What is a Certified Management Accountant & How Do I Become One?

 business man working with calculator and pen on spreadsheet

Still looking for that career path that can get you out of your busy work week, creating more time with your friends and family, and move you past ‘just making ends meet’? There are plenty of professional career programs out there, but you need one that is worth your time and money. If you’re looking to lift the financial weight off your family’s shoulders, rest assured, we’ve got an answer.

If you are interested in management, business or finance, a career as a certified management accountant (CMA) may provide that boost your professional life needs.

But first, what is a certified management accountant?

What does CMA really mean?

A management accountant is a title used for an accountant who has the management skills necessary to make financial decisions for a business or corporation. To become certified, you need to meet the education, testing and experience requirements, which are described below.

A CMA is a “globally recognized, advanced-level credential appropriate for accountants and financial professionals in business. Achieving the CMA demonstrates your professional expertise in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics,” according to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the association that offers the certification.

As a certified management accountant, you are the person that a business will turn to with questions about strategic spending and fiscal planning.

But there’s a whole lot more to being a certified management accountant.

What does a CMA do?

It’s hard to be interested in a career without knowing exactly what the job title will warrant, and in the complex world of finance, it can be tricky understanding what everybody does. That’s why we’ve given you a list of some tasks CMAs will be responsible for on a regular basis.

Here’s a summary of some of the financial and accounting duties that Morgan International says real world CMAs perform:

  • External Financial Reporting
  • Planning and Budgeting
  • Performance Management
  • Cost Management
  • Internal Controls
  • Profitability Analysis
  • Risk Management
  • Investment Decisions

If this list of duties is a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, your education and experience will prepare you to tackle all of these CMA tasks. Let’s first talk about becoming a CMA.

How do I become a CMA?

Since the certification to become a CMA is proctored by the IMA, there are clear cut requirements for gaining the certification.

Step 1: Education

As the respected professional title that it is, becoming a CMA will require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Earning a quality college degree in accounting and business will provide the foundation for your successful future as CMA. Once you have completed and hold a bachelor’s degree, you are more than halfway done!

Step 2: Membership

This is by far the simplest part of your path towards becoming a CMA. You must apply for membership with the IMA, which simply includes registration and a membership fee.

Step 3: Professional experience

Two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management is required in order to become a certified management accountant, according to the official CMA Handbook. This experience requirement may be met if you're working during school or have prior management accounting experience.

Step 4: Pass the exam

Now that you have completed the necessary requirements, you are ready to complete the CMA certification process. By enrolling in the CMA program through the IMA, you will be ready to take the exam for certification. Applicants must complete the rigorous two part examination. Both parts are a 4 hour session with 100 multiple choice test questions and 2 essay questions. Sound tough? The IMA even provides resources to help you study and prepare for the exam.

Step 5: Earn what you’re worth

If you are hired by a firm or business as a CMA, you will likely provide some level of financial planning and analysis. What comes next is the best part: the salary. Though you have invested a lot of time and money into becoming a CMA, the IMA Salary Survey for 2014 reports that this type of certification adds an average of $10,000 or more in additional compensation compared to those without CMA certification.

What happens next: CMA job outlook

Besides a competitive salary and compensation for those who are already working as a certified management accountant, there has been an increased demand for CMAs. Some research forecasts an 18 percent increase through 2016, which outpaces the 13 percent national average growth for most accounting careers.

Holding a CMA certification can offer the type of stability you’re looking for when it comes to balancing a quality education and all those familial distractions. Earning a degree and a CMA certification is about achieving your goals and how that success can impact your family.

Check out Rasmussen College’s flexible degree programs and certifications if you’re seeking a future in accounting.

Aaron Lawrence

Aaron is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. His interest in writing articles for students stems from his passion for poetry and fiction and the belief that all words can educate.

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