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How to Become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

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How to Become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Certified Management Accountant (CMA) is an accounting or finance specialist. CMAs work in the areas of financial planning, analysis, and management decision-making. Many accountants, auditors and financial analysts earn the CMA designation to advance in their careers. The CMA credential has specific education and work experience requirements. You must also earn a passing score on the CMA certification exam.

Meeting The CMA Requirements

Obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or economics.

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) dictates the requirements for CMAs. The website is http://www.imanet.org. Make sure your program of study includes an emphasis on business studies, such business law, management, marketing and taxation.

  • A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is a similar designation to the CMA. The CPA credential is focused on accounting and auditing professionals. A CMA professional focuses more on management decision-making and analysis.
  • If you are unsure whether you want to become a CMA or a CPA, check on the course requirements for both credentials. You may be able to schedule your coursework to meet both sets of requirements.
  • Accounting or finance internships give you real world experience and help you to network for full-time positions. Consider applying for internships while you are in school. Working at an internship will help you decide which career path is the right one for you.

Get your necessary work experience. 

The CMA designation requires 2 years of continuous work experience. Your work needs to be in a CMA-related field. These jobs include accounting, auditing, financial analysis or budgeting.

  • You can complete this 2-year work experience after you take the exam as well. Once you are a CMA candidate, you have 7 years to submit proof of your financial management experience.
  • Part-time positions can also count toward the 2-year work requirement. If you work 20 hours a week or more, you can be considered as part-time. Note, however, that it takes four years of part-time work to meet the 2-year requirement.
  • When you’re applying for jobs, check with both your employer and

Apply for membership in the Institute of Management Accountants. 

The annual membership cost will vary, based on your status as a student or as an employee working in the field. Membership in this professional organization gives you access to exam preparation, employment boards and continuing education courses.

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  • Once you apply and pay the membership fee, you will be eligible to take the CMA exams within the next 3 years.
  • Send the IMA your college transcripts.
  • Download and complete an experience verification form. These are available on the IMA website. You will be required to list all of your management accounting work experience.

Taking The CMA Exam

Go over the structure of the CMA exam parts.

The CMA requires you to pass two exam parts. Each part has a multiple-choice section and an essay portion. Consider taking a CMA exam prep course through your university or the Institute of Management Accountants. The IMA recommends that you dedicate at least 2 months of study to this exam.

  • You can choose which part of the exam that you take first. Each part consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and two essay questions.
  • Part one covers financial reporting, planning, budget topics and cash management topics.
  • Part two tests your knowledge of financial statements analysis, risk management and investment decisions.

Complete the registration to take your CMA exam.

You should review the CMA Handbook to verify that you meet all of the requirements. The handbook is on the website. You will need to take at least one part within the first year of purchasing the CMA exam.

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  • Access the CMA Resource Guide on the website. The guide lists all of the specific content areas on the exam. Knowing those areas will help you study for the exam.
  • You must pass both exam parts within 3 years of starting the program.
  • Each part gives you 3 hours for the multiple-choice questions and 1 hour each for the essay questions. You must score at least 50% on the multiple-choice portion to continue and take the essay questions.
  • Both exams will include sections on professional ethics.

Review you exam results.

The multiple-choice section of each part can be graded quickly. The essay portion, however, takes longer to grade. Exam reviewers who work or teach in the field manually grade your essay questions.

  • If you fail a portion of the exam, you will be emailed a performance report. That report ranks your performance as satisfactory, marginal or not satisfactory. You’ll get a ranking for each topic on a particular exam part.
  • Use the performance report to study for the exam and take it again.
  • Once you have passed your exams and meet all eligibility requirements you will receive your certification. You will need to complete 30 hours of continuing education credits annually in order to maintain your certification.

Finding A Job

Find out exactly what types of jobs and industries need CMAs. 

Management accounting focuses on internal company decision-making. When a company needs to decide whether to manufacture a component part or outsource the work, they are making a management decision.

  • Use what you learned for the CMA exam to search for job leads. CMAs can perform financial analysis and budgeting tasks, for example.
  • When you’re looking at any type of job posting, note the language used to describe the job. Compare that language to the skills you’ve developed studying for the exam and working in the field.
  • Since a CMA focuses on management decisions, you can fill several types of roles at a company. A CMA may be an accountant, auditor or an operations manager. You can consider a variety of positions during your job search.

Create an effective resume.

Think carefully about the work you performed to meet the CMA exam requirement. Also, take into account the exam topics that were the most interesting for you. Keep those ideas in mind as you create your resume.

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  • Your resume can be in chronological order. This resume starts with your most recent work experience at the top, with older jobs below. You can also organize your resume by skill type. If you managed people in a job, for example, a section of your resume might explain the highlights of that experience.
  • You should clearly state an objective at the top of your resume. The objective helps a potential employer understand where you ultimately want to go in your career.
  • You may need to change your resume to meet the specific needs of a job you want to pursue.

Use several types of resources to look for a job.

Start by networking with people that you know. From there, expand the process by searching the Internet for jobs that may fit your education and experience.

  • Your network can also educate you on a particular company you’re interviewing with, or a specific type of job. Say, for example, that you have an interview to be a financial analyst at a bank. Someone in your network may work in banking. They can help you understand the type of work you’ll do.
  • If you get an interview, go back to your network and see if someone can help you prepare for interview questions. Your network contact at the bank, for example, can help you prepare for interview questions. They may have been asked similar questions during their interview.
  • Invest the time to properly prepare for every interview. Do research on the company and the position they are trying to fill. Put together 4-5 questions you can ask the interviewer. All of this effort can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors.

Michael R Lewis, “How to Become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA): 9 Steps,” wikiHow (wikiHow, August 31, 2012), https://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Certified-Management-Accountant-(CMA).

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