CMA Exam 101

What You Need to Know Before You Begin Studying for Your CMA Exams

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation is a globally recognized credential that signifies an individual’s mastery of management accounting principles and practices. The certification guarantees you are knowledgeable in managerial and financial accounting and strategic management, with a focus on cost and performance management.

The CMA certification is the global benchmark for several financial-based careers and helps identify those who are qualified for a wide range of roles from management accountant and financial controller to the chief financial officer (CFO).

Organized and credentialed by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the CMA certification is given to those who pass their CMA exams and fulfill education and experience requirements. Professionals who achieve this designation are known as CMAs.

Before you start down the path toward achieving your CMA designation, it’s important to know what this exam qualifies and prepares you for. This CMA Exam 101 will provide you with the basic information needed before you begin your studies.

What do CMAs do?

CMAs analyze and examine data from several sources to inform management on how to improve performance. They prepare and study numbers for internal review and budget analysis and offer their insight into the financial standing of the company they work for to help create strategic business choices.

CMAs assume roles that involve budgeting, planning, risk management, and helping management make good investment decisions.

CMAs have a full grasp of the finances of a company and are capable of answering the ‘why’ behind numbers, not just saying what they are.

Junior-level job titles for those who achieve their CMA include:

  • Staff Accountant
  • Cost Accountant
  • Management Accountant
  • Financial Analyst
  • Financial Planner

Senior-level CMA job opportunities include:

  • Senior Accountant
  • Financial Risk Manager
  • Accounting Manager
  • Corporate Controller
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
  • Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

What are the benefits of achieving this designation?

According to the IMA’s 2021 Global Salary Survey, the difference in median total compensation between those who have their CMA and those who do not is $29,000 – a 58% higher median total.

This survey also determined that 88% of respondents agree the CMA gives them more confidence to perform their job at a high level, and 85% believe it strengthens their ability to move across all areas of the business.

Becoming a CMA will help you to advance in your career toward executive positions and helps companies understand your worth. As a respected credential, businesses understand the value of a CMA certification and the hard work that it requires.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a projected increase of 6% in the employment of accountants and auditors from 2021 to 2031, with over 130,000 positions projected to become available each year. Having your CMA will help you to qualify for these positions and earn more than you would without the certification.

How do I begin the CMA exam process?

To earn your CMA, certain requirements must be followed: you must abide by the IMA’s statement of ethical professional practice, have an active IMA membership, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited school or related professional certification, two continuous years of professional experience in financial management or management accounting, and complete and pass both parts of the CMA Exam.

Students may sit for the CMA exams and join the program before they have the required experience, and before graduating. Having passed the CMA exams is a fantastic indicator for employers that you have the potential and knowledge that they are looking for and sets you apart from the crowd of other applicants who have recently graduated.

The CMA program has an entrance fee and exam fee, with different costs based on whether you are a professional or a student. These costs are separate from your IMA membership.

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