CMA Certification Requirements: Know What It Takes to Get Your CMA

cma certification requirements

Unsure of what the CMA certification requirements are to qualify for your CMA Certification?

Below, I am going to break down the CMA certification requirements to help you better understand what you need to do.

We will dive into the core requirements, which includes:

  • IMA Membership
  • Passing the CMA exam
  • Education
  • Work Experience
  • Continuing Education

Become an IMA Member

become an ima member
The Institute of Management Accountants offers several different types of memberships: a regular membership and three discounted options. Let’s take a look at which one is best suited for you and the fees associated with each option.

IMA Professional Members

The IMA membership fee to become a professional member is $245 annually. This membership option is available to everyone who is not either a student or academic (see those membership options below).

What’s great about being an IMA member, is that you get access to a wide range of benefits available worldwide. With a professional membership, you can take advantage of the IMA’s cutting-edge resources to help further expand and hone your knowledge and skills in all areas of management accounting. You can check out a full list of all the member resources available by visiting IMAnet.org.

IMA Student Members

If you are currently a student at an accredited college or university, then the IMA Student membership is for you. It is perfect for individuals looking to kick-start their career in accounting or financial management.

Students have the option of choosing a One- or Two-Year membership. With a low fee of $39 per year (or $78 for the two-year option), student members around the world can have access to all of the IMA resources. Dive into the world of management accounting and discover potential career options while you’re earning your degree.

IMA Academic Members

The IMA Academic membership is designed for full-time faculty members of accredited institutions. The membership fee for this option is $135 annually.
Members have access to benefits worldwide. In addition to this, academic members also have access to the IMA’s ethics curriculum, webinars, case studies, mentor program, research grants, and various other teaching resources.

Staff Enrolment Discount Program

Looking to get a bit of a discount on your membership fee?

When your organization signs up five or more staff members, you become eligible for a 15% discount on IMA membership rates.

Similar to the other options, members have full access to all IMA amenities, including CMA certification, continuing education, networking, and more.

This discount is run under one company organizer name and paid as a lump sum each year. When adding new members to the program, fees are calculated on a pro rata basis.

If a new employee has already paid their IMA membership for the year, no refund will be provided for unexpired months remaining in their current membership.

For full details on eligibility and pricing, click here.

How to Pass the CMA Exam

pass the cma exam
This may be the most obvious requirement, but worth mentioning. To earn your CMA certification, you must take both Parts One and Two, and pass the CMA exam.

The key to succeeding with this requirement is to give yourself plenty of time to study and prepare. This means choosing a CMA review course and following a study plan to ensure that you complete the entire course before your intended exam date.

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Having taken the CMA exam and passed myself, I know that not all review courses are designed the same. Choosing one that offers one-on-one coaching, video tutorials, textbooks, test bank access and a solid study plan will help you study more efficiently and increase significantly your odds of passing the exam on your first attempt.

Not sure how to choose a course? Check out my best CMA review course comparison.

Register for the Exam

In order to take the exam, you must first register for an exam time during one of the three CMA exam windows available each year:

  • January/February
  • May/June
  • September/October

Exam registrations close on the 15th of the last month of each exam window. So for the January/February exam window the registration closes on February 15th, for May/June it closes on June 15th, and for the last exam window, September/October, exam registration closes on October 15th.

You may register on the IMA online store or by calling 800-638-4427 or (201) 573-9000.

After your registration is complete, you will receive your authorization from ICMA. From there, you can schedule your testing appointment at a Prometric Testing Center near you by logging onto www.prometric.com/ICMA.

CMA Exam Format

Each part of the CMA exam is 4 hours in total. You are given 3 hours to complete the multiple-choice section, and one hour to complete the essay section.

Here’s what each part of the exam will cover:

Part 1 – Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics

Duration: 4 hours

Format: 100 multiple-choice questions and two 30-minute essay scenarios

How is the CMA exam scored?

Key topics are marked differently depending on their category. Here is their breakdown:

  • External Financial Reporting Decisions 15%
  • Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting 20%
  • Performance Management 20%
  • Cost Management 15%
  • Internal Controls 15%
  • Technology and Analytics 15%

Part 2 – Strategic Financial Management

Duration: 4 hours

Format: 100 multiple-choice questions and two 30-minute essay scenarios

Breakdown of scoring:

  • Financial Statement Analysis – 20%
  • Corporate Finance – 20%
  • Decision Analysis – 25%
  • Risk Management – 10%
  • Investment Decision – 10%
  • Professional Ethics – 15%

You must answer at least 50% of the multiple-choice questions correctly to move on to the essay portion of the exam.

It is crucial to keep in mind that while you can move on to the essay section with only 50% of the multiple-choice questions answered correctly, you would need to earn a minimum score of around 65% on the multiple-choice questions and a perfect score on the essay section to actually pass the exam.

Once you have submitted your multiple-choice answers for scoring, you cannot go back.

If you do not answer 50% correctly, you automatically fail the exam part and will need to retake that part of the exam. There is no discount for exam re-write meaning you will pay the full CMA exam cost to retake that exam part.

Fulfilling the Education Requirement

fulfilling the education requirement
There are two ways CMA candidates can fulfill their education requirements:

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university

2. Have a professional certification

Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

Unlike other accounting certifications, the CMA does not require you to have a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting, which does lower the barrier of entry. Your degree, however, must come from a regionally accredited or Distancing Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) accredited university or college.

To verify your eligibility, candidates must have their university or college mail a copy of their transcripts directly to the ICMA. Your transcripts must be notarized, so it is not an option to email or fax these documents.

If you did not attend an accredited school, you could have your transcripts evaluated by an independent agency, such as www.aice-eval.org or http://www.naces.org/members.html.

Have a Professional Certification

In the event that you do not have a bachelor’s degree, you can still qualify for the CMA certification requirements by holding a professional certification.

The IMA provides a full list of approved professional certifications on their website for your reference.

Verifying that your professional certification satisfies the education requirement is easy. Have the approving organization mail a confirmation letter to the ICMA stating that you are a qualified member.

What If You Don’t Meet the Criteria?

If you have your heart set on becoming a CMA, but don’t feel like you meet the above criteria, there is another option: appeal to the IMA.

According to the CMA Handbook, the IMA does consider exemptions. In order to appeal for this process, you must write a detailed letter to the IMA explaining your situation.

Describe why you do not possess a degree or professional certification, how your experience and other credentials qualify you and be sure to mention any other certifications you may have earned to build yourself a strong case. Email your request to IMA@imanet.org for confirmation.

Fulfilling the Work Experience Requirement

fulfilling the work experience requirement

As it turns out, understanding the CMA certification requirements for work experience can be confusing to many candidates.

Determining your work experience eligibility doesn’t have to be traumatizing. Here are a few simple steps to follow.

Determine If Your Work Experience is Relevant

The CMA Candidate Handbook breaks down work experience relevance nicely by listing off several job titles that would be applicable. It states:

“Qualifying experience consists of positions requiring judgments made employing the principles of management accounting and financial management.”

Such employment includes:

  • Preparation of financial statements
  • Financial planning and analysis
  • Monthly, quarterly and year-end close
  • Auditing (external or internal)
  • Budget preparation and reporting
  • Manage general ledger and balance sheets
  • Forecasting
  • Company investment decision making
  • Costing analysis
  • Risk evaluation

[Reference: CMA Handbook]

The handbook clearly states that jobs that only use the occasional application of management accounting will not satisfy this requirement.

For example, internships or traineeships and clerical positions do not use management accounting principles enough to be considered relevant work experience.

If you are relatively new to the CMA, then you may not feel like the handbook’s definition is clear enough. Simply put, your job tasks must involve internal or external auditing or analysis, handling financial statements and understanding how they affect a company, and be responsible for analyzing and reporting on financial investments.

If your job description covers all of those tasks, then you should have no trouble fulfilling the CMA experience requirements.

Experience Must Include Information Analysis

Like I tried to spell out above, analysis is a large part of the work experience requirement. Inputting financial data is not the same as being able to interpret it.

One of the skills that truly sets CMAs apart from their non-CMA counterparts is their unique ability to analyze and forecast. It’s these practical skills that allow CMAs to give businesses greater credibility and a higher earning potential.

That being said, if your work experience does not relate to finance and accounting, but instead in a niche like marketing, sales, or Human Resources, then it will not qualify as CMA certification requirements.

Must Be a Permanent Employee

Internships and traineeships are fantastic opportunities to dip your toes into the world of finance and accounting if you are unsure about your path.

Unfortunately, the IMA does not look at these types of employment as the same as being a permanent employee.

In order to fulfill your CMA experience requirements, you must complete two consecutive years of full-time employment in an approved role OR four consecutive years of part-time, permanent employment (minimum 20 hours per week).

The route you choose is up to you. Just keep in mind that you must gain this work experience prior to taking the CMA or within seven years of passing the exam.

Potential Career Paths and Their Eligibility

There are several different jobs you could have that would qualify you for the CMA certification requirements, and help you move into a future CMA career. Here are a few of them:

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

A CFO is a very important executive who is responsible for financial affairs in a company or business.

CFO’s have three primary duties, including controllership, treasury, and economic strategy and forecasting. These duties essentially mean that the CFO is held accountable for the company’s financial situation in every aspect, from forecasting to risk evaluation and everything in between that allows a company to flourish financially.

Corporate Controller

Corporate Controllers are responsible for presenting and reporting a company’s financial information accurately and in a timely manner. This includes tasks like budgeting, general accounting, and reporting, determining financial focus, and more.

These tasks are applicable to the work experience requirement because they must be able to analyze and interpret the information when presenting it because higher-ups rely on this information in order to make important financial decisions in a company.

Accounting Supervisor

Accounting supervisors typically oversee all the functions of an accounting department to ensure everything is efficient and compliant.

Other everyday duties performed include supervising employees, overseeing and maintaining financial records, assisting with audits, and developing budgets.

Supervisors’ daily tasks cover many of the experience requirements outlined by the IMA.

Accounting Manager

Accounting managers are similar to supervisors. They, too, oversee daily operations in an accounting department and are required to analyze data and create financial reports based on their findings.

Again, all of these are essential duties as outlined by the IMA.

Senior Accountant

Senior accountants are responsible for things like reporting costs, productivity, margins, and expenditures. They use their in-depth knowledge of accounting principles to analyze complex reports and make recommendations based on their analysis.

Senior accountants often mentor Junior accountants and oversee their journal entries to ensure accuracy and assist with financial and tax audits.

Unlike Junior accountants, Senior accountants typically do not have to perform the administrative tasks associated with these duties.

Junior Accountant

Junior accountants are entry-level accountants who are still learning how to apply their financial knowledge. With the mentorship of senior accountants, they learn how to analyze and interpret data and create reports that will later be used to develop financial forecasts.

The daily tasks performed by junior accountants are still eligible for the work experience required because they are contributing to the analysis, auditing, and forecasting of a company, albeit with guidance.

Staff Accountant

Staff accountants work alongside controllers, directors, or CPAs. They are mainly responsible for maintaining financial records and reports, as well as general ledgers.

What makes their duties applicable to the CMA experience requirements is that they also prepare and analyze budgets.

Remember, analysis plays a key role in experience eligibility.

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst is someone who uses their knowledge and expertise to assess the financial condition of a business. Based on their analysis and reporting, they will determine whether or not said business or asset is worth investing in.

This career path is applicable to the work experience requirement because they analyze, report, and forecast.

Teacher or Entrepreneur

If you are a teacher or entrepreneur and feel your experience is applicable, then you have the opportunity to plead your case to the IMA.

Obviously, the common fear is that you would be denied.

So, just how difficult is it to receive IMA approval?

In the case of teachers, as long as 60% of your course load is related to finance or accounting above the principles level, you should have no problem in qualifying.

If you happen to be a business owner or entrepreneur, your chances are fairly good as well.

To apply for approval, create a proposal outlining your work experience and why you believe it is applicable. The IMA is happy to take these kinds of situations into consideration and will assess individuals on a case-by-case basis.

IMA’s definition of relevance is actually pretty broad, unlike other professional certifications. This could be in keeping in line with their barrier to entry approach. What I mean is, while you are required to have a Bachelor’s degree, the IMA does not stipulate that candidates have to have a Bachelor’s degree, specifically in finance or accounting. It would seem they may have a more open approach to determining work relevancy as well.

Submit Proof of Completed CMA Work Experience

Once you have completed your two years of full-time work experience (or four years of part-time work), it is time to submit proof and become one step closer to earning your certification.

Submitting CMA experience requirements is easy. To start, you must fill out the work verification form, which you can find on the IMA website here.

Once complete, email it back to IMA at ccurtin[@]imanet.org.

If you have any questions while filling out your form, you can use that same email address to contact them or call toll free at 1-800-638-4427.

Continuing Education Requirements, or CPE Units

continuing education requirements
The work does not stop once you have received your CMA certification. That’s right; CMAs are required to complete 30 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) each year in order to maintain their certified status.

There is a broad range of subjects that qualify for CPE, but they must relate to topics covered by the ICMA’s examination.

For example, subjects may include accounting, financial management, economics, business applications of mathematics and statistics, and ethics.

Note: A minimum of 2 hours of ethics as part of your 30 hours of continuing education are required every year.

If you earn more than 2 hours of ethics CPE in one year, you may carry forward up to two hours to the following year.

Recording Your Continuing Education Credits

The reporting year for CPE begins January 1 of each new year. If you earn more than 30 hours at that time, you can carry forward up to 10 hours to the following year.

For example, if you took 45 hours of CPE in 2019, you can transfer 10 hours of that time to your 2020 CPE requirements.

The best way to record your CPE credits is by organizing your transcripts under your IMA member profile. You can do this by logging into IMAnet.org, and under your “My Profile” section, choose “Transcript Information” on the left sidebar.

You can earn CPE by taking college or university courses, self-study courses, attending professional meetings, speaking as a lecturer or teacher in a program, and many other options.

For a full list of available options, please visit IMAnet.org.

Still Have Questions?

Fulfilling all of your CMA certification requirements may seem like a daunting task, but will be worth it in the end.

And CMA Exam Academy can help you achieve this.

Offering unparalleled support and coaching, along with video-based tutorials and next-level practice test banks, it can help you pass the CMA exam on your first try.

Have more questions regarding the CMA certification requirements? Pop them in the comment section below.

 

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