Key Takeaways
  • There are multiple steps to become a CMA.
  • The CMA exam consists of two parts that you must register for and pass individually.
  • Each Part takes 4 hours to complete and consists of multiple-choice and essay questions.
  • CMA education requirements include having a bachelor’s degree or other approved professional certifications.
  • You can take the CMA exam before meeting the professional experience and education requirements.
  • There are benefits to taking the CMA exam as a student, including opportunity to apply for ICMA CMA scholarships.

What Are the Requirements to Earn Your CMA?

The requirements to earn your CMA (Certified Management Accountant) designation are outlined in the seven steps below.

  1. Become an IMA member
  2. Enroll in the CMA Program
  3. Study for and pass the CMA exam
  4. Meet education or professional certification requirements
  5. Meet work experience requirements
  6. Comply with IMA ethics standards
  7. Fulfill continuing education requirements

IMA Membership Requirement

The first step in becoming CMA certified (and the most often overlooked) is becoming a member of the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants). The IMA is the professional organization that administers the CMA exam.

The IMA was founded in 1919 and is the worldwide association of accountants and financial professionals in business. It provides resources for students and professionals to help them advance through their careers—like case studies, webinars, research grants, and mentor programs.

CMAs are required to maintain active membership with IMA in order to remain certified.

Here are a few tips and insights about becoming an IMA member.

  1. Become an IMA member before signing up for the CMA exam
    You have to be an IMA member to take the CMA exam, so make sure you sign up before trying to register.
  1. Pay the membership fee
    There is an annual IMA membership fee (ranging from $49 to $295, depending on your professional experience) that must be paid before you can enter the CMA Program.

    Note, there is a discounted price for students of $49.

Discover how to become an IMA member by visiting the IMA membership page.

Already a member of IMA? Access our CMA Review Course free for 7 days.

CMA Program Requirement

In addition to the fee you pay to become an IMA member, you will also need to register and pay the fee to join the CMA Program.

  1. How to join the CMA Program

    After becoming an IMA member, you will need to enroll in the CMA Program and pay the non-refundable entrance fee. This gives you three years to complete both parts of the exam. Note that students receive a discounted CMA entrance fee.

Professional Member Fees

CMA Entrance Fee (non-refundable): $300

Student/Academic Member Fees

CMA Entrance Fee (non-refundable): $225

  1. Pay CMA exam fees
Professional Member Fees

CMA Exam Fee: $495 per part
Rescheduling Fee*: $50

Student/Academic Member Fees

CMA Exam Fee: $370 per part
Rescheduling Fee*: $50

*Exam rescheduling is available if you do so more than 30 days prior to your scheduled appointment. You will be able to move the date to a later date within the same two-month testing window. 

Total CMA Fees

As outlined above, there are several fees associated with the CMA certification. Here is a breakdown of these fees based on whether you are currently a student or a professional.

Sources: IMA FAQ and Join IMA
Total CMA Certification Costs
CMA Exam Fees Fees for Professionals Fees for Students
IMA Membership Fee $295 $49 (one-year membership)
CMA Program Fee $300 $225
Exam Registration Fee (per part) $495 $370

CMA Exam Requirements

Once you’ve joined the IMA and enrolled in the CMA Program, you can start preparing to take the CMA exam.

The CMA exam is a computer-based exam consisting of two parts that you’ll need to register for and pass independently.

While most candidates take the two parts in order, you may choose to take Part 2 before Part 1.

Try our CMA Review Course free for 7 days.

CMA Exam Structure

As stated in the CMA Handbook, each exam part consists of:

  • 100 multiple-choice questions.
  • Two 30-minute essay questions.

You will have four hours to complete each exam part, but those four hours are broken down into:

  • Three hours for the multiple-choice question section.
  • One hour for both essays.

Essay Questions

For the essay section, you’ll need to answer 10 – 12 written response or calculation questions based on scenarios describing business situations.

There are a few other things you need to know before attempting the essay section of the CMA exam.

  • The essay section starts after you complete the multiple-choice section OR after three hours—whichever comes first.
  • Once you complete or exit the multiple-choice section, you cannot go back.
  • You must score at least 50% on the multiple-choice section to be eligible to move onto the essay section.

The essay sections are graded offline after you complete the exam, so you will not get an immediate notification of whether you passed or failed.

Once the essay results are in, that score will be added to your multiple-choice score. Exam results are typically posted six weeks after the end of the month the exam was taken in.


The word “essay” could bring up many different ideas. Essays on the CMA exam are better characterized as short answer questions. You will not need to do a lot of writing but instead will answer each question with a few sentences explaining a calculation or concept.

CMA Exam Parts

The CMA exam tests your comprehension of accounting, financial analysis, and business knowledge.

  • CMA Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
  • CMA Part 2: Strategic Financial Management

Note: You sign up for and take the two parts of the CMA exam separately.

Each exam covers different topics based on the percentages below, showing how much coverage you can expect on that topic in the exam.

Part 1 of the CMA exam focuses on:

  • External financial reporting decisions (15%)
  • Planning, budgeting, and forecasting (20%)
  • Performance management (20%)
  • Cost management (15%)
  • Internal controls (15%)
  • Technology and analytics (15%)

Part 2 of the CMA exam focuses on:

  • Financial statement analysis (20%)
  • Corporate finance (20%)
  • Decision analysis (25%)
  • Risk management (10%)
  • Investment decisions (10%)
  • Professional ethics (15%)

Study Tips for CMA Exam Prep

The best way to prepare for the exam is to study. But how much studying should you be doing?

We recommend CMA candidates study for 12 – 15 hours per week for 6 – 8 weeks for a total of 72 – 120 study hours per section.

Now, if you were to break that out into 12 weeks, it would amount to at least 8 hours of studying per week. Most people attempt to condense their studying into much tighter timelines, which can sometimes lead to stress and last-minute cramming.

So, it’s best to find CMA study materials that can help with time management, study scheduling, and easy to digest lessons, like our CMA Exam Prep.

For reference, for those enrolled in UWorld CMA Review, it would take them 90 – 100 study hours per Part to complete all of the lessons, readings, practice questions, and exams in the course.

Pass the CMA exam with trustworthy materials from UWorld.

CMA Education Requirement

There is no formal education requirement to sit for the exam; however, there is an education requirement in order to receive your CMA certification.

You must satisfy one of the following education specifications and submit verification to the ICMA within seven years of completing your CMA exam.

  1. Bachelor’s degree requirements
    A bachelor’s degree from an accredited educational institute satisfies the education requirement. Please check to see if your university belongs to the list of accredited universities. Degrees that are not accredited can be evaluated by an independent agency.
  1. Other professional certification requirements
    There are some exemptions for professional certificate holders, and to find out more on what those are, view the  ICMA Approved Certifications for the Education Requirement..

To verify your bachelor’s degree, your university must send all transcripts to the IMA directly. And to verify professional certification, you must submit an official letter from an approved certifying organization to the IMA directly.

Taking the CMA Exam as a Student

If you’re a student thinking of taking the CMA exam while you’re still in school, there are some solid pros to consider.

Reasons to take the CMA exam as a student:

  1. You’ll already be in a studying mindset. This can be a vital advantage going into studying for the test. In fact, your study time for the CMA exam will likely be significantly reduced because you’re actively learning and studying the topics in school.
  2. You’ll have access to your professors and mentors who can help guide you through the process.
  3. You have the opportunity to apply for IMA CMA scholarships.

Just remember that you’ll still need to meet the education and work experience requirements within the seven-year time limit of passing the exam—so think about how taking the exam now could prove beneficial to starting your career on the right foot.

Additionally, here are the core courses we recommend students should take prior to sitting for the CMA exam because they’ll prepare you for many of the subjects you’ll need to know.

Recommended Courses for Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics

Accounting Courses General Business Courses
Intermediate Financial Accounting I and II (most schools teach two required courses of financial topics)
Intermediate Cost Accounting
Intermediate Accounting Information Systems
Intermediate Auditing
Operations Management
Basic Statistics / Data Analytics

Recommended Courses for Part 2: Strategic Financial Management

Accounting Courses General Business Courses
Intermediate Financial Accounting I and II (most schools teach two required courses of financial topics)
Intermediate Cost Accounting
Financial Statement Analysis
Corporate Finance
Business Law

CMA Experience Requirement

In addition to passing the CMA exam, there are certain work experience requirements you must meet in order to qualify for the CMA certification.

1. Details of work experience requirements

You should have at least two continuous years of full-time experience in financial management or management accounting. Or, you can have part-time experience working at least 20 hours per week. Note that two years of part-time work counts as one year of full-time work.

2. Experience examples

To see if you have the right experience, here are some examples of tasks your role would need to include in order for your experience to count toward the requirements:

  • Prepare financial statements
  • Work on financial planning and analysis
  • Complete internal or external auditing
  • Budget preparation and reporting
  • Manage ledgers or balance sheets
  • Create financial forecasting
  • Make investment decisions
  • Focus on cost analysis
  • Evaluate risk

3. Submitting proof of work experience

Note that you do not have to meet these requirements before you take the exam. You can submit proof of them up to seven years after taking the exam.

CMA Ethical Standards and Professional Practice

Additionally, you will need to understand and abide by the ethics and standards put forth by IMA surrounding topics like honesty, confidentiality, credibility, and integrity. In addition to adhering to these ethical standards, two of your annual 30 hours of continuing education must be in the area of ethics.

To learn more about these standards and how to adhere to them, view IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice..

CMA Continuing Education Requirement

Finally, IMA also requires you to meet certain continuing education requirements in order to retain your status as a CMA:

  • Meet the annual CPE CMA requirements
    To uphold your certification, every year, you must complete 30 hours of continuing professional education (CPE), of which at least two hours must be in ethics.

To learn more about the various ways you can complete these hours—like through self-study courses, being a speaker, taking computer software package examinations, and more—read IMA’s Continuing Education Requirements and Rules..

Becoming a CMA

There are seven main steps to becoming CMA-certified and maintaining your certification. Follow the steps outlined below to earn this professional designation.

Becoming a CMA infographic

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