In order to make the choice easier, I took a look at the 2 certifications and saw what their key differences are. In particular, their education requirements, job outlook, and salary differ the most.
Category: CMA Exam
What is a CMA?
A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is an accountant who is certified for strategic management and financial accounting. To facilitate this, the certification focuses on building management skills atop a working knowledge of financial accounting. Hence, CMAs are uniquely qualified to make effective business choices based on the financial data available to them.
The CMA certification is given out by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and is recognized in over one hundred countries.
How Can I Become a CMA?
There are several steps to earning the CMA credential. While the process is pretty straightforward, it does require a lengthy time investment to complete.
Here are the steps you need to follow:
- Join the IMA
- Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college
- Obtain two years of professional experience in either financial management or management accounting
- Enter into the CMA program
- Complete both parts of the CMA examinee
Keep reading for more detailed information about how to become certified as a CMA:
Meeting the Prerequisites
The first step on your path to becoming a CMA is to register as an IMA member. Doing so will grant you access to both test registration and career resources that will help you when you become a CMA. From there, you will need to start working on meeting on the other educational and professional requirements.
Luckily, the education portion of the CMA requirements are quite clearly defined. You simply need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. If you live in the United States, that simply means studying at an accredited educational institution.
The ICMA also requires that your official transcripts be mailed to them in order to prove that you have a bachelor’s degree.
However, if you live somewhere else it can be a little more complicated.
Candidates from outside the United States must find out if their school is accepted by the IMA. To do so, simply check the IMA’s list of internationally accredited educational institutions. Don’t worry if your school isn’t listed; you can still be qualified if you send in an evaluation of your transcript. You can get your transcripts evaluated by either the AICE or NACES.
Even if you don’t have a degree, it’s still possible to qualify for the CMA. Keep reading to learn more:
The ICMA accepts certain professional certifications in the place of a degree, such as the CPA or CFA. Visit this page for a full list of the approved certifications.
Now that you’ve fulfilled the educational requirements for the CMA, it’s time to move on to the professional ones.
The next step towards becoming CMA certified is to meet the professional requirements. To become a CMA you must have two continuous years of experience in a professional financial management or management accounting position.
How you can tell if your work experience is eligible? According to the CMA handbook issued by the IMA, the eligibility requirements are as follows:
Qualifying experience consists of positions requiring judgments regularly made employing the principles of management accounting and financial management. Such employment includes:
- Preparation of financial statements
- Financial planning and analysis
- Monthly, quarterly and year end close
- Auditing (external or internal)
- Budget preparation and reporting
- Manage general ledger and balance sheets
- Company investment decision making
- Costing analysis
- Risk evaluation
Essentially, this all means that if your work involves financial analysis within a corporation, such as internal or external auditing, then it is eligible. Conversely, any work that’s based around inputting data instead of analyzing it will not meet the criteria for professional work experience.
Lastly, only permanent positions count towards work experience for the CMA. If your work was as a trainee or intern it will not be accepted as valid work experience.
Now that you’ve met all the prerequisites for becoming a CMA, it’s time for you to take the exam!
Taking the Exam
The CMA exam is given in two parts. Both parts must be passed within three years of registration if you wish to become a CMA. Additionally, the exam can only be taken during three testing windows a year: January/February, May/June, and September/October. All exams are administered by Prometric.
Once you’ve signed up for the exam, it’s important to know what you’re in for.
Each part of the exam consists of one hundred descriptive questions and two essay questions. However, candidates are given four hours to complete each part, giving you plenty of time to work your way through each question.
Keep reading for a more in depth breakdown of each part:
Part one of the CMA exam focuses on financial reporting, performance, planning, and control. It is broken down into the following categories:
|Exam Section||External financial reporting decisions||Planning, budgeting, and forecasting||Performance management||Cost management||Internal controls|
Part two of the CMA exam is focused on financial decision making. As such, it is divided into the following sections:
|Exam Section||Financial statement analysis||Corporate finance||Decision Analysis||Risk Management||Investment decisions||Professional Ethics|
Exam Changes in 2020
In January of 2020, the structure of the CMA exam is planned to change. Consequently, part one will be shifted to focus on financial planning, performance, and analytics.
Additionally, it will be split into the following sections:
|Exam Section||Cost Management||Internal Controls||Technology and Analytics||External financial reporting decisions||Planning, budgeting, and forecasting||Performance Management|
Part two will be focused on strategic financial management and will consist of the following segments:
|Exam Section||Risk Management||Investment Decisions||Professional Ethics||Financial Statement Analysis||Corporate Finance||Decision Analysis|
Be sure to prepare for the new changes if you plan on taking the certification examination in 2020.
The Bottom Line
Right now, the job market for CMAs is in a bit of a boom. Many companies are looking for executive level CMAs to practically apply accounting and management concepts in their business. Doing so will increase their performance and help them create more informed business decisions.
If you’re interested in becoming a CMA, I say go for it! It’s a great time to get into it. Additionally, if you can pass the exam you’ll find yourself in a bright new financial future. Good luck!