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 breakdown 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 CMA worth it for YOU?
Originally published Aug. 4, 2020, this article was updated and republished on March 1, 2022.
Financial Investment in Getting a CMA Certification
Several factors play into the CMA certification cost. In the following section, I will be breaking down everything from the CMA exam cost to membership fees, your undergraduate degree, and everything else in between.
CMA Exam Cost
Beginning March 2022, the total CMA exam cost will be $1,200, or $900 for students, as listed on the latest IMA price update. For professionals, this includes $460 to take Part One, $460 for Part Two, and a $280 entrance fee.
If you are currently a student, and have taken at least six credit hours in the past semester, the price for each part drops to $345, with an entrance fee of $210.
CMA Exam Cost Breakdown
Fee Amount for Students
Registration Fee for CMA Exam Part 1
Registration Fee for CMA Exam Part 2
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 $2,150.
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 are a professional member or student.
The student/academic CMA entrance fee is $210, while the professional CMA entrance fee is $280.
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 will 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 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, Wiley CMAexcel, Gleim CMA Review, and Hock.
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 do not 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 are required to pay. There are different types of membership, and, starting March 1, 2022, the fees vary from $45 to $260.
Here’s a breakdown based on membership type:
- Professional – $260
- Student – $45
- Academic – $135*
*Heads up — there is 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.
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 $35,331 for each student, per year. This rate has more than doubled in the last 20 years, increasing by 6.8% per year.
The average tuition costs for a public 4-year degree in the U.S. will likely run you the following:
- Public In-State – $9,349 a year
- Public Out-of-State – $27,023 a year
- Private University – $35,807 a year
If you take into consideration that this is a per-year cost, after four years, you will have spent at least $37,400 (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.
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 45% for both parts of the CMA exam.
So what happens if you fail, and how much will it cost you to retake the 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 that you found difficult. If you end up failing the exam, these can be a great starting point for re-focusing your study efforts.
Now Let’s Talk About Financials
There are no discounts for retaking a CMA part, so all retakes cost the same exam fee: $460 for professionals, $345 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 Investment in Becoming a CMA
Another CMA certification cost (and I don’t mean this financially) is the time you will invest in becoming a CMA.
A prerequisite is earning a three or four-year Bachelor’s degree, but on top of this, you will need to prepare, study, and take the actual CMA exam.
If you are dedicated and efficient, you can do the latter in as little as 12 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 is incredibly 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 $1500-$1700 (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.
Check out the particulars in the below chart from the IMA Salary Survey:
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 and 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,