CMA

How much does CMA certification cost?

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Go ahead, search “how much does the CMA Exam cost?” We’ll wait.

Did you find the answer? Unless you clicked on multiple links and dove into the details, we’re betting you’re even more confused now than before. That’s because the true cost of earning the CMA certification is a complex calculation that goes beyond basic exam fees.

But not to worry, Becker has your back. In this article, we’ll tally up the various fees and requirements to give you a wider view and stronger understanding of the CMA Exam’s total cost. Plus, we’ll reveal tips for minimizing the price tag and advice on whether CMA certification is truly worth it.

How much does the CMA Exam cost?

Let’s start by adding up the fees you’ll need to pay to sit for the CMA Exam. For now, we’ll assume that you will pass both parts of the exam on your first try. We’ll look at some other scenarios as we go deeper.

CMA Exam cost #1: IMA membership

Before registering for the CMA Exam, you’ll need to join the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Your annual fee will depend on the type of membership you’re purchasing.

 

IMA membership type

Price

Student

$45/year (no one-time fee)

Professional

$260/year + $15 one-time fee

Academic

$135/year + $15 one-time fee

Total cost so far: $45 to $275

CMA Exam cost #2: CMA entrance fee

You’ll also have to pay an entrance fee to begin the CMA program through the IMA. Again, the price depends on your type of IMA membership.

 

IMA membership type

Price

Student/Academic

$210

Professional

$280

The fee is nonrefundable, and the program lasts for three years. You’ll need to pass the exam within that time period to avoid repaying the fee.

Total costs so far: $255 to $555

CMA Exam cost #3: CMA Exam fee

Finally, there’s the cost of taking the actual exam.

IMA membership type

Price

Student/Academic

$345 per part = $690

Professional

$460 per part = $920

The CMA Exam is given in two parts. Again, let’s assume for now that you’ll pass both parts on your first try.

Total costs so far: $945 to $1,475

Calculating the cost of passing the CMA Exam

While the next sections of content should give you thought starters and areas of focus to help you figure out your CMA Exam costs, the cash values we’ll be using are in reference to an “average” CMA candidate who does not exist, never did exist, and almost certainly wouldn’t reflect any kind of mathematical average even if they did exist.

Paying and qualifying for the CMA Exam is one thing. Passing it is quite another, and it will require a large time commitment to succeed. In fact, the IMA recommends studying a total of 300 hours for the CMA Exam.

There’s no good way to convert those hours into a discernable cost, so let’s explore some bad ones.

We’ve designated the low end of our tally as a student, so let’s keep going with that. And perhaps it makes sense to use the US federal hourly minimum wage of $7.25 as a baseline for converting time into money. At that rate, 300 hours of CMA Exam study would “cost” the candidate $2,175 in wages they could have earned if they were working instead of studying.

For the high end of our estimate: According to U.S. News & World Report, the median salary for an accountant in the US is $73,560, so maybe that’s what a “professional’s” time is worth. With 260 working days a year and eight hours in a workday, this comes out to an hourly wage of about $35 and a 300-hour “cost” of $10,500.

When making your own assessment for the value of your time, here are some factors to consider:

  • Lower productivity at work.
  • Less freedom to take on larger tasks or work overtime.
  • Time away from gigs, side hustles or lucrative hobbies.

Now let’s add in the CMA course cost. If you want to pass the CMA Exam on your first try, you should lean on CMA Exam study and prep materials. These typically run between $1,000 and $2,000, depending on quality, features, vendor, volume of material, etc.

Total costs guess so far: $4,120 to $13,975

Calculating the cost of failing the CMA Exam

If a candidate doesn’t pass both parts of the CMA Exam on the first try, they’ll have to repay the exam fee for each part they need to retake every time they retake it. They’ll also have to wait until the next testing window, of which there are three per year.

Candidates must pass each part only once—unless they reach the three-year mark without passing them both. Then they’ll have to repay the CMA entrance fee and start all over.

To determine the cost of an average amount of CMA Exam failure, we first need to figure out how many times our average candidate would have to take each part to pass.

Unfortunately, there’s no “it takes most people X tries to pass the CMA Exam” statistic publicly available. What we do know: The most recent figures from IMA show a worldwide pass rate of 45% for Parts 1 and 2 of the CMA Exam.

Those numbers are based solely on the first testing window of 2020, however, and may be too limited in scope to provide an accurate picture. In the same press release, IMA stated that the average worldwide pass rate “over the past several years” was 35% for Part 1 and 45% for Part 2.

That doesn’t quite answer our question, but by splitting the difference between those rates and extrapolating them to a mathematically horrifying degree, we can conclude that our average candidate needs to take Part 1 three times and Part 2 twice to pass.

Those retakes would add another $1,035–$1,380 to our total, bringing us to…

Total cost guess so far: $5,155 to $15,355

Ongoing CMA costs

As for the ongoing costs: First, you’ll need to earn a minimum of 30 hours in CPE credits per year to maintain your CMA. CPE courses can cost anywhere from $20 to $125 per credit hour, depending on the subject, instructor, platform, setting, and other factors, for a yearly cost of $600 to $3,750.

Hot tip: Becker offers discounted CPE course subscriptions to help CMAs keep your costs down. Plus, our massive course catalog of trending topics are written and taught by industry veterans. They’ll help you build in-demand skills that can further increase your earning potential as a CMA.

Second, you’ll have to keep paying that IMA membership fee every year. You can’t skate by on the $45 student rate forever, so this will ultimately cost you between $135 and $260 a year.

That brings us to our final guess! Drumroll, please. The total cost of the CMA Exam for our “average but not really” candidate is…

Final cost guess: $5,155 + $600/year to $15,355 + $3,750/year

Is earning your CMA certification worth the cost?

Even though prepping for the CMA Exam can get expensive, it also opens opportunities to earn that money back—perhaps many times over.

Some of the benefits of earning your CMA certification that we can't necessarily quantify include:

  • Professional advancement.
  • Expanding your knowledge.
  • Prestige and recognition.
  • International acclaim.

On to what may matter the most... how much do CMAs make, and does it stack up against the cost of earning CMA certification? According to the IMA’s latest Global Salary Survey, the base salary for CMAs in the Americas region was $110,000 in 2021. This is 122% higher than base salaries for non-CMAs in similar roles with comparable levels of education and experience. While the cost of becoming and staying a CMA may seem steep, the potential increase in salary covers that cost—and then some. 

And, when you leverage Becker’s top-notch content and expert instructors through our all-in-one CMA review packages, the “is it worth it?” equation gets much simpler.

Discover how Becker can help give you the best chance of passing the exam on your first try—minimizing your costs, making the most of your time and accelerating your journey toward management accounting success.

 

Learn more about Becker CMA Exam Review >

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