What is CMA? The Definitive Answer to an Important Question


Are you looking to find the answer to ‘what is CMA?’ Great, then this article is for you!

You might be shocked by the overwhelming number of people who do not know what Certified Management Accounting is.

What’s the difference between CPA and CMA certifications?

What kind of CMA careers are out there, and what are the salaries like?

Are you a number cruncher destined for cubicle life?

The answer is no.

Absolutely not!

The CMA is one of the most dynamic and exciting accounting certifications out there (in my opinion!). Let’s dive into the question of what becoming a CMA entails.

Exactly what does a CMA do? What career opportunities does this certification open up?

I think you’ll be surprised!

What does CMA stand for?


CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant, which is a unique and growing professional credential with over 70,000 certified accountants.

Unlike CPAs (Certified Public Accountants), CMAs working in a management accounting capacity. Simply put, they are masters of critical decision-making in business. Masters who understand not just the “what” behind numbers, but the “why.”

Unlike their CPA counterparts, the CMAs focus more on financial planning, decision support, analysis, analytics, and professional ethics.

What is CMA? Typical CMA Job Descriptions

what is the job description of a CMA

So exactly what does a CMA do? How do you become a CMA?

There are so many professions where you can explore your new skills once you earn your CMA certification.

What Job Duties do CMAs Perform?

The most common arenas CMAs work in include corporate finance, management accounting, corporate governance, technology and strategy teams within an organization.

In these positions, the role of a certified management accountant is to analyze data from various sources and construct ways that the organization can improve on their performance. This often involves diving deep into the numbers for internal review and budget analysis to identify opportunities for investment.

CMAs not only prepare but also analyze several different types of financial statements like P&L, cash flow statements and balance sheets. They also act as mentors to entry-level accountants.

CMAs don’t just provide insight but work alongside a company’s senior managers to propose and execute these strategies. CMAs are responsible for leading a company to financial strength and growth.

Common CMA Job Roles

As I’ve said before, the CMA designation can open so many doors for you. Unlike CPAs who typically perform tax and audit work, CMAs have a broad range of job roles they are qualified to perform.

Some job titles that CMAs often hold include:

  • Cost or Corporate Accountant
  • Accounting Manager
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • VP of Finance
  • Financial Strategist
  • Corporate Controller
  • Staff and Sr. Accountant

Career Opportunities by Industry


If you are looking for diverse career opportunities, then earning your CMA certification is a must. Opportunities are plentiful when you add CMA to your resume.

Whether you want to work in private accounting for a small business, or for something bigger like a multinational corporation, CMAs are an integral part. You can also work in public accounting, for the government, a not-for-profit, or at an academic institution.

If you ever wondered what sort of industry CMAs are drawn to, just over 30% of CMAs work in Manufacturing.

The other industries making up the remaining 70% is:

  • 7% – Wholesale and Retail Trade
  • 8% – Education
  • 3% – Transportation, Communications and Utility Services
  • 3% – Contract Construction
  • 2% – Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries
  • 3% – Government
  • 8% – Medical/Health Services
  • 4% – Information Technology
  • 9% – Finance, Insurance and Real Estate
  • 7% – Other Services
  • 3% – Public Accounting
  • 12% – Nonclassifiable


Source: 2019 IMA US Salary Survey

What Sets CMAs Apart From CPAs?


One of the biggest misconceptions about what a CMA is, is that it is the same as being a CPA. This could not be further from the truth.

CPAs typically perform audits and tax work, while CMAs are experts in strategic and financial management.

Part of what makes earning your CMA accounting certification so beneficial is the skillset you acquire. The CMAs critical skills allow you to support small and big business, while their practical skills offer higher earning potential and offer businesses greater credibility.

More and more CMAs are being sought after for this unique skill set, and are rewarded financially. A typical certified management accountant salary is higher than that of other accounting designations, making it one of the most lucrative options for accountants who want to further their careers.

According to the latest IMA Salary Survey, on average, CMAs earn a 31% higher median total compensation than their non-CMA peers, and 22% more than those with their CPA.

Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of earning your CMA is that it is a globally recognized certification. Simply put, by earning your designation, you are opening up doors to new and exciting careers all over the globe.

Certified Management Accountant Requirements


So the question you may be asking yourself is, “How long does it take to become a CMA?” Great question.

Becoming a CMA requires time and dedication. Candidates must earn a 3-4 year bachelor’s degree and acquire two consecutive years of relevant work experience.

Whether you earn your work experience before or after taking the exam does not matter; however, you cannot become a CMA without passing the CMA exam.

The CMA exam is comprised of two parts, which are made up of 100 multiple choice questions and 2 essay scenarios. You can sign up to take the test on one of the several CMA exam dates that are scheduled each year.

So how hard is the CMA exam? Unfortunately, it’s certainly not an easy test.

Sadly the pass rates for the CMA exam are quite low. The global average pass rate for Part 1 is 40% and 50% for Part 2. While slightly discouraging to some, with the right CMA review course, you can absolutely pass the CMA exam on your first try.


The Financial Benefit of Becoming a CMA


If you are looking for a financially beneficial career, then becoming a CMA will definitely be appealing to you.

In 2018 the overall median base salary for a CMA in the USA was $94,000, and the overall median total compensation was $102,000. That’s more than enough to offset the CMA exam cost, as well as the cost of taking a CMA review course and of CMA study materials.

The benefits of your certification are abundant at any age too. Check out this table from the latest IMA Salary Survey below:


In addition to earning more than their peers, the salary survey found that 83% of CMAs believe their certification helps to create new career opportunities, and 76% of respondents feel it strengthens their availability to move across different areas of business.

Is This Designation Right For You?


Deciding whether or not to take the plunge and become a CMA is a personal decision. One that is based on your individual preferences and desire to advance in your accounting career to executive roles.

So what does that mean to you?

For many, it is the chance to develop unique financial and strategic management accounting skills, to earn a respectable salary, and to have access to new and exciting career opportunities.

Interested in learning even more about what the CMA certification is, and why it’s right for you?

Make sure to take a look at our bestselling complete CMA coaching combo!

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