Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on November 15, 2023

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What Is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)?

A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is a professional designation earned by those who aspire to demonstrate their expertise in management accounting.

CMAs have extensive knowledge of basic financial accounting systems, strategic management, and commercial decision-making.

The CMA issued by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is recognized worldwide as a mark of excellence in management accounting.

Obtaining certification requires current IMA membership, CMA tests, professional certification, and continuing professional experience in financial accounting or financial management.

CMAs must follow a strict code of conduct and live up to the highest standards of ethics and professionalism.

Duties of Certified Management Accountants

Certified Management Accountants are responsible for providing financial analysis and guidance to organizations.

  • Create Financial Models and Perform Cost-Benefit Analyses. CMAs develop financial models for organizations to evaluate the potential of various investments and understand the implications of relevant decisions.

  • Produce Financial Reports. CMAs are responsible for producing regular financial reports to ensure that their organization is kept up to date on any changes in its financial situation.

  • Develop Budgeting and Forecasting Processes. CMAs have to use their knowledge of financial trends and analytical skills to make budgets and forecasts for their organizations.

  • Track Spending. A CMA's ability to monitor company spending is crucial for establishing and maintaining healthy financial procedures.

  • Develop Strategies for Pricing, Investment, and Risk Management. CMAs develop strategies for pricing products or services and managing investments to assist organizations in realizing their full profit potential.

  • Work With Senior Management to Help Make Strategic Decisions About the Allocation of Resources.

    CMAs collaborate closely with senior management to ensure that the organization makes well-informed and strategic decisions regarding resource allocation.

While the specific duties of a CMA vary depending on the organization, they all play a vital role in ensuring the financial health of their organizations.

How to Become a Certified Management Accountant

To obtain a CMA certification, you must undergo a rigorous process.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

CMA certification requires a bachelor's degree in business administration or accounting from an accredited institution.

Any four-year program focusing on business can help prepare you for the CMA exams by providing a broad foundation in business.

Step 2: Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Membership Application

As a bachelor's degree holder, you are given exclusive access to their exam registration system, including study guides and practice exams.

You need at least two years of work experience in management accounting and financial management to be considered for this program.

After your application has been approved, you can start studying for the IMA's 2-part exams.

Step 3: Sign Up for the CMA Program

If you have fulfilled the educational and experience requirements, you can enroll in Part 1 and Part 2 of the exam series.

You need to complete each set of exams within three years after enrollment. You must pass both exams to obtain the CMA certification.

Step 4: Get a Passing Score on the CMA Exam

Part 1 focuses on different aspects of management, such as strategic planning, performance management, cost management, and internal controls.

Part 2 focuses on analyzing financial statements and corporate finance, making investment decisions, and using tools like spreadsheets and business analytics software to make decisions.

You must get at least a 70% on each test to pass.

Step 5: Obtain Relevant Work Experience

To maintain your CMA certification, you must obtain relevant work experience and pass the CMA exams.

The required work experience must involve managing people or directly overseeing financial information systems. It must have taken place within five years of receiving your certification.

Examples of such positions include controller, chief financial officer (CFO), internal auditor, and financial analyst.

Step 6: Get and Maintain Certification

After completing steps 1 to 5, you can be a Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

To keep this certification active, IMA members must get 30 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) credits every year. CPE credits are earned by attending seminars, classes, or workshops about management accounting.


Benefits of Becoming a CMA

A CMA certification includes the most recent advancements in accounting, business, and finance. It will provide some of the following benefits:

Business Appeal

The key advantage of CMA certification is that it is regarded as the most significant accounting certification for management due to its excellent blend of business and accounting.

Companies believe in their professional expertise and are given crucial organizational jobs.

Possibilities for Growth

The CMA certificate indicates that you will do more than just accounting; you will take on more duties and manage the accounts.

Other practitioners do not advance beyond a particular position and compensation. However, a CMA certification allows you to move quickly into a management role.

Increased Earnings

Obtaining a CMA certification qualifies you for more significant compensation than other candidates. CMA-certified applicants advance faster into management after accumulating experience.

Even when they change positions, they receive a more substantial raise because CMA-certified candidates are in high demand in the job market.

Employee Recognition

CMA prepares you to better comprehend business, finance, and accounting. You will become the go-to person for significant issues. Many CMA-certified candidates have gone on to work as CFOs (Chief Financial Officers).

These benefits make CMA an attractive option for anyone interested in a career in accounting or finance.


The CMA and Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certifications share many similarities; however, several differences set them apart.

Employment Opportunities

CPAs' most common career opportunities are tax preparation and auditing. Other options include consulting or working for a financial institution.

CMAs tend to specialize more in analytics, strategy, and decision-making. While some may still work within accounting or auditing roles, they often focus on budgeting/pricing risks management & financial modeling rather than numbers crunching alone.

CMAs are also well-equipped to advise on strategic business decisions and resource allocations.


CMAs tend to make slightly higher salaries than CPAs. According to PayScale, the average salary of a CMA is $97,000 per year, while the average salary of a CPA is $70,896 per year.

Exam Cost

The cost of taking the CMA exam is lower than that of the CPA exam. The CMA exam fee is $1,000, while the CPA exam is $1,500.

Education & Experience Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is required for both certifications. Similarly, they also require 2 years of experience in functions related to the respective specialization.

CMA requires work experience relevant to management accounting or financial management.

CPA requires work experience in public accounting.

To become a CPA, you must pass all four parts of the CPA Exam and meet your state's education, experience, and ethics requirements.


Both credentials are in high demand in the accounting sector. While there are variations between a CMA and a CPA certification, both provide employment options with the possibility of earning better salaries than people who do not have credentials.

Individuals interested in accounting should explore both certificates and determine which is most suited to their goals.

Final Thoughts

A Certified Management Accountant is a professional designation earned by those who wish to demonstrate their expertise in management accounting.

To obtain a CMA certification, you must undergo a rigorous process that includes a series of exams and a practical experience requirement.

Becoming a CMA has various benefits, like improved career prospects and the ability to help organizations make better decisions and advance in their field.

The CMA certification is more of an advanced-level management accounting credential. At the same time, the CPA tends to focus on financial accounting.

Earning a CMA certification is a valuable way to further your career and demonstrate your commitment to accounting. With its global recognition, exclusive resources, and potential for higher salaries, obtaining this certification is well worth the effort.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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