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Is CMA Worth It for Your Career Growth? (Prepare for Surprise)

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is cma worth itHow professional certification such as the CMA worth it in building your career? When will you see a tangible benefit — right after passing Part 1, Part 2… or not until you get the certification?

Many of you have asked similar questions before, and it’s time for me to address this with a detailed post.

The Background

I have seen coaching classes, especially those from overseas, that “oversell” the value of CMA certification in their home countries. Career prospects shoot out of the roof with this qualification. The title can land you a job right away.

In my opinion, no degree or certification can guarantee a job.

Don’t get me wrong — I fully respect Certified Management Accountants (or else I wouldn’t be running this site), but in reality its value varies in different countries and industries.

Where You can Get the Most Value from the CMA Certification

United States

Given this is a US qualification, CMA is the most recognized in the United States. This extends to US subsidiaries outside of the US but only if they are run by American supervisors who know about the CMA. In other words, if it is a big regional office and they have a local hiring team, I am not sure if the CMA title is that useful.

Second, you need to consider the industry. What makes the CMA qualification stand apart from the other accounting certifications is the heavy focus on planning, costing and analysis. This type of more sophisticated costing methodologies is more commonly used and valued by manufacturing companies, because they have products and inventories to take care of.

In contrast, in a service oriented company, the analysis is much simpler because no physical product is involved. The skillset gained from the CMA program is still useful; it’s only that companies value less of it.

Third, you may also want to look into the size of a company. Small-medium sized companies probably don’t need a professional specialized in management accounting and costing. If they have one headcount, I bet they prefer a CPA.

You will find a lot more opportunities in big companies and especially among the Fortune 500. A sizable number of senior management in strategic planning, accounting and finance are CMAs. These people want to help their fellow certificate holders and will be much more likely to hire you if they know you are also a CMA.

China

China is probably the next favorable place for those with a CMA title. Since the launch of the Chinese version of the CMA exam, the number of candidates and CMA holders has exploded and it has now a well known certification in the country. It also helps that a management accounting qualification doesn’t exist locally. If you aspire to work in China, the CMA title is a good investment.

Middle East

The next hot spot is Middle East. CIMA is also very strong there, so it is not as attractive as, say if you live in the US or in China. Having said that, if you look up online job postings, there are companies that specifically look for CMA certificate holders. Many of these are big multi-national companies with some manufacturing capacities with headquarters in the US.

If you are interested in this type of companies, you are good to go.

India

There are also increasing number of candidates from India. The CMA is an up-and-coming qualification in India, which means that you have the first mover advantage. At the same time, however, this also means opportunities are still quite rare.

Because of this, I recommend Indians to do a deeper research on the demand of CMA certificate holders in their respective area.

There are also Indian candidates who go for the CMA because they find ICWAI (or CIMA) too difficult. While I totally understand the rationale, you might want to check out the value of the CMA title specific in your area because getting it easier doesn’t mean that it is as useful.

Lastly, there are also a large group of candidates taking the exam in the hope to find a job in the US. Some are even told that CMA can land you a visa and a job right away.

Please don’t believe in those nonsense. In order to work in the US, most people need the H1B visa which is very hard to get (It is hard even before Trump became president). The most natural and easiest path is to arrange an internal transfer through your current employer. This is only possible if this company has a regional office or headquarters in the US, and that you have an excellent track record in the company. You can’t really land a job out of the blue in another country unless you have an amazingly unique skill set or amazingly strong network that leads you to that job.

This goes back to my point of looking for US-headquartered, manufacturing based fortune 500 companies in your area.

Can I Start Looking for Jobs after Passing Part 1?

Yes, you can always do that, but you cannot hold yourself out as a CMA. This means that the benefit of passing Part 1 alone is small. Same case for Part 2, and any time before you fulfill the experience requirement and become eligible for the certificate.

Should I Look Elsewhere if I want a Truly Global Accounting Certification?

Historically, it is hard for accounting qualifications (such as CPA and CA) to go global, because each country has its own GAAP. A certification strictly for management accounting is possible, and that’s why the IMA and CGMA are competing aggressively to build up on that.

The CFA Institute has done an excellent job in this regard. They are now pretty much the only certification in finance and investment.

The Institute of Internal Auditor has also established itself as the only player in the internal audit niche.

Therefore, if you aren’t only looking for accounting certification, there are big global designations out there.

Conclusion

I hope this honest analysis hasn’t scared you from becoming a CMA. For your own benefit, please go through these important factors to maximize the CMA certification value for your career.

If you have any questions or stories to tell, please drop a note in the comment section. I’d love to discuss further with you.

Read My Bloggers’ Stories and See if The Journey is Worth It

Gavin Amani Vinoth
Gavin
(US)
Amani
(Middle East)
Vinoth
(India)

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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  • Serena says:

    Hi, I am an ACCA member. Recently, I have just moved to US. I planing to search a job. As I studied and practiced IRAS in past. I am thinking to get US certificate. CMA or CPA ? However, I recognized that CPA’s education requirement is strict now. Dose any state recognized an ACCA certification or an associated degree? If it dosen’t, dose CMA is my only choice? Thank you

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Serena,
      As far as I know, ACCA is rarely recognized in the US. But you can look for jobs that are headquartered in UK for example, and these companies may value ACCA. There are a few states that recognize ACCA as extra credit hours towards the 150 credit hour requirement of the CPA exam, but I don’t think any consider this as equivalent to a 4-year degree (they used to be, but no longer).

      You don’t need a certificate to get an accounting job in the US, but it helps as you move up the corporate ladder. So you can try looking for a job around your area first, get the feel of the industry, then decide later on the certification. Hope it helps! Stephanie

      • Serena says:

        Hi Stephanie,

        Since the GAAP is differ from IFRS, and local taxation is differ from other countries. If I take CMA, is a good way to learn the structure of GAAP ? Because, when i search job, there are a lot of requirement is good knowledge for GAAP. Pls advice me. Many thanks!

        • Stephanie Ng says:

          Hi Serena,
          I believe GAAP is generally covered in Section A of Part 1 of CMA exam. The coverage is small when compared to, say, the US CPA exam. So I wouldn’t say it is a “good way” to learn about GAAP based on CMA study materials, but you can easily get a book that covers US GAAP or its difference from IFRS. Wiley publishes a good set of reference books on this topic and you can either buy one or borrow from local libraries.

          Regards, Stephanie

  • Ahmed says:

    Dear Stephanie,

    I am Ahmed from Pakistan. I am currently studying the final stage of Chartered Accountancy Pakistan and also undergoing its trainee program by working as an external auditor in one of the big four audit firms. In order to add value i want to pursue CMA qualification considering that it would complement my core qualification, secondly, in comparison with other qualifications i find this one to be more inexpensive and less time-consuming.
    So i need suggestions: Should I go for it? Will it really add value and help me in getting a better job and growth opportunities abroad? Wil my work experience, as an external auditor, counted for obtaining IMA membership? I am planning to seek job in the middle east after completion of my qualification along with its mandatory training program.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Ahmed,
      If you are looking for opportunities in Middle East, then yes, I think it’s useful. If you stay in Pakistan, probably not as useful. So this is an important point to consider. Having said that, CMA cannot guarantee jobs, and it is not mandatory to have CMA or other “global” qualifications to get a job in the Middle East. It helps but please don’t think it is an absolute must.

      On the experience requirement, it isn’t really a “training program”. All you need is to find a job (by yourself, not by IMA) with relevant work so you can have your boss verify the experience for you. Hope it helps!

      Stephanie

      • Ahmed says:

        Thank you stephanie for answering my queries. I would also like to know the specifications for work experience relevant to CMA. Could you please share any such link?. I know this fact that qualifications do not guarantee jobs, what i meant was how the combination of financial accounting and reporting, auditing and management accounting can help me in growth?

        • Stephanie Ng says:

          Hi Ahmed,
          I used to have a report showing where CMAs are working in the accounting industry… but anyway, I believe it is mostly in management accounting as well as strategic planning and management. If you aspire to become a CFO or COO with a strong finance background, it’s good. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  • Gulshan says:

    Hi,
    I am Gulshan from India.I have given my thought to pursue CMA. I am also semi qualified CA. I want to become a Financial Analyst. What do you think, this certification will help me in some way?

    And what are the guidelines if i join CMA as student?

    Thanks.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Gulshan, as mentioned above, it depends on where you work, in terms of both geographical location and the type of companies you aspire to work for. You need to be a current student to take advantage of the student discount. Regards, Stephanie

  • Muhammad Diljan says:

    Hi Friend!
    I want to know whether CMA over-qualifies you for entry level jobs ? Is it only helpful in getting management level jobs?

    Please answer with a special reference to US SMEs.

    Thank you !
    Muhammad Diljan
    Pakistan

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Muhammad, I think there are many factors when it comes to getting a job, CMA is only one of the factors. If you are a young professional with little experience for example, it is totally fine to get an entry level job. But it does help in SMEs because many of these companies value the qualification especially as you move up the corporate ladder. Regards, Stephanie

  • Bilal Butt says:

    Hi madam!
    I am from Pakistan Plz tell me that the fresh cma’s can get jobs in middle east without any experience because i searched and analyst that there are probably each job required some experience so plz guid me if you know about some job without experience in this regard through some links.
    Thanks in anticipation.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Bilal, I have to say no certification can guarantee job, but for some big multinational companies and increasingly more local companies in the Middle East, when they see you go for the CMA exam, they know you are serious in management accounting. The first job is likely the hardest one to get because as you said, there is no previous experience. But everyone starts with their first job and work up from there. It is doable. Good luck! Stephanie

  • Annu says:

    Hello!
    I am Annu from India
    Actually, I wish to pursue teaching career(Lecturership) and I want to know if CMA certification would anyway help me?

  • sreekumar says:

    Sir,

    I am frm kerala,india. I wish to do us cma but not wish to go us. I wish to work in india only. I tried icai nd qualified intermediate but so dffclt to pass final.so i thot to go us cma. I heared that us cma holder wil get equal certification of cima.is it true and is it worth to do us cma to get job in india??

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Sreekumar, my understanding is that you cannot use the CMA certification to get CIMA, but if you go through the CMA program outside of India, you can apply for ICWAI membership. You can take the CMA exam in major cities in India and details can be found here:
      https://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-in-india/

      There are also links to the MRA between IMA and ICWAI there. Regards, Stephanie

  • rohith says:

    Hi Stephanie! I had completed my bachelor degree and persuing masters degree in India I need CPA certification in us. kindly help me passing that and getting license will have a immediate job in usa and also what is the starting salary I can expect .please reply thanks in advance.

  • Fifa says:

    Hi Stephanie/All,

    Thanks for this resource. I’m lost between 3 accounting certifications so would be great to get thoughts on a few questions I have:

    -CPA: I am non accounting major with accounting and finance master’s, both from the UK. I think it’ll be very difficult (not impossible) to go CPA but recognize that it’s hugely valued here in the US and can open doors to employment and future self employment possibility is v attractive.

    -CMA: I’m generally more interested in business accounting so this would be generally a good fit. My 4-year undergrad and master’s are both from an accredited uni so easy to embark on.
    >doubt: I’m also interested in self employment in future but don’t know if CMA is any good for this. Do you have any opinions on this or any resources you can point me towards re self employed CMA?

    CIMA: now collaborates with AICPA but not well know known in the US. When I leave the US for the UK/Europe/elsewhere in the world it’s better recognised
    >doubt: US employers (where I am now and need to find work) won’t recognise it as well as they would the CMA, however, CIMA has a professional practice registration for those wishing to be self-employed

    Other factors: I decided to go into accounting late and for me age is a factor. Overall I think CMA/CIMA are what I’m veering towards, and once it opens doors for me to gather practical experience I can hopefully use that to my advantage in other countries. However, I certainly can’t open an accounting practice with it the same way CPAs do. The possibility of this hindering my self employment prospects in future, kind of worries me. Any insight/thoughts? Thanks for your input!

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hello, I guess the easy suggestion is to figure whether you can get qualified for CPA exam at all. If the answer is no, then you can focus on CMA or CIMA. Between these two it depends on where you want to work in the future: US or UK. Please let me know what’s the outcome on the CPA decision first, and we can discuss further. Regards, Stephanie

      • Fifa says:

        Thanks for your reply, Stephanie. I have a 4-year undergrad plus a master’s in accounting & finance; at first glance it seems I would meet the 150-hour requirement. However, I’m based in Florida which also requires: 36 semester hours in upper level accounting to include Taxation, Auditing, Financial, Cost/Managerial and Accounting Info Systems.

        Additionally: Foreign candidates must take 15 semester hours of graduate classes from an accredited institution. These must include at least nine hours of graduate level accounting courses to include three semester hours of graduate tax.

        I’ve never done taxation, auditing or accounting info systems and am concerned about the time it takes to fulfil the above two criteria.

        Also importantly, I don’t have a SSN as I’m not yet in employment here.

        Is the best approach to confirm eligibility, to send off my certificates for verification, or can you suggest another way?

        On the other hand, it seems CMA would give me a substantial headstart on another worthy UK qualification, ACCA, through a reciprocal agreement. This would make it much easier to work in the UK in future by taking a few exams to complete ACCA’s professional level.

        In summary: CIMA is out for now; I’d gladly take your tips on checking CPA eligibility with my credentials but I fear my being based in FL disqualifies me from taking the exam here at this point in time…

  • madhurendra kumar says:

    Respected sir, : sir I want to know that if I complete my cma exam or 2yrs experience also complete my graduation then after I will eligible for ima certificate also Indian cma certificate or not and my market demand whatever in future . Sir plz help me sir therefore I always tankful to u.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hello, if you graduate and have 2 years of relevant experience (verified by your supervisor), then yes, you should be able to get your CMA certification pretty quickly.
      Not sure if I understand your second question… if you mean the demand for CMAs in India, I gave my thoughts in the post above. The good news is that CMA is getting more and more popular among Indian accounting professionals. Regards, Stephanie

  • ASHISH says:

    I am a Chartered Accountant from India with 13+ years of experience majorly in Telecom industry. Currently i am looking towards costing and financial analysis functions. I am looking for enhancing my knowledge base without leaving the job and something which we can add on value to my resume. Initially i thought of going for CPA but i believe that credentials will be a problem as i have done by graduation in Maths and Science. Do CMA can support me on adding values and providing opportunity for further roles.Thanks in advance for your valuable advice.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Ashish, if you asked me a couple years back, I might say no, but seeing how IMA works hard in expanding its presence in India, and the number of readers I’ve got in your country, I believe the CMA qualification can only get more and more recognized in India.

      As mentioned above, I don’t think it is something that all companies appreciate at this moment, but it is exactly the niche you are in and if you work or aspire to work in a multinational company, it should help. You may want to check out Vinoth’s blog because he is also a professional from India. https://ipassthecmaexam.com/cma-exam-story-from-india/

  • Noman Nadeem says:

    Hi i am Noman and I have wish to know about the icmap because I have intention to do CMA but my all friends,teachers and everyone are denying me to do that so what should I am very very confused..
    Can you help me please..

  • shantanu says:

    Hello Stephanie mam. I am a cma aspirant and I wanted to ask you whether cma would be useful in non manufacturing companies. I intend to be a finance manager/accounting manager in the finance department of the company and eventually move on to cfo/CEO. But manufacturing companies don’t excite me that much. What would you recommend? For career advancement. Currently pursuing ACCA from India.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Shantanu,
      I just looked into this in more detail. Based on the US IMA salary report which states the respondents industries, while it is true that many of them work in manufacturing, there are a lot more in business services than I originally thought.

      I am going to write a new post on this, but basically, according to 2013-2015 report:
      46% in services (public accounting, finance/banking, education, trading, medical/health)
      34% in manufacturing
      12% in goods producing industries (agriculture, construction, mining, transportation, utilities)
      4% in government
      4% in others

      I understand that the US IMA survey is fairly representative for all IMA members in the United States (not enough data for non-US unfortunately). IMA members include those who are CMAs, and those who are interested in pursuing the CMA certification. So it is not very accurate picture but close enough. Hope it helps!

  • harshit says:

    Hi I want ur advise that will CMA US help me since I am working in MNC bank in India and want to grow in banking.Kindly advice though I have started preparing but I am confused with some online views that CMA value is less comparing to CFA.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Harshit, it really depends on what career path you plan to take. For example, if you’ve like to be an asset management professional in a bank, then CMA is not that useful (and CFA very relevant). But then, say you want to be in strategic planning in a bank, then CMA should be more helpful. It’s true that CFA is more globally recognized, but the usefulness depends on whether it’s relevant to your job (or future job). Regards, Stephanie

  • ravi kumar says:

    Hello madam,
    I’m Ravi from India studying IPCC( ca inter) one week back a coaching centr advertised that after passing cma usa we can get job anywhere with a basic salary of 1lac in India and 5 lacs in USA… they adviced me not to waste my time in passing CA and put my efforts in passing CMA USA.. should i leave CA and start CMA USA? thank you 🙂

  • Rohithkumar says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am Rohith from India.We people in India has concern’s regarding the CMA exam registration and choosing the testing window.Kindly help us in detailed like when IMA offers discounts for each testing window usually ,also due dates for exam registrations in 2017.

    As of now I was planning for may-june 2017 testing window to take both parts of CMA,If so let me know the due date for exam registration and slot booking process .

    Looking forward for your response.Thanks in advance.

    Regards,
    Rohith

  • Ambika sharma says:

    with due honour , sir i had recently passed my 12th board examz with 88.2% .Now am bit confused abt which course should i pursue with bcom? should i do CA or cma/icwa or shall i do cs ?? also after hearing the difficulty level of ca , i think of doing cma .. bt sir plz tell me that do cma recognisation worth it ? or cs is better than cma ?? plz guide . indeed requires ur guidence.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Ambika,
      I am sure the Indian CA exam is hard, but CMA’s pass rate for Part 1 is 35% so I wouldn’t say it is an easy exam. I would pick a certification based on its relevance to your future career, instead of the difficulty. Regards, Stephanie

  • Aziz F. says:

    Hi Stephanie/All,

    First of all thank you for your transparent and clear take on this topic. I have a bachelor degree in Actuarial Science. and i’m confused to whether to continue in the actuarial path(SOA etc.. ) or do CMA exams. Although I’m currently working with one of the top firms in insurance, but I’m afraid that it will only give the technical capabilities rather than the business knowhow and mindset which i will gain from CMA.So to summarize is it to bold of a switch ? and wil my experience as an Actuary/pricing and reserving will be consider it or should i be working on a consultant firm the least..

    Finally thank you for opening this platform and realy appreciated

    Best Regards
    Aziz

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Aziz,
      Thanks for your note! Yes I can see where you are coming from — a lot of smart professionals are contemplating on the best way to switch from a technical expert to a more strategic role which is a skill required as in senior management down the road. I don’t think you should totally switch and start from the beginning, but rather, to get a relevant qualification and continue your work.

      In theory the CMA certification is probably the most relevant, but you’ll need to check out whether it is valued in your company, or, whether you can convince your boss that this is a value add or that it shows how you have the ambition to stay and move up.

      For consultancy work, normally you don’t value certifications as much as far as I know. If it is management consulting, it’s more on your experience and more importantly, your presentation skills which they will assess during interviews. For other type of consulting that’s more technical, maybe less on the presentation skills. It really depends the niche you are interested in. Hope it helps, good luck! Stephanie

  • Sabyasachi Bhattacharya says:

    hi you mean 2 say CMA(USA) HAS NO VALUE IN INDIA

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Can’t say there is no value as there certainly have been helpful for my bloggers… but one shouldn’t listen only listen to the local coaching classes as they seem to greatly exaggerate the benefits of getting the CMA certification in your country. You should take to more people and get a realistic expectation of how this certification can help you in your area. If it’s worth it, go for it; if not, can either wait or focus in doing a great job and get promotion that way. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  • Abishek says:

    Hi Madam,
    i want to know whether cma is worth without degree or graduation.Please answer me

  • Ayush says:

    Hi Stephanie, What do you think how much should a fresh CMA(US) Qualified with no prior work experience make in India? I have an option to do MBA or a CMA, but am little affixed in choosing one as I don’t seem to have much idea on the starting pay for CMA in India. An MBA graduate from a good B-School can easily make 7-8 Lakh rupees annually, so what would be your take on CMA?

    Thanks:)

  • Chittiappa says:

    This was really useful CMA or ICWA one can really choose going through this

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