In order to earn the Certified Management Accountant certification, you must meet several CMA requirements, one of which is the experience requirement.
The CMA certification represents expertise in the field of management accounting, and candidates can only acquire some of this expertise through hands-on experience in a professional setting.
For this reason, the IMA has established the CMA experience requirements. Candidates must have at least two years of full-time work experience in either financial management or management accounting.
So, to determine if your professional experience satisfies these requirements, learn more about them and answer some simple questions about your experience. I’m going to review everything you need to know about the CMA experience requirements in this post.
First, let’s begin with the basics. This is always the most logical place to start. At the most basic level, the CMA experience requirements call for certification candidates to have 2 continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management. On its own, this doesn’t sound too difficult. Most people going for their CMA will likely already be working in the field or a student looking to get a job in the field when they graduate.
Additionally, you can complete this requirement at any time before you sit for the CMA exam or within 7 years after you sit for the CMA exam. This makes it even easier to meet the requirement because you can sit for the exam first, right out of school, and get work experience in the years that follow.
The IMA also permits candidates to use time spent teaching to fulfill the experience requirement.
For your teaching to count as professional management accounting/financial management experience, you must have done it full-time.
Also, 60% of your course load must have involved teaching advanced accounting or finance (classes above the principles level) over a 2-year period.
Your professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management must last for 2 continuous years, as stated above. Part-time work or internships may not count toward your work experience. More on this later. Furthermore, it must be relevant, involve analysis, and be completed within a permanent hire position.
Consequently, you should ask these questions about your experience to determine if it meets the appropriate specifications. Here are three tests to help you check your eligibility.
The CMA Candidate Handbook (p.5) states:
Qualifying experience consists of positions requiring judgments regularly made employing the principles of management accounting and financial management. Such employment includes:
- Preparation of financial statements
- Financial planning and analysis
- Monthly, quarterly and year end close
- Auditing (external or internal)
- Budget preparation and reporting
- Manage general ledger and balance sheets
- Company investment decision making
- Costing analysis
- Risk evaluation
So, as you can see, the IMA’s definition of relevant is quite broad. Therefore, acquiring relevant work experience should not be too difficult for accounting and finance professionals. Let’s look at the next test to help you determine if your experience is considered relevant.
Your professional experience must involve analysis.
So, as long as you were involved in the analysis of financial statements and their impact on the company, or if you participated in analysis and reporting that aided investment management and decision-making, you can count your work experience.
Therefore, you could have acquired your IMA-approved work experience within the external audit, internal audit, or financial analysis departments of your company.
However, if your work is focused on repetitive tasks such as preparing and uploading journal entries, the IMA probably won’t approve it, as such work does not involve analysis.
Also, if your work only occasionally utilized management accounting principles, then it won’t satisfy this requirement either.
For example, if you worked in computer operations, sales and marketing, manufacturing, engineering, personnel, or general management, you wouldn’t have used the principles of management accounting enough.
But, if you have multiple roles, e.g. a manager with both administrative and also technical job responsibilities, you should emphasize the technical side of your job in your work verification form.
Finally, the IMA also expects you to gain work experience while working full-time. This is an important one to note, especially if you’ve gotten some of your professional experience while still a student.
For example, the IMA does not accept experience gained from internships or trainee, clerical, or non-technical positions. And as mentioned, your professional experience must last for 2 consecutive years. Many students get part-time work, like in the examples above, while they are still working on their degrees. However, this won’t count for the IMA unless it meets the requirement outlined below.
But, the IMA does accept experience gained in continuous part-time work so long as part-time consisted of at least 20 hours a week. At that point, part-time work equals full-time work at a rate of one year of experience for every 2 years of part-time employment.
All in all, it’s not that difficult to get IMA approval of your work experience in order to meet the requirements. Let’s look into this a bit more.
Is the IMA very strict with their approval of the CMA experience requirements?
Based on the shared experiences of my readers, I don’t believe so. In fact, the IMA seems to be among the most flexible certification administrators in terms of approving professional experience requirements.
Three factors serve as evidence of the IMA’s leniency.
First, the IMA’s definition of relevance is broad.
In contrast, other niche accounting qualifications, such as the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification and the Certified Information System Analyst (CISA) designation, require applicants to accumulate work in internal audit and IT auditor specifically. But that is not the case with the CMA.
Second, the IMA does not specify exactly what you must do in your role within the organization.
In comparison, the CFA work experience requirements state that a candidate’s work must involve investment decision-making 50% of the time.
Third, the IMA isn’t very strict about who can verify your work.
For this reason, as long as your verifier is your supervisor, the IMA doesn’t concern itself with this person’s background. Conversely, in regard to the CPA license, most state boards require the verifier to be both your supervisor AND an active CPA licensee.
As you can see from these three tests, it’s not too difficult to get the work experience needed to qualify for the CMA.
Moreover, the IMA is even quite flexible in handling special cases.
For example, I had a reader who had been running her own company for 16 years. She sent her job description to the IMA, and they approved her experience as relevant.
Therefore, I encourage you to check with the IMA directly if you aren’t sure whether they will count your work experience.
This is another question I’ve gotten here before. Can you take the CMA without experience? This is mostly answered above. The general answer is no. However, the IMA has exceptions and special experience cases, such as the reader of mine who had been running her own business for 16 years. If in doubt, you need to contact the IMA directly, and they will tell you whether or not the experience you have qualifies.
That said, if you are trying to qualify with zero experience whatsoever – you just woke up today and decided you want to go for the CMA – that is not likely to work. While they are very lenient on the type of experience you have and what qualifies you for the experience, there IS still an experience requirement.
In order to get the CMA certification, you must fill out a work verification form and send it to the IMA via email.
And if you have any other questions about the CMA experience requirements, you can email the IMA at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800-638-4427.
Then, ask to speak to the exam certification assistant, as she can help you get any info you need.
What are some examples of CMA work experience that you can use to meet the requirements of the IMA? Relevant work experience includes positions that require regular judgments on the application of the principles of management accounting and financial accounting.
Some examples are (as listed above from the handbook):
These are just a few examples, and you will see from them that the definition of work experience is indeed very broad. For candidates hoping to qualify for the CMA, this really is a good thing. If you are working in accounting in any capacity, you are likely going to have the work experience. This makes it easier for people who are already working in accounting to get their CMA certification.
You also have up to seven years after passing the CMA exam to meet the CMA experience requirement. This is not usually difficult for people since you can get a job in this field if you didn’t already have one before taking the exam.
To understand the work requirements for the CMA, it helps to understand what a Certified Management Account does. Certified Management Accountants are uniquely equipped not only to play a critical role in the financial department of a company but also to hold a high position of leadership in the management side of the company. This is why you see CMAs working as accounting managers and financial managers in different capacities.
CMAs have the financial understanding to make wise money decisions. Therefore, they may hold positions within a company that requires them to deal with money decisions for that company.
Furthermore, CMAs also have the skillset and business leadership to help the company operate efficiently and effectively. For this reason, CMAs can fit into a wide range of positions and lead interesting and varied CMA careers.
CMAs can hold these titles and more:
See below for a video that helps explain the CMA experience requirements. This is great as a recap of this post or for someone who learns better by video instead of reading.
In this video, you will get a full explanation of the CMA experience requirements. If you have any questions about the video or regarding anything that has been addressed in this post, please leave a comment so we can answer it for you.
Now that you know how to fulfill the CMA experience requirement, you must take the necessary steps to fulfill it. Taking these steps may mean requesting a new placement within your company or even looking for a new job.
Then, once you have a plan for satisfying the CMA experience requirement, you’ll also need to address the other CMA requirements, such as the education and examination requirements.
And if you want even more guidance for the CMA journey, sign up for my e-course. It tells you how to pass the CMA exam, and it’s completely free!
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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.