What is CMA? Demystifying this Management Accountant Designation

What is CMA Certification, exactly?

People are often confused with what “CMA” means. For accountants, it means Certified Management Accountant, a certification granted by the Institute of Management Accountants.

The certification is a proven accomplishment of an individual who completes the CMA program.

The CMA program includes a 2-part examination, plus 2 years of full-time experience relevant to management accounting.

This exam covers all aspects of what a junior management accountant should know and face on everyday work. This includes the understanding of financial accounting (the three financial statements), planning and budgeting, cost and other performance analysis, and internal control.

It also covers the finance side of running a corporation, such as corporate finance, financial statement analysis, risk management, as well as financial and management decisions. Professional ethics is an important part of the exam as well.

CMA Requirements

The exam is tough and pass rate is low at 35-45%, depending on the exam part and year.

The CMA requirements, however, aren’t tough.

As long as you have a bachelor degree, you are generally qualified. Specifically, the degree can be in any discipline but should have at least 3 years. If it is common in your country to have 2-year degrees, then you may contact IMA and see if they grant you an exemption.

Also, in rare cases in which your university is not on IMA’s pre-approved list, they may ask you to arrange an evaluation report. This in itself isn’t a problem but there will be extra fees and hassle to get it done.

Can the CMA Certification Get Me a Job in the US?

This is a common questions from non-US candidates, and this is a good place to address that.

I have to say that no professional certifications (or degrees for that matter) can guarantee a job in the US. In order to work in the US as a foreign national, one needs to arrange a work visa, most likely the H1B visa in this case.

To get this visa, you must find an employer willing to sponsor you and don’t mind the extra legal fees and efforts. In finance and accounting, these are typically the Big 4 and big investment banks.

They prefer candidates with at least some US exposure, such as international students who’ve done really well in top universities. I am not saying that companies never hire someone straight from another country, but this person must demonstrate that he or she is better than any other candidates in the US. Having a CMA title or other qualifications may not be enough.

Why Getting the CMA Certification Then?

The CMA is a global qualification. At the same time, IMA works very hard in promoting the certification in other regions: China, Middle East, and lately, in India.

Don’t take my word for it — ask around and see whether recruiters recognize CMA in your country. Read the stories of our bloggers around the world and get their first-hand experience on why they work so hard to take the exam.

But My Friends Said CMA is Useless…

You don’t need to listen to what they say (or I say). As the one getting the direct benefit, or cost, you should figure out whether it’s worth it, for yourself.

The title could be useless to your friends but great for you. On the other hand, the title has helped me immensely but it could have zero impact on your career.

After all, we are different individuals with varying backgrounds and career aspiration.

What Should I Do Now?

If you’ve read this far, I bet you are still interested in becoming a Certified Management Accountant. I encourage that you explore further with these posts:

 

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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  • JCK says:

    Hi I took the CMA part 1 and part 2 exam on October 25 and 26, respectively and I passed it. Can i already affixed the CMA after my name? thanks

    • Hi JCK, once you send in your experience verification form, the IMA will issue the CMA certificate and you can use the title after your name.

      Congrats of passing Part 1 an 2 in one go! Cheers, Stephanie

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