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Not a day goes by that we aren’t asked about which accounting credential is “the best.”

There is an alphabet soup of credentials out there—and determining the right one for you requires knowing what you’re interested in (and good at). Today, we’re comparing credentials for management accountants—the CMA vs. CGMA.

A Short History: The CMA

The CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant and is offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, or IMA. The IMA has been in existence since 1919 and the CMA credential has been a consistent and growing force in accounting since the 1970s.

According to the IMA, the certification demonstrates your command of the critical accounting and financial management skills, including:

  • Financial planning
  • Analysis
  • Control
  • Decision Support
  • Professional Ethics

This makes the CMA certification especially attractive to professionals seeking to work in a variety of logistics, analyst, management and executive roles. There are currently more than 80,000 CMAs worldwide, according to the IMA.

The CMA Exam

The first CMA exam was offered in 1972. Today, it is a two-part, timed computer-based exam. Each part is four hours in length and consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and two 30-minute essays testing cost accounting, internal control and financial management topics.

Candidates must register to take at least one exam part within the first 12 months of entering the CMA program and must complete both exam parts within three years.

After passing the exam and documenting a minimum of two years’ experience in management accounting requirements, candidates can obtain the CMA certification.

Want to know what the CMA exam consists of?

This free guide will help.


What is a CGMA?

The CGMA, which stands for Chartered Global Management Accountant, has a much shorter history and has yet to develop as strong of a reputation.

It was created in 2012 through a partnership between the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), which administers the CPA exam, and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), Europe’s largest organization of management accountants.

Originally, members of the AICPA or CIMA could acquire the CGMA certification for a $150 fee and a three years of claimed management accounting experience. There was no qualification exam, so it was an easy add-on for anyone with a CPA or ACMA/FCMA (i.e. an AICPA or CIMA member).

However, the AICPA and CIMA are in the process of creating a new accounting association to support the CGMA certification.

The CGMA Exam

Launched in January 2015, the CGMA exam is a three-hour computerized case study that requires you to carry out 3-5 management accounting tasks.

You are given a data set and industry information (via download) about a hypothetical organization seven weeks prior to your test date. During the exam, new information may be provided that will change the scenario and require you to adapt your answers. Each task must be answered fully in the allotted time.

The AICPA currently offers a range of test prep and study aides for sale.

CMA vs. CGMA: Our Verdict

As it stands, we’d recommend the CMA designation over the CGMA certification for serious management accountants. Because of the established reputation of the CMA, this designation is recognized more by employers and management accountants. With its new association and a beefed-up exam, the CGMA certification may be worth a second look. You can always add the credential if/when it becomes necessary. Right now, a CPA or CMA is more than enough for most accountants.

Wondering if the CPA is worth it? Discover 5 reasons you might want to earn your CPA and CMA.

As the CGMA continues to develop its curriculum, it will likely be an exam to strongly consider in the near future. You can always add the credential if/when it becomes necessary.

Try our 14-day free trial of Wiley CMA and see why more people pass with us.