Certified Management Accountant (CMA) Certification

  1. CMA Certification

What is the CMA certification?
The CMA (Certified Management Accountant) certification is a high-level, globally recognized accounting credential that demonstrates a high level of competence and experience for accounting and financial professionals.  The CMA certification is administered and governed by the Institute of Managed Accountants (IMA) - (official site).

Who is the CMA certification for?
The CMA is intended for high-level accounting or financial professionals who wish to demonstrate professional expertise in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support and professional ethics.

What are the salary expectations for a CMA ?
As a globally recognized credential the CMA certification has the potential to expand the holder’s career and salary options. According to the IMA website, professionals who hold the CMA credential earn substantially more, on average, than non-credentialed professionals in a similar role. According to the results of their own 2013 survey, CMA professionals earned an average of US$34,000 more per annum compared to their non-certified counterparts.

Are there any prerequisites for the CMA certification?
Candidates wishing to take the CMA exam must first hold a bachelor’s degree (or higher) from an accredited institution. Degrees from non-accredited learning facilities will need to be approved prior to taking the exam by an independent evaluation authority. The cost for this evaluation is included in the Certification Entrance Fee.

Additionally, candidates must also complete two continuous years of relevant work experience before the CMA certificate is awarded. This work experience can be completed before taking the exams, or any time up to seven years after completion of the exams, but the candidate is not awarded the CMA credential until after the work experience requirement has been met. Relevant part-time work (min 20 hours per week) also counts toward this requirement, but at a rate of two part-time years to every one full-time year.

How do I obtain the CMA certification?
The first step on the road to CMA certification is to join the IMA, enroll in the CMA program, and pay the applicable fees.

The CMA certification consists of two exams, each being 4 hours in duration. Each exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions as well as two 30-minute essay questions. The essay portion of each exam is presented to the candidate after the multiple-choice questions have been answered, but only if the candidate has answered at least 50% of the multiple-choice questions correctly. Candidates will have three hours to complete the multiple-choice section and one hour to complete both essay sections (30 minutes per essay).

The exams are:
  • Part One: Financial, Reporting, Planning, Performance and Control
  • Part Two: Financial Decision Making

Candidates can choose to complete the exams in any order, they must complete one of the exams within 12 months of entering the CMA program, and both exams must be completed within three years of joining the program.

Candidates who fail the CMA exams can reapply to take the exam again in any other subsequent testing window with the payment of the appropriate exam fees. Such candidates will receive, approx. two weeks after the exam, a performance report outlining their performance over the various topical areas of the exam. This will help the candidate identify weak areas in their preparation for the next exam attempt.

What is the CMA passing score?
Both exams are scored on a scale of 0-500, with a score of 360 representing the minimum passing score.

A pass in both sections (multiple-choice and essay) is not required in order to pass the respective exams. Instead, scores from both the multiple-choice section and the essays are added together to get the candidate’s overall score.

Because the essay sections need to be manually reviewed and scored, candidates do not receive their score at the conclusion of the exam. Rather, exam results will be emailed to the candidate (and displayed on their online profile) some six weeks from the end of the month during which the candidate took the exam.

The percentage of candidates worldwide who passed Part 1 and Part 2 of the exams in 2013-2014 was 35% and 42% respectively, although this figure is dragged down by a high failure rate from the Middle East and Africa. For the Americas and Europe, the combined figures are 50% (Part 1) and 52% (Part 2).

What does the CMA exam cost?
The cost for the CMA exams differs depending on the candidate’s membership with the IMA. The IMA offer discounts for academic or student members, whilst professional members pay full price. Check with the IMA website for the current exam costs, but at the time of writing a professional member could expect to pay in the region of US$1250. This covers both exam fees, the one-off certification entrance fee as well as membership to the IMA.

What are the CMA recertification requirements?
CMA credential holders are expected to maintain their status through a CPE (Continued Professional Education) requirement. As such, CMA’s need to undertake at least 30 hours of approved further education each year in order to remain an active CMA. 2 hours of this annual allocation is expected to be in the area of ethics. Suitable educational programs include seminars, workshops, self-study courses, online courses, technical meetings, college courses etc.

This CPE requirement is also necessary for candidates who have completed the CMA certification exams, but have not yet received the credential due to insufficient work experience. Such candidates will be expected to maintain their CPE requirements while gaining the necessary work experience.

Download the CMA handbook from the IMA here (pdf).

Where can I take the CMA exam?
The CMA exams can be taken at Prometric testing centers worldwide. There is however only three exam windows per year – Jan-Feb, May-June and Sep-Oct., so check with your local Prometric center as to exam availability in your area - see here.

Where can I find study resources for the CMA exam?
There are many quality CMA study resources. A good place to begin is Amazon's Top 10 CMA resources.