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CMA CPE Requirements (and Approved Courses Suggestions)

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.

CMA CPE Requirements: An Overview

Luckily, the CPE requirements of a CMA are fairly reasonable and easy to fulfill. You must complete…

  • At least 30 hours per year
  • Of those 30, at least two hours in the subject of ethics

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 2021, you can carry 10 of those hours over into 2022. However, if you complete 45 hours in 2021, 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 2021, you have already completed your ethics requirement for 2022, as well.

Acceptable Subjects for CMA CPE Credits

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:

  • Accounting
  • Financial management
  • Business applications of mathematics and statistics
  • Computer science
  • Economics
  • Management
  • Production
  • Marketing
  • Business law
  • Organization behavior

CMA CPE Ethics Courses

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:

  • Ethical consideration in the area of decision support, planning, and control for accounting and finance professionals working inside organizations
  • Specific scenarios such as fraud in financial reporting, manipulation of budgets for personal gain, and disclosure of confidential business information
  • Coverage of ethics within the general business environment

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.

Course Format

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.

Reporting

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.

When to Start Taking CMA CPE Courses

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 on 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.

How to Determine Your CPE Hours

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”

Taking a college course (at least 10 weeks long)

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.

Taking a short course (less than 10 weeks) or seminar

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.

Taking a professional examination

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.

Taking a self-study course

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.

Serving as college or university instructor

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 change substantially from one year to the next.

Serving as a speaker or discussion leader

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.

Submitting and publishing technical materials

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.

Questions from Readers

I passed the CMA exam but haven’t fulfilled the experience requirement. Since I can’t use the CMA title yet, does it mean that I don’t need to get the CPE hours?

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.

What should I do if I’m not sure whether a particular course is acceptable?

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.

I am a CPA. Can CPA CPE classes count for CMA requirements as well?

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.

What if I’m an enrolled agent? Is there overlap between CPE for CMAs and EAs?

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.

I don’t actively work in management accounting anymore. Can I switch to an “inactive” status and stop taking the CPE courses?

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.

What happens if I don’t complete my CMA CPE this year?

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 2021, you would need to complete 40 additional hours by the end of 2022 to restore your designation.

Suggestions for Meeting Your CMA CPE Requirements

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 requirements for both designations.

Ultimately, my top recommendation for CMAs is Becker CPE. The company offers live webinars, on-demand classes, 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.

Have more questions? Check out my list of CMA CPE frequently asked questions to see if I address your concern there.

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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Leave a Comment:

30 comments
Ann says January 7, 2020

As a procurement officer, who uses cost analysis and gross margin report analysis on a regular basis to ensure that the financial goals of the procurement function are met, would the experience count?

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says January 8, 2020

    It sure sounds like it, but you can double-check with the IMA to make sure 🙂

    Reply
Jen p says August 24, 2019

Hello,

Are there available ethics free webinars?

Thanks,

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says August 27, 2019

    Hi, I don’t know of any at this time, but you could email the IMA to ask. I wish you the best!

    Reply
    Brent says December 14, 2019

    Yes there is! From a recent post on the ima’s website:

    Members have access to Ethics CPE through a new Annual Ethics Benefit token program. The program gives members a yearly “token,” which can be used to purchase any one (two-credit) IMA Ethics Series product. Each year, a new token is automatically issued to each member upon membership renewal. Members can find their token in the myProfile section of their membership dashboard.

    Reply
Gregory says September 13, 2018

Hello,

I passed both exams in 2015, but now i checked my profile in the IMA website and it says that my certificate is expired! Most probably because I never did a CPE. The question is how to renew my certificate and bring it back to life? (I am currently doing my Masters degree)

Thanks a lot,

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says September 15, 2018

    Hello!

    Did your certificate expire because you weren’t paying your annual fees? Your online account should provide you with some insight as to what to do to get your certificate active again. If it doesn’t, please reach out to the IMA by emailing ima[at]imanet.org.

    Kind regards

    Reply
Vivek S says April 2, 2018

Hi, I’m currently studying CMA USA. I’m aware that we need 2 years of experience to get the CMA certification even after qualifying the exams. Are there any pre defined set of jobs that I must do in order to get the 2 years experience? I’ve just heard some vague responses like “accounting jobs”. But if possible I’d like to know the exact type of jobs I must look into. Thanks. 🙂

Reply
N. A. says November 21, 2017

Hello,

I am currently studying for the CMA exam and I am thinking of just passing the exams, completing the work experience, and then getting the CMA certificate. Also, I am willing to pay the IMA annual fees, but I have no intention of completing the CPE requirement on an annual basis. So, my question is: Is it possible to hold the CMA certificate without taking the CPE??

Moreover, I went through the ICMA bylaws and I think I might have found the solution to my question, but I am not quite sure so can you please tell me the difference between: “member”, “participant”, “inactive member”, and “inactive participant”??
And is one of those titles does not require completing the CPE requirements??

Regards,

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says November 22, 2017

    Hi NA,
    I wouldn’t do it, because if your status is inactive, you cannot hold yourself out as a CMA, i.e. you can’t have the CMA title in the business card, email correspondence etc. Regards, Stephanie

    Reply
Palanichamy VP says November 20, 2017

I have completed 10 CPE Requirements so far.
If I dont complete remaining 20 hours of CPE credits, what will happen to my qualification.
Whether my CMA Qualification will be cancelled if i dont complete my 30 Credits.??

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says November 22, 2017

    Hi Palanichamy, the certification won’t be cancelled, but it will be considered delinquent and inactive, and you won’t be able to hold yourself out as a CMA. If the shortfall is not made in the next calendar year, one must get at least 60 hours of CPE within one calendar year to get back to active status. Hope it helps! Stephanie

    Reply
      David says March 4, 2019

      Hello Stephanie,
      I had a similar situation, Only completed 10.5 CPE credits in 2018, now in 2019, I completed 35 CPE, am I ok to hold the CMA? or I need 50 CPE?
      Do I need to self report this issue, somehow?

      Reply
        Stephanie Ng says March 21, 2019

        If you are short in one year, you may make up the shortfall in the following year. However, this is a two-year policy and cannot be rolled over into a third year. Therefore, you’d need to make up the difference in 2019.

        Reply
Ron says April 7, 2017

Hello,

I am considering getting my CMA this year, but i am not sure what to expect regarding post certification fees. With regards to the CPE courses, can MOOC (EDX, Coursera) courses count? I am curious as to what the annual costs would be associated with this. I am an entry level Finance professional so heavy annual fees may cause me to delay becoming a CMA.

Thank you.

Reply
Aleksandar says January 31, 2017

I became a CMA last year. This is the first year I will have to deal with CPE.

Can someone share the link with acceptable on-line courses?

Also, since my employer is refusing to pay for these trainings, I would appreciate if the link is pointing to affordable (i.e. cheap) courses. Are there any free of charge courses on line that would be acceptable?

My employer offers certain trainings on its intranet website (communication, negotiation, marketing, anger management, ethics…). Would these courses be acceptable?

Finally, it is unclear if the courses are required to be academic? Are skill based courses acceptable? For example, would an excel course (pivot, macro..) would be acceptable course? An introduction to SQL?

My confusion stems form quite relaxed explanation of requironments above, yet they have the right to audit you.
I apologies for the length of the post, but I find all this quite confusing.

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says January 31, 2017

    Hi Aleksander, a professor has been in touch with me regarding his new CPE courses. We’ll have him tell us about his offer in a new post soon (I am going to have an interview with him). Will get this done after my ski trip 😉

    Reply
Haitham Ismail says November 29, 2016

how can i fulfill my cma cpe requirements with home studying and what are the applicable courses for that?and what happen if i don,t fulfill the cpe in the first year?

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says December 3, 2016

    Hi Haitham, there are webinars and online courses that are available from time to time. IMA, Gleim and many providers offer these courses.

    If you don’t fulfill the CPE requirements, your CMA certification becomes inactive and you can’t call yourself a CMA.

    Reply
      Mjoshi says March 27, 2019

      Hi
      I have completed my CPA examination after CMA examination. Can I get credit for the course for CPE. As its been 3 years after completion of my CMA certification what can I do to make it active again to full fill the certfication requirement. Do i have to repass the papers?

      Reply
        Stephanie Ng says March 28, 2019

        I don’t believe you can get CPE credit for taking the CPA Exam. You can double check with the IMA though. To make it active again, you don’t need to re-take the exam. You’ll need to reinstate your membership and make up the CPE hours.

        Reply
Fares says October 31, 2016

Thanks Dear , I can plan for vacation now!

Reply
Fares says October 28, 2016

I got my CMA in September 2016, Do I have to fulfill the CPE requirements before the end of 2016?
Thanks

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says October 29, 2016

    Hi Fares, this is a good question and I’ll include this info above.
    You will be given a grace period for 2016 (that is, no need to take the CPE courses). The requirements will start next year beginning Jan 2017. If you have time though, you can start taking some courses and this can be carried over to next year. You can do this up to 10 CPE hours.

    Reply
Axelle says December 30, 2015

I passed part 1 only. do I have to complete any CPE before the year ends?

Reply
    Stephanie Ng says January 3, 2016

    Hi Axelle, you are required to complete the CPE after becoming a CMA, that is, passing the two parts and fulfilling the experience requirements. Cheers, Stephanie

    Reply
      MG says August 18, 2016

      Dear Stephanie,

      you are contradicting your answer above:

      Quote:

      “Questions from Readers

      1. I passed the CMA exam but haven’t fulfilled the experience requirement. Since I can’t use the CMA title yet, does it mean that I don’t need to get the CPE hours?

      Well, I am afraid you do. As long as you pass the CMA exam you need to fulfill the CPE requirements to maintain your IMA membership.”

      Does one need to fulfil the requirements after passing both parts but before accumulating enough work experience?

      Reply
        Stephanie Ng says August 19, 2016

        Oh, it does sound strange MG. Thanks for pointing this out to me. I’ll reword it. Cheers, Stephanie

        Reply
Kamel says September 11, 2015

Can I attended and count CPE before passing the CMA exam?

Reply
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