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Top Management Accounting Certifications around the World

I received a great question from a reader on how to differentiate the management accounting certifications around the world. I’d like to show you the major ones and my recommendation in this video. (Thanks Ibrahim for the suggestion!)

The Management Accounting Certification Worth Considering

Disclaimer: The IMA and the ICAI no longer have a mutual recognition agreement (MRA). Therefore, ICAI members cannot become CMAs without meeting the CMA requirements, and vice versa.

For those who prefer to read the text, here is the full explanation.

CIMA in the United Kingdom

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, or CIMA, is UK-based and one of the most popular management accounting certifications. Founded in 1919, it is the largest management accounting association in the world. As of September 2014, there are more than 218K members and students representing 177 countries.

In order to become a CIMA member, the candidate must:

  • Pass the 15 qualifying examinations
  • Complete at least 3 years of qualifying practice
  • Obtain verification and endorsement from supervisors

CIMA exempts certain exam papers depending on your education level.

CIMA has MOU with ICAI in India, and alliance in various degrees with other universities and accounting associations.

In 2011, CIMA entered into a joint venture with the AICPA, the association for CPAs in the US. The purpose is to create a global management accounting designation called the CGMA, which stands for Chartered Global Management Accountant.

CGMA, with the backing of two powerful associations, is very promising. However, it remains to be seen whether yet another accounting qualification will be accepted by the business community.

IMA in the US

The de facto management accounting certification in the USA is the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) granted by the Institute of Management Accountant or the IMA.

Also, founded in 1919, there are more than 80K members, including certification holders and candidates.

In order to become a CMA in the US, candidates must pass a 2-part exam and accumulate two consecutive years of relevant experience.

CMA US does not have mutual recognition agreements with other major management accountant bodies.

However, the IMA has a strategic alliance with ACCA, which allows ACCA full members to automatically qualify for the CMA exam.

IMA’s strategy seems to be growing its membership base organically in different parts of the world. 30% of new members are now from Asia Pacific and the Middle East.

CMA Canada (now part of CPA Canada)

CMA Canada has been the Canadian professional body for management accountants. In 2013, three accounting associations in Canada merged to form a new designation of Certified Professional Accountant, known as CPA Canada. The combined association has approximately 125K members as well as 20K candidates and registered students.

CMA Canada used to have mutual recognition agreements with CIMA and CPA Australia. It remains to be seen whether this applies to a new designation.

The Canadian accounting qualifications are more suitable for those who study and work in the country. In other words, the qualifications make sense only if you live and work in Canada.

ICMA or CPA Australia?

ICMA, which stands for the Institute of Certified Management Accountants, is the management accounting body that grants the CMA title in Australia. It is a relatively new institute founded in 1996, currently with 2,500 members including certificate holders and candidates.

ICMA and IMA proposed a merger in 2006 but it fell through in the end. For now, the Institute is not linked to any other professional bodies.

Interestingly, the most relevant certification for management accountant in Australia is CPA Australia. This is also a certification that welcomes candidates around the world.

Other Management Accounting Certifications

There are other cost and management accounting bodies around the world, but they are either smaller or are meant for professionals in their respective countries.

The next question is, which certification should we go for?

In terms of global footprint and recognition in important regions around the world, the choice boils down to CIMA vs IMA.

management accounting certification

CIMA has the largest membership base and an important alliance with the AICPA. The certification is well recognized in many countries due to its size and history. Also, the program is very flexible as it allows candidates to start at different entry levels based on their education level and experience.

IMA is smaller and with fewer alliances, but it has successfully built up a sizeable footprint in China and the Middle East. The CMA program is also simpler: it only requires 2 exam sections, versus the 15 exams in CIMA if you cannot get hold of any exemptions.

I recommend that you pick based on the region you’d like to develop your long term career. If it is the US, China or the Middle East, or you want to work in companies with headquarters in these countries, then the CMA certification from the IMA makes the most sense. If it is the UK and Commonwealth countries other than Canada and Australia, CIMA may be a better choice.

I hope this article gives you an overview of management accounting certifications around the world, and how to make the right choice for yourself. If you have any questions on these certifications or on the CMA exam in general, please leave me a message in the comment section below.

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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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