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To get a better idea of what a Certified Management Accountant is, we’ll review what they do, what the requirements are to become certified, and how the CMA certification compares to the CPA and CFA.
CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant.
CMAs are globally recognized financial accounting experts who are certified to use their analytics skills to help businesses make strategic decisions.
So, what is a CMA certification? It’s a designation that indicates a CMA candidate has met certain requirements, such as passing a rigorous two-part exam and meeting education, work, and professional ethics requirements.
A Certified Management Accountant is an accounting professional that uses their expertise in management accounting to help businesses make calculated decisions.
They are strategic thinkers that use their analytics skills to improve the overall success of the company they serve. CMAs work for corporations, not-for-profits, government organizations, and other businesses.
CMAs tend to hold leadership roles and might have the title of financial analyst, financial planner, cost accountant, corporate controller, or even CFO.
Some of the primary support they provide includes:
CMA certification requires candidates to have a bachelor’s degree (or approved professional certification), at least two years of full-time work experience in management accounting, and a passing score on both parts of the CMA exam.
Here is the full list of CMA certification requirements:
The CMA exam is made up of two parts that are administered separately.
Wiley recommends studying for 72 – 120 hours per section.
Here is a quick overview of what you will be tested on in each section of the CMA exam.
CMA Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
CMA Part 2: Strategic Financial Management
Part 1 of the CMA exam tests skills related to:
Part 2 of the CMA exam tests skills related to:
Ready to take the CMA exam? Pass the first time with Wiley. Compare Wiley’s CMA exam prep course options today.
Your career goals will determine whether you want to pursue CPA, CMA, or CFA certification (or a combination of the three).
As discussed earlier, the CMA is a certification for professionals who want to work in strategic financial management, typically in a leadership position where they influence decision-making.
The CPA certification makes the most sense for accounting professionals who aspire to work solely in auditing and attestation. And the CFA certification is great for professionals who want to advance their career in investment management.
Here are some key differences between these three designations that can help inform your decision about which one(s) to pursue.
Key Differences Between CPA vs CMA vs CFA at a Glance
|The Exam||4-part exam totaling 16 hours of testing||2-part exam totaling 8 hours of testing||3-part exam totaling 13.5 hours of testing|
|Recommended Study Hours||550 hours||180 hours||900 hours|
|Fees||$1,500||$1,300||$2,400 – $4,590|
|Annual Continuing Education||40 hours||30 hours||20 hours|
|Experience Requirements||1-2 years of work experience under licensed CPA||2 years of work experience in financial management or cost accounting||4,000 hours of work experience in investment decision-making|
|Time It Takes to Become Certified||7 years||6 years||6 years|
|*median base salary|
Which has the hardest exam, CMA, CPA, or CFA? If we go off of pass rates, CMA and CFA would be the hardest exams. CFA pass rates have hovered around a 45% and CMA pass rates around 46%. CPA pass rates are around 50%.
However, another way to gauge difficulty is by looking at recommended study hours.
The CMA exam has the shortest recommended study hours with 180 (90 hours per exam part), and the CFA exam has the highest with a whopping 900 hours of recommended study time (at least 300 hours per exam level).
The CPA exam also comes in on the higher side with 550 hours (recommended hours per exam part vary).
It takes the longest to become fully certified as a CPA, but they are all fairly comparable with 6 – 7 years being the minimum amount of time needed to become fully CPA, CMA, or CFA certified.
This accounts for the CPA and CMA certifications requiring a four-year bachelor’s degree and about two years of work experience and the CFA certification requiring 4,000 hours of relevant work and/or education experience plus the time it takes to study for and pass the CFA exam.
Out of CMAs, CPAs, and CFAs, CMAs boast the highest average salary with a median annual income of $105,000 in the U.S. CFAs come in second with an average annual salary of $83,232 per year, and CPAs come in last with an average annual salary of $69,654.
Both CFAs and CPAs stand to increase their income by getting dual certifications and getting their CMA.
Wondering how much you can earn if you get your CPA? Be sure to visit our CPA Salary and Career Guide.
In fact, professionals with dual certification of both the CPA and CMA earn 149% more than professionals with neither certification.
Choosing which certification is right for you is a personal decision that will depend on your career goals and whether you see yourself in management accounting, auditing and attestation, or investment management.
The CFA is the most expensive certification and takes the longest to study for, but it will equip you with the skills needed to excel in asset management and trading. And the CPA is the longest exam with the lowest average salary, but licensed CPAs do make 10 – 15% more than non-licensed CPAs.
The CMA on the other hand is the least expensive certification, it is the shortest exam, takes the least amount of time to study for, and results in the highest average salary. It’s also a versatile certification that equips you to help make high-level strategic decisions informed by your extensive financial analysis skills.
Regardless of which certification you choose, Wiley has a prep course to help you pass the exam your first time around.
If you see yourself working in corporate accounting and want to grow into a financial leadership role, there is no doubt the CMA can help get you there.
The benefits of pursuing CMA certification include increased job opportunities, career advancement, higher earning potential, instant credibility and respect, and global appeal.
Yes, the CMA exam is challenging, but it’s one of the most practical certifications you can get, and you can always enlist the help of a CMA exam review course like Wiley CMA.
Wiley’s personalized study plan, video lessons, practice exams, and more make studying as manageable and efficient as possible, so all you have to worry about is showing up to learn!
If you decide to pursue CMA certification, congratulations! Get ready to set your future and career on a new, higher trajectory.
Here are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about what the CMA designation is, how long it takes to become a CMA, and how much it costs.