What does CMA stand for in accounting?

Certified management accountant - business concept

If you've earned your bachelor's degree in accounting, are working in the accounting or finance field, or simply have accounting knowledge you want to expand upon, you may be considering taking the next step in your career. While the CPA license is more well-known, it may not be the best option depending on your educational background and career goals. Instead, earning your CMA certification may be the right step for you. If you're just starting to explore your options, we're breaking down the question, "What does CMA stand for in accounting?" and how to determine if it's right for you.  

What does CMA stand for?

At its most basic, CMA in accounting stands for Certified Management Accountant, but let's put that into a bit more context. 

The CMA certification is a global professional certification offered through the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) that demonstrates expertise in management accounting and corporate finance. CMAs must show competency in data analytics, forecasting, performance management, and strategic planning in order to pull actionable insights from large data sets to inform business strategies. 

What do CMAs Do?

Because CMAs focus less on the data and more on how to use the data to influence strategy and planning, they work in a wide range of industries beyond corporate finance or accounting firms. Certified management accountants work in government agencies, educational institutions, and large corporations, and their job titles can be just as diverse. Often, CMAs have roles including: 

  • Financial analyst
  • Accounting managers
  • Senior accountant
  • Financial risk manager
  • Corporate controllers
  • Chief financial officer

Who should consider the CMA certification?

While a CPA license is ideal for individuals seeking a career in public accounting, whether as a tax professional or other specialization, a CMA certification is ideal for those who want to dive into management, strategy, or an executive career path. Those who should consider becoming a CMA include: 

  • Entry-level accounting professionals: Though you'll need two years of work experience before you’re eligible to become a CMA, that experience can begin with an internship or entry-level role in finance or accounting. 
  • Working professionals: Individuals working in finance or accounting roles, both who would like to stand out in their field can pursue the CMA credential to advance in their career. While those in this group may already have experience managing portfolios or financials for a company or account, the CMA is an effective way to transition from being an individual contributor to a big-picture strategist.
  • Professionals interested in corporate acounting and finance: Large corporations employ the largest share of CMAs, as their specialized knowledge and expert advice are extremely valuable to organizations with complex business operations. The CMA credential unlocks several opportunities within the corporate landscape, from financial advisor to cost accountant to controller or CFO.

International professionals of finance or accounting

The CMA is globally recognized, so as long as an individual meets the requirements outlined below, they can receive their certification. This can be highly beneficial for those working for large corporations with offices around the world, allowing their international teams to gain the needed knowledge to continue to advance both the company and their careers. 

How to become a CMA

Those interested in receiving this certification must meet the IMA's CMA requirements, which include: 

  • Holding a bachelor's degree from an accredited university
  • Having two years of full-time work experience in a management accounting role
  • Holding an active membership in the IMA
  • Passing a two-part CMA Exam

The exam is divided into two sections. Part 1 covers the following topics: 

  • Cost management 
  • Technology and analytics 
  • Internal controls 
  • External financial reporting decisions 
  • Performance management 
  • Planning, budgeting and forecasting 

In Part 2, candidates are tested on the following:

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

Candidates must pass both portions of the CMA exam within three years to earn their credentials.

Get a 14-day free trial of our CMA Exam Review 

The CMA stands for Certified Management Accountant, but it also stands for career opportunity, deep financial knowledge, and big picture thinking. If you're ready to set forth on the path to the next step in your career, Becker will help you do it with a comprehensive CMA Exam Review that gives you the preparation you need to be Exam Day Ready. Sign up for a free 14-day trial and get full access to lecture videos, flash cards, practice tests, and more! 

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