, of course. However, seminars, webinars, workshops, and technical meetings under the direction of speakers also count. If you serve as an instructor, speaker, or discussion leader, you can receive credit for these roles. You can also take home study courses and count your time taking professional examinations. Finally, giving speeches and publishing technical articles are acceptable as well.
CMAs must report the CPE hours they complete each year. However, you do not need to submit supporting documents unless you’re audited. Normally, you can just use the member profile section on the IMA website to organize and record your CPE hours. All courses you take through the IMA itself will automatically show up in that section.
If you’re chosen to be audited, then you will have to submit documentation to show that you did indeed complete your CPE. The IMA advises you to hold onto any supporting documents, such as certificates or course materials, for two years.
The cycle is based on the calendar year, beginning on January 1. For that year, all CMA CPE requirements are due on December 31. (This may seem obvious, but in contrast, the cycle for some CPA CPE requirements goes from July to the following June.)
If you pass the CMA exam in the middle of the year, you don’t need to fulfill any CPE requirements immediately – that is, IMA offers a grace period for the rest of that year. Your first reporting period will begin the next January 1, and you’ll need to finish your first round of CMA CPE requirements by December 31. If you have the time, however, you are welcome to start taking classes soon after passing the exam. Any CPE hours you earn during that grace period can carry over to the next reporting year.
Some CPE credits for CMA purposes are easy to calculate – if you take a seminar that lasts for three hours, for example, you have completed three of your 30 hours. However, other ways of fulfilling the requirements may require some “translation.”
If your college or university is on the semester system, a one-semester course is equivalent to 15 CPE hours. On the quarter system, a one-quarter course equals 10 CPE hours.
For shorter or non-credit college courses, 50 minutes of session time equals one hour of credit. The same is true for professional and trade association meetings. If you spend at least 6.5 hours in session during a full-day course, you earn eight hours of credit.
For each hour you spend taking (and passing) an exam, you can mark off 10 hours toward your total. You can actually count the time you spend taking the CMA Exam toward your first reporting period. The four-hour exam will earn you 40 hours total.
The sponsoring organization of the course will usually tell you how much CPE credit it will earn you. As a note, you can count exam prep courses as self-study courses, but you can’t also count the time spent taking the actual exam. In other words, you can’t double-dip and count both your study hours and exam hours.
If you’re teaching a relevant college course, you can earn hours equal to the number of credit hours of the course multiplied by the number of times the course meets per week. For example, if you teach a three-credit-hour course that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you have earned six hours for the semester.
If you teach the same course over multiple years, you can only submit it to earn CPE credit every three years. The exception would be if the textbook or curriculum changes substantially from one year to the next.
For one-time teaching or speaking events, you can earn twice the time of the presentation itself. The idea behind this is that you’re also counting the preparation time. However, if you give the same speech or lead the same discussion more than once, you can still only count it once.
If you write and publish an article containing technical accounting or financial management information, you can earn up to six hours of credit. Similar books or monographs are eligible for up to 20 hours of credit. The IMA itself will decide how many hours your publication is worth after you submit it.
If you have submitted the material but it hasn’t been published yet, you earn half of the credit you would’ve earned if it was published. If the material gets published at a later date, you won’t earn any further credit.
Quoting from the IMA website, “once you’ve completed and passed both parts of the CMA exam, you must complete 30 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) each year.”
In this case, even if you can’t call yourself a CMA yet, you passed the exam and therefore the clock has started to click. However, remember that the rest of the year is a grace period and that you have earned 40 hours simply by passing the exam.
If you’re unsure, particularly when it comes to the ethics requirement, IMA can issue a ruling in advance. You can send a copy of the program or other information describing the course or activity to the IMA.
In nearly all cases, the answer is yes. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) must approve organizations to allow them to offer CPA CPE programs. NASBA-approved programs are also acceptable by the IMA. You can confirm with the IMA if you have questions about a specific course.
Since continuing education for enrolled agents concentrates on subjects related to taxes, some of it will also be relevant to CMAs. However, EA CPE must come from an IRS-approved organization. Make sure to confirm that any course you wish to count for both has been approved by both the IRS and IMA. Many companies like Becker and Gleim CMA CPE offer both CMA and EA CPE.
There is no “inactive” status for CMAs, and you need to be 55 years old or above to qualify for the “retired” status. In case of special circumstances (e.g., military service, serious illness, extreme financial hardship), you may apply for the IMA to waive your requirement. Temporary unemployment or changing jobs are not considered special circumstances. Please contact the IMA for details.
If you don’t get to 30 hours of CPE in the course of a calendar year, your CMA designation is suspended for the following year. You are considered a delinquent member not in good standing. However, you can return to good standing by completing 60 total hours by the end of that year – 30 for the first year and 30 for the second. For example, if you only completed 20 hours of CPE in 2022, you would need to complete 40 additional hours by the end of 2023 to restore your designation.
Don’t let the CMA CPE requirements deadline sneak up on you! Those 30 hours are much easier to get if you spread them out over the course of the year. You know CMAs require CPE every year, so get started early.
The IMA itself offers CPE courses and webinars, some of which are free. Additionally, many of my recommended CPE courses for CPA licensees can fulfill the requirements for both designations.
Ultimately, my top recommendation for CMAs is Becker CPE. The company offers live webinars, on-demand classes, a CPE compliance tracker, and even full course packages for all your CMA CPE requirements. These offerings come at a variety of price points to fit any budget. If you like the kinds of courses that Becker offers, you can choose a package that renews every year. That way, you’ll always know where you’ll get your CPE for the year.
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.