What is the CMA Certification?

The Certified Management Accountant designation, also referred to as CMA certification, is a professional accounting credential awarded to individuals who fulfill the standards of education, experience and examination set by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).  The IMA is a global association comprised of more than 70,000 financial professionals and accountants who work in business.

Defining Management Accounting

While the layperson often assumes accounting is synonymous with arithmetic, accounting is much more than adding and subtracting numbers. Accountants assemble raw data, organize it, and then perform complicated analyses that transform it into useful information. Since their skills are applicable to so many situations, accountants often specialize in a particular type of accounting. One branch of accounting particularly useful to businesses big and small is management accounting, which focuses on gathering, analyzing and interpreting data and then communicating and explaining the analysis to management to prepare them for effective decisions making.

Earning CMA Certification

The premier certification in management accounting is the Institute of Management Accountants’ Certified Management Accountant designation. The CMA is a prestigious credential that assures potential clients and employers of its holder’s professional competency. To earn this certification, candidates must be members of the institute, hold an appropriate bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, and have a minimum of two continuous years of experience working in management accounting.

They must also demonstrate their mastery of management accounting by completing the self-paced CMA program and successfully passing the comprehensive CMA exam. Delivered in two parts, this eight-hour exam quizzes candidates about cost management, planning, budgeting, forecasting, performance management, internal controls, external financial reporting decisions, financial statement analysis, corporate finance, risk management, investment decisions and decision analysis. It also tests candidates’ understanding of and responses to various ethical issues management accountants may face.

Maintaining the CMA Credential

In order to maintain the high standards that have made the CMA credential so respected, certified management accountants must demonstrate their commitment to staying current in their field. All certification holders must complete 30 hours of approved continuing education each year, with at least two of those hours in ethics education. In addition to continuing education, they must maintain their IMA membership to help ensure they are staying current with industry trends and information.

Examining the CMA Credential by the Numbers

Recognized around the world, the CMA credential expands professional opportunities for those who hold it and many well-known multinational corporations, elite private firms, and respected academic institutions actively recruit certified management accountants for critical financial positions within their organizations. Companies like 3M, AT&T, Boeing, Alcoa, Cargill, Proctor & Gamble, Bank of America, Johnson & Johnson, Caterpillar, Verizon and Hewlett-Packard all count certified management accountants among their valued employees. In fact, the institute’s “2014 International Salary Survey” demonstrated conclusively that accountants who hold the CMA designation regularly earn a salary that is at least 30 percent more than their noncertified accounting peers in every region. Whether they worked in the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East of Africa, CMAs enjoyed greater levels of compensation. The average total compensation reported by survey respondents was more than $101,000.

The CMA program, which typically costs about $2,500, offers an excellent return on investment for those professionals who successfully complete it. Recognized internationally, the CMA certification offers candidates opportunities to excel in a global business world.