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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  • Abhishek Kumar says:

    thank you for thr video demo it was very usefull.

    My query is i have done my graduation through part time education so will i be eligible to write CMA exam.

    Thanks & Regards

  • nikhi lawrence says:

    Hi Stephanie, is CMA from IMA recognized well in India? I was looking to an alternative to the CMA available from the local body, as IMA opens doors to various MNCs. thanks in advance..
    Nikhil Lawrence

    • Hi Nikhi, I honestly don’t know, but I don’t think it is big as in say, China or some part of Middle East. There is an established alternative — the ICWAI which is well recognized by the locals.

      As you mention the reason to get it is likely for working in MNCs especially those headquarters in the US. Even then, the big companies and those with manufacturing, cost and inventory management tend to value CMA more. Hope it helps! Stephanie

  • Kirti says:


    i have one query, can you please tell me if i have completed CMA exam in India then how i’ll get the ICWA certificate in india. please help me

  • Kirti Kumar says:

    Hi, thanks for the reply

    I am taking class in India and planning to go outside India for exam will this help me to get the ICWA certificate in India.

    • Hi Kirti, I don’t exactly know how they check whether you take the CMA program in India or not… it is better to ask them directly, e.g. generally on how they define taking the CMA program in one country. Hope it works for you! Regards, Stephanie

  • ibrahim hafez says:

    thanks a lot stephanie that was very helpful, just like all your videos

    with my all heart, thank you very much

  • Kirti Kumar says:

    Thanks, for your kind help.

  • salman says:

    “IMA also has a strategic alliance with ACCA, which allows ACCA full members to automatically qualify for the CMA exam.”
    what does this mean?

    • Hi Salman, it means that if a person who is a ACCA full member but he/she does not fulfill the standard exam requirements (i.e. no bachelor degree), this person can still qualify and sit for the exam.

  • mohamed tony says:

    thank you Stephanie , really, people like you , represent the true meaning of humanity, , thank you very much and plz never stop Ur valuable tips , Allah save you

  • Ronald davis says:

    I have to know that CMA scope in Qatar as well as Dubai . and future?

  • Sunil M says:

    Hello Stephanie, I would like to know how does the Student and Academic Membership work?.I mean I have completed my Bachelors in commerce (15 years of education) and now I am pursuing a 1 year Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resource management which is through distance learning.
    will the above diploma which I am pursuing can be considered for student or Academic Membership. The other reason is the Miles CMA coaching center which has different fee structure for students and professionals (as per IMA). To be more clear, I am not sure if I get any credits for the diploma program. I mean I just need to attend some online tests and the Final Exam. Would it quantify for student or academic membership?. I am checking with IMA as well but havent received a clear answer from them as well. Can you please help?. Thanks.

    • Hi Sunil,
      On the student discount, as long as you have at least 6 credit hours in each semester, you can get qualified. I am not exactly sure whether long distance learning is qualified so on this point it is better to wait for the reply from IMA.

      On academic discount, you’ll need to teach at the school, guess this probably doesn’t apply.

      In any case, I believe your bachelor degree is good enough for qualifying for the exam (as long as your school is recognized), so no worries on the diploma in terms of eligibility.

      You can tell me more about Mile’s fee structure and I will take a better look. Generally speaking I would rather pay the fee directly to the IMA instead of going through third parties. If in case anything gone wrong it is easier to get it resolved with IMA.

  • vinayan b kurup says:

    Hello Stephanie,my name is vinayan.I have passed out my Bachelore degree from Kerala university (india)as regular course.I would like to know wether i am eligible to appear for CMA exam and What are the documents need to submit before registaring to IMA

  • RONALD says:

    Madam,There is a mistake made with the video that you upload & shown above. Actually IMA have MOU with ICAI ( The Institute of Cost Accountants of India ) not with ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India ) Both are very different ,I’m an Indian and Qualified CMA,USA, thats so I talking about.If you have doubt then see this , ICWAI is the old name of ICAI ( The Institute of Cost Accountants of India )

    I have to know importance of CMA at middle east.

  • majid khan says:

    dear mam as I m a student of CMA I’ve to go for my work program of 3 years in industrial training . so I just want to know can I start it in any part of the world…………….

  • Bhuvi says:

    Hi Stephanie, I want to know the cost of doing vma (us) in India? And can we do self study?

    • Hello Bhuvi, if you take online self-study classes, then the cost should be the same as everyone else, i.e. slightly over US$2000 for professionals, lower if you are a current student. Please expect to pay the annual IMA fees going forward, as well as the CPE courses to maintain the certification.

      If you take live courses in India, then I have no idea… Regards, Stephanie

  • Prateek says:

    I am right now pursuing the CMA course in India from ICAI. I want to settle down in Australia in future. So which global certification should i aim for later when I get the CMA degree. I had it in mind to go for cima as it exempts all the papers except one, but after going through this article I am a little confused. Suggest please.

  • anil sharma says:


    • Hi Anil, for CMA exam preparation, Becker is pretty new (they stopped offering CMA courses in 2006 but now came back with a partner). At this point I don’t recommend them for this and other reasons. Wiley has two versions — the text book “CMA Learning System” and the integrated course called CMAexcel. I believe the best selling course for CMA is Gleim. Hock is also quite well received. I have the pros and cons of these major providers here:

      Regards, Stephanie

  • Pawandeep says:


    I want to pursue CMA USA program and just want to know that after registering for the exam did IMA will provide me the study materials/books for preparation or not?

    Institutes in India are charging hefty amount for the study materials and they are saying IMA, DOES NOT PROVIDE the books, as CFA Institute do.

    I think institutes are making fool of us. they are chaging 40,000 for books. that is too much

    • Hi Pawandeep,
      It’s good that you check around, but I am afraid that this time, they are correct because you won’t be getting the review materials from the IMA. They do endorse an official version (from Wiley) but it has to be bought separately. Gleim is another one “endorsed” by IMA as their strategic partner. Here is the pricing (in USD) that you can refer to and the information is also publicly available on the internet:

  • abhinav gokllani says:

    are there any CIMA exemptions for CMA ?

  • Darshana Thakkar says:

    I have only one paper left of my CIMA qualification that is Strategic Case Study. I started CIMA after completing my 12th from uganda and i dint start graduation after that.
    In few months I’ll be migrating to USA and now i confused! i have no idea whether there is demand for CIMA or not. Can u please guide me?
    I m also planning to start a new course after i finish my last paper of CIMA. I am confused between CMA and ACCA. So also guide me for which course will be best for me?

    • Hi Darshana, I guess I can only say that CIMA and ACCA are not as recognized in the US. It isn’t that they are useless, but CMA (US) and CPA (US) are the default qualifications for management accountants and public / general accountants respectively. Regards, Stephanie

  • Claudio Riedemann says:

    Hi Stephanie, this is a pretty interesting discussion. Wish I had seen it long ago (I’m already a CMA) but it’s never late I guess.
    There’s a number of interesting things about Australia, which I can tell as an insider after working as a management accountant for 2 years here.
    1. CMA Australia denomination is mostly unknown and disregarded. I guess the size and apparently little relevance in the field of ICMA might explain this peculiar situation (compared o UK, USA and Canada).
    2. In fact CPA Australia denomination (which has been growing massively here and Asia Pacific) is considered the most relevant to management accountants as Chartered Accountants (CA) is for public accountants/external auditors. Pretty confusing for an American, isn’t it?
    3. CPA Australia has a mutual recognition agreement with CIMA (UK) and CMA Canada (now a legacy organisation after being amalgamated to CPA Canada). This seems very handy, since CPA Australia includes only 6 modules (4 mandatory and 2 electives). Actually, this agreement my reinforce the labour market assumption that CPA Australia is more suitable to management accountants in Australia.
    Hope this helps!

    • Hi Claudio, thanks a lot for the insight! I also notice that CPA Australia is pretty strong outside of Australia, but didn’t know it is considered the most relevant for management accounting. I’ll add this to the above. Cheers, Stephanie

      • Adrian says:

        CPA Australia is Certified PRACTICING Accountants.

        • Oh, thanks for spotting the error! Interestingly I can’t find one single mentioning of the full name on the official CPA Australia website, but it is spelled out this way in Wikipedia (and I am sure people in Australia knows anyway). Thanks again for correcting me. Happy Easter!

  • RAJAN KALIA says:

    I am CMA from INSTITUTE OF COST ACCOUNTANTS OF INDIA(formerly called ICWAI). I want to know will this be considered as management accountant in Australia or how should I get management accountant status in Australia or IMA USA
    pls guide

  • Prasad says:

    I have completed my bcom just now.So now I want to do cma in india.I wanted to know does it have scope and will it have in future

  • Mansi says:

    I done and Company secretaries from ICSI.i live Netherlands And i would like to do accounting course or CIMA. Can you please give me advice on what course I shall opt for better future. And please let me know the price of the course and duration of course

  • Abhijit M. Mane says:

    Hi, I am Abhijit from India, Post Graduate in Commerce, experience of 17 years in Accounts, Finance, Taxation. I am planning for job in European Countries, Canada, Australia. Which Qualification will help me for this? Thanks

  • Syed Arif says:


    could you please let me know the scope of CMA AUstralia? Is it recognized as it is provided by the IMA Australia?

    Syed Arif

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