What is the Certified Management Accountant Certification?

certified management accountant certification

The Certified Management Accountant certificate is one of the most popular certification programs for today’s accountants, and for good reason. This professional certification shows that accountants have the skills necessary to perform high-level accounting work within the context of a major, publicly traded corporation. Their managerial accounting skills are rigorously tested via this examination, which is computer-based and can only be taken by professionals who have an undergraduate background in accounting along with a membership in the Institute of Management Accountants. Eligibility requirements are virtually identical nationwide, giving accountants a clear picture of exactly what they need to do before sitting for this rigorous test of their skills.

Before the Test: Check for Compliance with Required Skills and Experiences

All accounting certification candidates have certain professional and educational standards that must be met prior to being declared eligible for the exam. The CMA is no different. In order to be eligible for this test, accountants must possess a four-year degree in accounting, or a four-year degree in business with a significant accounting minor. The test does not allow non-accounting students to become eligible for the exam unless they return to school and study the profession in a graduate program.

In addition to the education requirement, all students must be members of the Institute of Management Accountants. Without an active membership, the exam simply is not available. All applicants to take the exam must be prepared to submit a current resume that shows at least two years of supervised, professional work experience in a corporate accounting environment. Professional references generally are not needed, but the IMA group reserves the right to verify work history of all applicants prior to granting them access to the exam. Finally, an appropriate exam fee must be paid at the time the examination is taken. The fee is nonrefundable, even if the accountant does not pass the threshold for full CMA certification.

Maintenance: An Ongoing Commitment to Professional Education

Without a doubt, passing the CMA test and receiving the certification is the “hard part” of this process. Even so, it’s not the last hurdle that professionals will need to clear as they look to earn and maintain their CMA certification. The IMA requires all of its Certified Management Accountants to pursue a minimum of 30 hours of professional development each year after the credential is earned. Most accountants use this mandate as an excuse to gain further accounting education, either in Master of Accountancy programs or in an MBA program. To fulfill the 30-hour minimum, most accountants attend multiple professional conferences and seminars each year, helping them enrich their understanding of the profession and its ongoing changes.

IMA Notes that the CMA Enjoys a High ROI

One number that all financial professionals concern themselves with is ROI, or Return on Investment. The ROI for the CMA certification is quite high, according to the IMA itself. Most CMAs who earn the certification earn six-figure salaries and maximize their chances of advancement into managerial and executive roles within their organizations. Salaries are typically higher than accountants who earn the CPA credential for customer-facing accounting work.


Even without its associated pay bump, the CMA certification represents a significant challenge and a great achievement for today’s accountants. Professionals with an eye on the Certified Management Accountant certificate should make sure they have enough time to study for the test, maintain the certification, and maximize the professional benefit of the CMA designation.

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