Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) are expert accounting and finance professionals who have completed the necessary requirements (including passing the CMA exam) to earn the CMA designation. Keep reading to learn about CMA requirements and if the CMA certification is right for you.

Certified Management Accountant Quick Facts

  • The main CMA certification requirements are passing the CMA exam and having a minimum level of education and relevant work experience.
  • It takes at least six years to become CMA certified, but you can pass the CMA certification exam in as little as two months.
  • The CMA is right for anyone looking to enhance their accounting and business decision-making skills.

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What Can a CMA Certification Do for You?

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of the CMA certification if your career goals include corporate accounting leadership, high earning potential, international marketability, and prestige.

The CMA is the fastest growing global certification for a reason. It is recognized internationally as the “gold standard” of management accounting certifications and earns the CMA-holder immediate respect.

Overall, earning the CMA designation improves and broadens your job opportunities, increases your earning potential, and gives you instant credibility.

What Are the Certified Management Accountant Requirements?

So, what is CMA certification? CMA certification is a management accounting credential earned by completing a set of requirements.
And what are the CMA certification requirements?

The three main CMA certification requirements are:

  1. Earn a minimum level of education
  2. Have a minimum amount of professional work experience
  3. Pass the CMA exam

But beyond those three more involved requirements, to earn and maintain CMA certification, you must also:

  1. Become an IMA member
  2. Join the CMA Program
  3. Comply with IMA ethics standards
  4. Fulfill continuing education requirements

What exactly is the minimum level of education and work experience needed to earn the CMA? We’ll go over that now.

Educational CMA Requirements

There are two ways to meet the CMA educational certification requirements:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
    Degrees must come from an accredited university; however, non-accredited degrees can be evaluated by an independent agency for approval.
  2. Hold another approved professional certification
    The IMA does accept some professional certifications in place of a bachelor’s degree. Approved certifications can be viewed on the ICMA Approved Certifications for the Education Requirement document.

Proof of your education or certification must be submitted to the ICMA within seven years of completing your CMA exam.

Note: There is no education requirement to sit for the CMA exam, but in order to become certified you must meet one of the two qualifications listed above.

Professional CMA Requirements

The CMA professional certification requirements are:

  1. Two years of relevant work experience
    What is relevant work experience? Working in a financial management or management accounting role. You can complete your two years of work experience as two continuous years of full-time work or four years of part-time work (if you are working at least 20 hours per week in the part-time position).

Note: As with the education requirement, you do not have to meet the professional work experience requirement before you take the CMA exam, but you do need to complete it and submit proof to the IMA within seven years of passing the exam.

How Long Does It Take To Get CMA Certification?

From start to finish, it takes a minimum of six years to get CMA certified. This accounts for four years to get your bachelor’s degree, two years to complete the relevant work experience requirement, and passing the CMA exam within that timeframe.

Studying for and passing the CMA exam can take anywhere from two months to three years (but six months to one year is typical). It is recommended to allocate at least 90 hours of studying per exam part, so if you can study for at least 20 hours per week, you can study for and pass the CMA exam in as little as two months if you take both exams within the same testing window.

How Soon Should You Take the CMA Exam?

You’ll want to budget about 72 – 120 hours for studying per exam part, and it’s best to give yourself six to eight weeks to study before sitting for your first section of the CMA exam. That means you’ll need 12 to 16 weeks of total study time to take and pass both parts of the exam.

For more information on CMA Exam Dates and Registration, be sure to check out our newest article.

Whether you are fitting in study hours as you wrap up school or after work, it’s best to pace yourself and not cram your studying into a condensed timeline. This leads to unnecessary stress. Instead, make a plan and stick to it.

One way to make studying easier is by enlisting the help of a CMA exam prep course. Wiley’s CMA review course is specifically designed to make studying manageable and efficient. It takes Wiley students about 90 – 100 hours per exam part to get through all the lessons, readings, practice questions, and exams in the course.

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Who Is the CMA Certification Right For?

The CMA is a beneficial certification for anyone looking to enhance the skills they bring to their current position or expand their career opportunities through advanced education in financial accounting and business decision-making.

It might not be useful for professionals interested solely in auditing and attestation (hello CPA!), but if you see yourself becoming a financial analyst, corporate controller, CFO, or another management accounting role, the CMA is right for you.

To get yourself familiar with the type of skills needed to be a CMA, here is a full list of skills tested on the CMA exam:

CMA Exam Part 1 Skills:

  1. External financial reporting decisions
  2. Planning, budgeting, and forecasting
  3. Performance management
  4. Cost management
  5. Internal controls
  6. Technology and analytics

CMA Exam Part 2 Skills:

  1. Financial statement analysis
  2. Corporate finance
  3. Decision analysis
  4. Risk management
  5. Investment decisions
  6. Professional ethics

On the fence about whether the CMA is for you? This free guide will help.

If the CMA sounds right for you, you’ll be happy to hear that from the United States to the Middle East, CMA-holders enjoy significantly higher compensation on average than their non-certified peers. And being a CMA-holder grants you access to a built-in worldwide network of other distinguished professionals.

CMA Salaries by Region

Globally, Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) are paid quite handsomely and far better than their non-CMA peers, according to the latest salary data from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

Visit our CMA Salary page for more information on CMA Salaries.

Career Networking: IMA Regional Councils & Chapters

The CMA certification extends well beyond the three letters after your name. As part of your IMA membership, you have access to some 300 IMA chapters worldwide that provide a forum for networking and professional education. You can earn NASBA-approved CPE credits, as well as gain access to new leadership opportunities.

Find a chapter near you:

  1. Americas Region Chapters & Councils
  2. Europe Chapters
  3. Middle East Chapters
  4. Asia Pacific Chapters

Interested in learning more about becoming a CMA?

  1. Watch our video on Why Become a CMA and their forecasted growth through 2024.
  2. Read our resource on different CMA jobs & career options.

CMA Certification – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Yes. The CMA certification is internationally recognized and is currently the fasted growing global certification. There are more than 40,000 active CMAs and over 80,000 CMA candidates.
  • It takes at least six years to get CMA certified. This accounts for four years to meet the education requirement and get your bachelor’s degree, two years to complete the relevant work experience requirement, and passing the CMA exam within those six years.
  • The CMA exam costs about $1,300. This takes into account IMA membership fees, CMA Program fees, and exam registration fees. There are discounts available for students and added fees for rescheduling exams, so costs will vary.
  • Common career paths for CMAs include working as financial analysts, financial planners, cost accountants, corporate controllers, Chief Financial Officers, and more.
  • CMAs have skills in financial accounting and business decision-making. The CMA exam tests comprehension of financial planning, performance, and analytics and strategic financial management.
  • Yes. If you want work in corporate accounting in a leadership position where you make strategic financial and business decisions, the CMA is worth it. If you are mostly interested in auditing and attestation, it probably makes more sense to pursue the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certification.

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