CMA Certification basics: What is a CMA in accounting?

If you want to advance in your career as an accountant, you have several paths available, depending on your skills, professional interests and career goals. Earning a CMA certification and becoming a Certified Management Accountant is becoming increasingly popular, especially for financial professionals seeking a leadership role. To help you better understand this professional designation and see if it's right for you, we're breaking down everything you need to know from answering, "What is a CMA in accounting?" to exploring job opportunities and income insights. 



What is a Certified Management Accountant?

The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is the global governing body for management accounting. They offer the Certified Management Accountant certification, which is a professional designation that is regarded as the "gold standard" of management accounting. Obtaining this designation proves that you have mastered skills and knowledge related to financial strategy, analytics and risk mitigation. Also, the CMA is a universal accreditation, so it is recognized globally without needing to re-test or re-certify in different jurisdictions. 

Who gets a CMA certification?

Accountants and financial professionals who want to advance their careers, experience more flexibility in their career path or earn a sought-after specialization should consider becoming a Certified Management Accountant. It's also ideal for professionals who want to go beyond the surface-financial data and analyze the data to meet the financial goals of your organization. 

CPAs often pursue a CMA certification on top of their license as it opens up more opportunities and allows them to pivot their careers toward financial management and leadership roles. 


men and women talking and laughing

How to earn a CMA certification

To become a Certified Management Accountant, you must meet the IMA's CMA requirements, which include: 

  • An active IMA membership
  • Enrolling in the CMA program and registering for the CMA Exam
  • A bachelor's degree or approved professional certification
  • Two years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management
  • Passing both parts of the CMA Exam

The CMA Exam

There are two parts of the CMA Exam to determine your knowledge across 12 competencies. CMA Part 1 is dedicated to Financial Planning, Performance and Analytics and covers topics like: 

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

CMA Part 2 focuses on Strategic Financial Management and includes:

  • Financial statement analysis
  • Corporate finance
  • Decision analysis
  • Risk management
  • Investment decisions
  • Professional ethics

How long does it take to earn a CMA certification?

Not including the education and professional experience requirements, passing both parts of the CMA Exam typically takes around 12 to 18 months. However, from the time you register for the Exam, you have three years to earn your CMA certification, or else you will have to re-register and pay the fee again. 

Maintaining your CMA certification

To keep your designation, you need to complete 30 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) annually as well as maintain your membership in IMA. 

man and woman using computer


Job opportunities for Certified Management Accountants

Becoming a Certified Management Accountant shows that you have the expertise and skills to excel in a diverse range of professional roles. CMAs are often prepared for leadership roles and work with upper-level management staff to make key choices for the company's finances. The most common roles for a CMA include: 

  • Financial analyst or senior financial analyst
  • Cost accountant
  • Managerial accountant
  • Controller
  • Corporate accountant
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Try before you buy

Becker understands that preparing for the CMA Exam is a major commitment of time and energy. Not sure if Becker is right for you?


Becker understands that preparing for the CMA Exam is a major commitment of time and energy. Not sure if Becker is right for you?


Becker understands that preparing for the CMA Exam is a major commitment of time and energy. Not sure if Becker is right for you?


Check out our free demo

Check out our free demo

Check out our free demo

Should you become a Certified Management Accountant?

Earning your CMA certification does take work - the IMA recommends 150 to 175 study hours for both Part 1 and Part 2 of the exam. However, it's well worth it as becoming a CMA can be valuable to your career. 

The benefits of becoming a Certified Management Accountant include: 

  • Increased salary. The IMA's 2021 Global Salary Survey found that a CMA's salary is 58 percent higher on average than a non-CMA.
  • Professional Advancement. Having a CMA Certification demonstrates your knowledge of financial management process and diversifies your accounting skills. CMAs often work alongside or even within the C-suite to make important financial decisions for their organization. 
  • Internaltional opportunities. The CMA is a global designation and brings respect around the world. If you want to stand out on a global stage or want to work abroad, this gives you the opportunity to do so. 
  • Prestige and recognition. Getting your Certified Management Accountant Certification is an honor and shows your accomplishment and dedication to the profession and your knowledge in the field of management accounting. 

    Get started on earning your CMA certification with Becker

    If you're ready to become a Certified Management Accountant, we can help you make it happen. We offer comprehensive CMA Exam review packages that cover everything you need to know and with our new CMA Pass Guarantee, you can feel confident that you'll be Exam Day ReadySM. Get an inside look at why more people trust Becker with a 14-day free trial



man and women smiling

Why Becker?

The benefits of being a CMA are clearly widespread, and can lead to a variety of lucrative and fulfilling career opportunities that can reward you throughout your career's lifecycle. Explore all of Becker's CMA offerings to get started on your path to CMA.

Now Leaving

You are leaving the website. Once you click “continue,” you will be brought to a third-party website. Please be aware, the privacy policy may differ on the third-party website. Adtalem Global Education is not responsible for the security, contents and accuracy of any information provided on the third-party website. Note that the website may still be a third-party website even the format is similar to the website.