Becoming a Certified Management Accountant has been a game-changer for me. It allowed me to start my own business and pursue other ventures as well. In turn, I’ve never questioned the CMA exam cost or my CMA certification cost.
I’ll admit, the freedom it has allowed me has benefited me enough.
But this isn’t necessarily true for everyone. Obtaining a CMA qualification is costly both in terms of time and money, so it’s important to understand the true cost of becoming a CMA.
Below, I’ll break down the exact costs, both monetary and in terms of time investment, involved in obtaining a CMA certification. Then you can make your own decision – is the CMA worth it for YOU?
Several factors play into the CMA certification cost. In the following section, I’ll break down everything from the CMA exam cost to membership fees, your undergraduate degree, and everything else.
- CMA Exam Cost
- Cost of CMA Study Materials
- The Cost of the IMA Membership
- Obtaining Your Undergraduate Degree
- Hidden Costs For Obtaining a CMA Certification
- What it Costs to Fail the Exam
- Time Investment in Becoming a CMA
- The Opportunity Costs of Not Getting Your CMA Certification
- ROI of Becoming a CMA
- Why it Pays to Become a CMA
Originally published August 4th, 2020, this article was updated and republished on October 25th, 2023.
CMA Exam Cost
Beginning October 2023, the total CMA exam cost will be $1,320, or $995 for students, as listed on the latest IMA price update. For professionals, this includes $495 to take Part One, $495 for Part Two, and a $300 entrance fee.
If you’re currently a student and have taken at least six credit hours in the past semester, the price for each part drops to $370, with an entrance fee of $225.
CMA Exam Cost Breakdown
Fee Amount for Students
Registration Fee for CMA Exam Part 1
Registration Fee for CMA Exam Part 2
*Included as a free bonus for all
CMA Exam Academy students
* CMA Exam Academy students receive a 15% discount on the IMA membership and CMA entrance fee through our exclusive partnership with the IMA. Not reflected in the prices above.
There are two parts to the CMA exam, and you’ll take the exam on one of several designated annual CMA exam dates. Both sections are challenging, and CMA exam questions aren’t easy to answer without a lot of study beforehand. This isn’t something where you’ll want to just walk in unprepared.
When you factor in study materials and CMA review courses, costs can be closer to $2,900.
The student/academic fee does not apply to graduates, even if you just recently graduated.
In addition to paying for each part, entrants have to pay a one-time non-refundable CMA entrance fee. The price varies based on whether or not you’re a professional member or a student.
The student/academic CMA entrance fee is $225, while the professional CMA entrance fee is $300.
It is important to note that the CMA entrance fee does NOT include the cost of your IMA membership, which is another requirement — more on that in a minute, though!
Cost of CMA Study Materials
Before you even think about taking the exam, you’ll want to study intensively. This means an additional cost will be your CMA study materials.
There are so many different types of CMA review courses to choose from, all of which will help you figure out how to study for the CMA exam effectively.
There are in-room courses, textbooks, online CMA review courses like the CMA Exam Academy, and self-study programs. Choosing the right one for you will depend heavily on your learning style.
The cost of CMA courses varies widely depending on your method. The most common CMA study materials are review courses like CMA Exam Academy, Becker, Wiley, Gleim, and Surgent.
Learn more about the prices and features of the most popular options in this comparison of the best CMA exam courses, but expect to pay anywhere between $699 to $2000+ USD.
If you decide to self-study, textbooks and online cram courses can be affordable, but they don’t offer the same quality of teaching experience.
Check out a full breakdown and choose the best CMA exam prep to ensure you pass on your first attempt.
The Cost of the IMA Membership
Another CMA exam cost is your Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) membership, which is an annual fee you’re required to pay. There are different types of membership, and, starting October 1st, 2023, the fees vary from $45 to $295.
Here’s a breakdown based on membership type:
- Professional – $295
- Student – $45
- Academic – $160*
*Heads up — there’s a one-time $15 processing fee for Professional and Academic IMA memberships. They waive this fee for students.
The IMA also offers a CMA scholarship program that can help high-achieving students with fees. To qualify, you must be a college student actively enrolled in classes.
Obtaining Your Undergraduate Degree
When most people talk about the CMA exam cost, they forget to mention one crucial factor — the cost of getting your undergraduate degree.
One of the principal Certified Management Accountant requirements is earning your Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college.
According to an article by the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college tuition in the United States is $36,436 for each student, per year. This rate has more than doubled in the last 20 years, with a growth rate of 2% over the past 10 years.
The average tuition costs for a public 4-year degree in the U.S. will likely run you the following:
- Public In-State – $9,678 a year
- Public Out-of-State – $27,091 a year
- Private University – $38,768 a year
If you take into consideration that this is a per-year cost, after four years, you’ll have spent at least $38,712 (not including books, room, and board, etc.). Of course, depending on whether or not you choose in or out of state, public or private, you can be paying upwards of $200,000 to earn your four-year Bachelor’s degree.
Hidden Costs For Obtaining a CMA Certification
The indirect costs related to the CMA process will vary depending on each student’s choices. Here are some things to consider.
Travel and Accommodation Expenses
If the testing location is far from where you live, it may be important to include travel and accommodation expenses in your CMA budget.
Travel-related costs can rack up quickly. Some possible expenses could include:
- Hotels or other accommodations
- Food and beverage
- Time off work
- Public transit
- Rental Car
Beginning one calendar year after passing the CMA exam and obtaining the certificate, all CMAs are required to complete 30 CPE hours annually.
The costs associated with completing these hours vary depending on which course you take each year, but on average CMAs can expect to pay up to $1,000 per year.
Here are some things to consider when selecting a CPE course:
- Are the courses in approved subject areas?
- Have you completed at least two hours in ethics courses?
- Are the courses registered and approved?
- Do you have hours to carry over from last year?
Personally, I found many CPE courses to be dry, dense, and even boring at times. This makes no sense; The purpose of CPE is to promote the professional development of CMAs. Studies show that people learn best when they’re enjoying themselves, so shouldn’t these courses be engaging and interesting?
That’s why I created CPE Flow—a new way to earn CPE hours through specialist-instructed video masterclasses.
I like to think of CPE Flow courses as Netflix-meets-university-seminar. They’re designed to be educational and entertaining. If you’re interested in learning more, visit our website.
What it Costs to Fail the Exam
Statistics don’t lie, and unfortunately, a large number of candidates do not pass the CMA exam. The pass rates are 50% for both parts of the CMA exam.
So what happens if you fail, and how much will it cost you to retake the CMA exam?
For starters, I highly recommend staying positive and pivoting your energy towards identifying your weaknesses to focus your studying better.
One of the best things you can do to help yourself is to prepare for the worst. After sitting for the exam, write down a list of topics/questions you found difficult. If you end up failing the exam, these can be a great starting point for re-focusing your study efforts.
Cost of Retaking the Exam
There are no discounts for retaking a CMA part, so all retakes cost the same exam fee: $495 for professionals and $370 for students or academic members.
You can sit for the exam as many times as you need in three years, but you can only take the exam once per testing window.
The one upside is you do not have to pay the CMA entrance fee again; just the registration fee each time you take it.
Time Wasted to Prepare and Retake the Exam
When pursuing your CMA certification, one of the most significant costs that many overlook is the valuable time you may waste by not preparing thoroughly the first time you take the test.
Preparing for the CMA exam takes a substantial amount of time and effort. For those who don’t properly prepare, opportunities pass by. You might find yourself stuck in the same position or missing out on promotions and salary increases that come with the CMA.
Further, if you don’t pass the exam on the first try, you’ll spend more time restudying and retaking the test. Invest in a quality study course to prepare you to pass the first time.
It’s essential to consider the cumulative impact of these delays, in both financial
Lost Salary by Delayed Earning of the CMA
The real cost of delaying earning the CMA is in lost salary. CMA holders in the United States earn an average of around $30,000 more each year than those without the certification. That’s up to $300,000 in lost salary over a 10-year period.
The sooner you earn the CMA, the sooner you can start reaping the financial rewards. Don’t let the upfront costs deter you–becoming a CMA is an investment that will pay dividends throughout your career. terms and professional growth and job satisfaction.
Time Investment in Becoming a CMA
Another CMA certification cost (and I don’t mean this financially) is the time you’ll invest in becoming a CMA.
A prerequisite is earning a three or four-year Bachelor’s degree, but on top of this, you’ll need to prepare, study, and take the actual CMA exam.
If you’re dedicated and efficient, you can do the latter in as little as 8 months. To adequately prepare yourself for each part of the CMA exam, I highly recommend investing at least 150 hours per part.
Of course, this is over three to four months, but it’s essential, especially if you want to pass the CMA exam on the first try.
Overall, the cost of becoming a CMA can be as low as $2,000 to $2,900 (excluding the cost of earning your degree).
The Opportunity Costs of Not Getting Your CMA Certification
By far, one of the most significant benefits of earning your CMA certification is your opportunity potential.
Opportunity to have an exciting career and opportunity to earn a sizable salary. What is CMA in terms of career potential?
When you add CMA to your resume, so many doors open up. Some of the most common career paths for CMAs include Management Accounting, Corporate Controller, Financial Analyst, and with enough years of experience, Chief Financial Officer (CFO). You can even start your own Virtual CFO agency.
Certified management accountant salary potential is just as exciting as all the career potential too. CMAs in America make the highest median total compensation of all regions, bringing in $100,000+ annually.
Compared to their CPA or non-certified peers, CMAs earn 31% more median total compensation. When it comes to salary potential, there’s a noticeable difference between CPA and CMA.
ROI of Becoming a CMA
According to the IMA’s 2021 Global Salary Survey, over 90% of respondents would recommend becoming a CMA to a friend, family member, or colleague.
That’s because the certification has the potential to open doors to more job opportunities and a significantly higher salary. In fact, CMAs earn a median total compensation that is 58 percent higher than non-CMAs.
The survey found that CMAs made more than non-CMAs in every demographic group. In all countries surveyed, CMAs made an average of $29,000 more in annual compensation.
These findings demonstrate that the initial investment of the CMA could pay for itself with the earning potential of the certification.
Why it Pays to Become a CMA
Let me be clear: I’m not trying to scare you away from the CMA with all these numbers, which is why I want to dive into why it pays to add this certification to your career planning.
For starters, the CMA designation will help you stand out in the industry. Your specialized skill set will make you an asset to large companies that need candidates with a strong understanding of planning and analysis.
Another reason it pays to become a CMA (and this point is literal!) is that CMA’s earn higher salaries than their CPA counterparts. Studies have shown that when you enjoy a 10+ year career, you can make thousands of dollars more than a CPA.
Finally, the CMA certification cost will be well worth it when you realize how high in demand we are. Companies are desperate for the knowledge and skills offered by CMA’s. We are in low supply, so if you’re looking to boost your career, now’s the time!
So if you ever had any doubts about working towards your CMA designation I hope this information helps.
I, personally, feel like the CMA has been a game-changer for my career, for students, and I believe it can be for you as well!
Interested in learning how to become a CMA and turn your dreams into a reality?
Learn how CMA Exam Academy’s CMA prep course can help you further your earning potential and begin a fulfilling career in finance and accounting!
Until next time
Hi, I’m Nathan Liao (aka the CMA Coach)! For the last 10 years, over 82,000 accounting and finance pros came knocking at my door seeking guidance and help. If you’re also aiming to conquer the CMA exam on your very first try—without wasting away time or money—you’ve found your ultimate guide. Dive in deeper to discover more about me and the dedicated team that powers CMA Exam Academy. Click here and let’s embark on this journey together!