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CMA Requirements: How to Meet the CMA Exam Requirements & Determine Your Eligibility

cma exam requirements

As the administrator of the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification, the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) holds high standards for CMA candidates. And to enforce these standards, the IMA has established the Certified Management Accountant requirements (or CMA requirements). Therefore, some of them also serve as the CMA exam requirements.

Compared to other professional accounting certifications (such as the CPA), the CMA requirements are fairly straightforward and simple. However, they do require time and effort to complete. Furthermore, you must finish some of the CMA qualifications before others. Therefore, you should learn about the CMA certification requirements and the CMA exam requirements before you start the process of pursuing the CMA.

Discovering the CMA Requirements

To earn the CMA certification, you must fulfill these 7 CMA requirements in this order:

  1. First, hold an active membership with the IMA.
  2. Next, pay the CMA entrance fee.
  3. Fulfill the education qualification.
  4. Pass both parts of the CMA exam.
  5. Fulfill the experience qualification.
  6. And finally, comply with the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice.
  7. Plus, to keep your certification active, complete the annual CPE requirements.

As you can see, some of these requirements are more involved than others. For example, paying the CMA entrance fee and complying with the statement are pretty quick and easy steps.

However, meeting the education requirement, completing the experience requirement, and passing the CMA exam demand much more concentration and commitment. Therefore, many CMA candidates focus the most on the 3 requirements that start with an e: education, exam, and experience.

Addressing the CMA Requirements in Order

To properly satisfy each CMA requirement, you must address them in the right order.

1. Become an IMA member and pay the CMA fees

The first step to earning the CMA is learning about the CMA exam fees. First, you need to become an IMA member, which involves filling out a short application and paying a fee. The type of IMA membership you’ll hold and the price you’ll pay for it depends on your current professional status. Your IMA membership type and fee options are as follows:

  • Professional: $275
  • Academic: $150
  • Student: $45

The next step in the CMA certification process is paying the CMA entrance fee. After all, you must pay this fee to enter the CMA program and take the CMA exam. Plus, the price of this fee depends on your IMA membership type. For instance, professional IMA members must pay $280. On the other hand, Academic and Student members only pay $210.

Once you enter the CMA program, you have 3 years from the date of entry to pass the CMA exam. However, if you don’t pass both CMA exam parts within 3 years, you will lose credit for any parts you passed. As a result, you’ll have to pay the CMA entrance fee again.

The IMA’s CMA Handbook states that, along with access to the CMA exam, the CMA entrance fee also includes other benefits. These perks include:

  1. To start, access to the CMA Support Package begins on the date of entry into the CMA program.
  2. Performance feedback reports, too.
  3. Plus, a review of educational and experience credentials.
  4. Final score report upon completion of the exams.
  5. Personalized, numbered certificate upon completion of all requirements.
  6. If desired, employer notification of achievement, as well.
  7. Plus, maintenance of a listing of all CMAs in good standing on the IMA website for employer verification of status.

2. Meet the CMA exam requirements

The CMA exam requirements include the following:

  1. Completing the education qualification.
  2. Passing the CMA exam.

What’s more, you can take the CMA exam before you complete the education requirement. After all, the IMA accepts student members and offers them discounts on CMA exam fees. However, you must submit verification of your education to the ICMA within 7 years of passing the CMA exam.

CMA Education Requirement

CMA candidates can satisfy the education requirement in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
    1. First, you’ll find a partial list of accredited U.S. and international institutions here: http://univ.cc/world.php.
    2. Next, an independent agency must evaluate your education if you received your degree from a non-accredited institution. You’ll find a list of such agencies at aice-eval.org or http://www.naces.org/members.htm.
    3. Furthermore, if you can’t find your college or university on the accredited listing, you can contact the IMA at ima@imanet.org.
    4. Next, you’ll need copies of your transcripts. And they must be in English and in PDF format.
    5. Finally, the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA) asks that you email your transcripts (in English in PDFs) as well as your IMA membership number to CMAEducationdocuments@imanet.org.
  2. Have a professional certification
    1. The IMA has a list of approved professional certifications.
    2. The IMA elucidates that verification of a professional certification means the approved certifying organization should mail a letter confirming that you are a qualified member directly to the address below.

All of your education verification must be submitted in English and include your IMA member number.

CMA Examination Requirement

To finish the CMA exam requirements, you must pass all parts of the CMA exam within 3 years of the date on which the IMA approved your entry into the CMA program.

The CMA exam has 2 parts with the following content areas:

  • Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
    • A. External Financial Reporting and Decisions
    • B. Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
    • C. Performance Management
    • D. Cost Management
    • E. Internal Controls
    • Technology and Analytics
  • Part 2: Strategic Financial Management
    • A. Financial Statement Analysis
    • B. Corporate Finance
    • C. Decision Analysis
    • D. Risk Management
    • E. Investment Decisions
    • F. Professional Ethics

Each CMA exam part consists of the following total testing times and types of questions.

CMA Exam Details

Exam Part

Total Testing Time Multiple-Choice Questions

Essay Questions

Part 1

4 hours


2 30-minute essays

Part 2

4 hours


2 30-minute essays

When you take the CMA exam, your 4 hours of total testing time will be divided into 2 segments. That is, you’ll have 3 hours for the multiple-choice question (MCQ) section and 1 hour for the essay section.

Plus, you have to answer at least 50% of the MCQs correctly to be eligible for the essay section. Then, the CMA exam will move you into the essay section once you have either answered all of the MCQs or 3 hours have passed, whichever comes first. If you answer all of the MCQs in less than 3 hours, your remaining time will carry over and be added to your 1 hour for the essays.

Furthermore, once you leave the MCQ section of the CMA exam, you cannot return to it. Consequently, you must stay in the essay section until you finish the exam.

The essay section contains 2 scenarios describing a typical business situation. Basically, you must answer 8-10 written responses or calculation questions based on these two scenarios.

Once you have finished the CMA exam, you will receive your CMA exam score on the appropriate CMA exam score release date.

3. Meet the Annual CPE Requirements

After passing the CMA exam, you must start meeting the continuing education (CPE) requirements. Specifically, you must complete your annual CPE even before the IMA awards you the CMA certificate. The IMA will award you the CMA certificate once you have satisfied the experience requirement. And then, your CPE and IMA membership must be current at that time.

If you finish the CMA exam in the middle of the year, you don’t have to start meeting the CPE requirement until the next year. However, you can start working on the next year’s CPE if you want. Besides, you can carry up to 10 CPE hours over to the next reporting year.

The CMA CPE requirement is 30 hours of continuing education each year. What’s more, 2 of these hours must be in the area of ethics. In order to receive credit for your CPE, the subjects must be relevant to a management accountant’s or financial manager’s career development. Or they can be related to employer needs.

Plus, you can earn your CPE from programs sponsored by employers, business organizations, educational institutions, and professional and trade associations. Moreover, qualifying CPE programs may include seminars, workshops, technical meetings, self-study packages, and online courses. Additionally, college courses can count toward CPE, too.

The CMA Handbook contains a link to more information about the IMA’s CPE rules and requirements.

However, we highly recommend utilizing Becker CPE when it comes time to complete your annual hours.

4. Complete the CMA experience requirement

First, you don’t have to wait until you’ve passed the CMA exam to complete the experience requirement. As a result, if you enter the CMA program after already having enough education and experience, you just need to take the CMA exam.

However, just like the education requirement, you can complete the experience requirement before or within 7 years of passing the CMA exam. Therefore, if you haven’t already acquired the necessary experience, you can do so as you prepare for the exam. And due to the amount of experience the IMA expects, candidates usually finish the exam first.

To fulfill the experience qualification, CMA candidates must possess 2 continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management.

What’s more, teaching full-time can count as professional experience. However, at least 60% of your course load must involve teaching accounting or finance above the principles level over a 2-year period.

The IMA expects full-time employment. But, they do accept continuous part-time positions of 20 hours per week that meet the definition of qualified experience. Therefore, you can count part-time work toward the experience requirement at a rate of 1 year of experience for every 2 years of part-time employment.

Whether your position is part-time or full-time, it must consist of regularly making judgments using management accounting and financial management principles. Tasks in which you would employ these principles include:

  • Auditing (external or internal)
  • Budget preparation and reporting
  • Company investment decision making
  • Completing monthly, quarterly, and year-end close
  • Costing analysis
  • Financial planning and analysis
  • Forecasting
  • Managing general ledger and balance sheets
  • Preparation of financial statements
  • Risk evaluation

5. Comply with the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice

The IMA requires all of its members, particularly CMAs, to demonstrate ethical behavior constantly. So, to ensure that the professional actions of CMAs are truly virtuous, the IMA has an ethics manual. Basically, this publication contains the principles and standards by which CMAs should live.

The principles to which CMAs must adhere are honesty, fairness, objectivity, and responsibility. CMAs should abide by these principles in the workplace and encourage their coworkers to do the same.

CMAs should also comply with the standards of competence, confidentiality, integrity, and credibility at all times. And if they fail to do so, the IMA may resort to disciplinary action.

Lastly, following the IMA’s statement also means committing to resolving any unethical issues or behavior you may encounter in the workplace. And if you can’t resolve the issue according to the manner specified in the statement, you should disassociate yourself from that organization if necessary.

Maintaining the CMA Certification

Once you’ve paid the fees, finished the education, examination, and experience requirements, and received the CMA certificate, you must do the following to maintain your CMA certification:

  1. Complete your annual CPE requirement
    1. Again, this requirement consists of 30 hours, including 2 hours in Ethics.
    2. More specifically, your CMA certification becomes delinquent and inactive if you don’t fulfill your required CPE hours.
    3. Afterward, you must follow the proper steps to remove the delinquency and resume your CMA status.
  2. Pay the CMA Annual Fee
    1. Basically, this fee covers your active IMA membership and the annual CMA maintenance fee.
  3. Comply with the Statement of Ethical Professional Practice
    1. You can find a copy of the statement in the CMA Handbook.
    2. Moreover, failure to comply may result in disciplinary action.
    3. The IMA also expects CMAs to comply with all applicable local laws concerning offering accounting services to the general public.

Starting the Process of Meeting the CMA Requirements

Now that you know all about the CMA requirements, you can work on fulfilling them.

If you believe you may already have the education you need, learn more about the CMA education requirements. Likewise, if you’re ready to see if your current work experience qualifies, use my 3 tests to assess your CMA experience eligibility.

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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