What Is a Certified Management Accountant?

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: January 5, 2022  •  8 min read  •  Financial
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If you’re interested in going into accounting, you will likely want to know what a certified management accountant (CMA) is, exactly. The definition is simply, CMA is an accounting designation that signifies expertise in financial accounting and strategic management.

While the simple definition helps, it doesn’t truly answer the question. Let’s look at what a certified management accountant is a bit closer and deeper.

What Is a Certified Management Accountant?

What is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)?

A certified management accountant or CMA is an experienced professional with the necessary credentials to work in a managerial accounting role or corporate finance. The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) provides the CMA certification. This certification ensures the necessary standards are met for the management accountant profession.

When you earn the CMA certification, you will likely be qualified to work in a management accountant role. These roles include:

If you become a certified management accountant, you will likely have one of these job titles.

Job Duties of a Certified Management Accountant

Another part of understanding what a certified management accountant comes from understanding what they do. The job duties of a CMA are important to understand. If you go into this type of career, you will perform duties, such as assessing risks, analyzing budgets, and helping to make strategic decisions based on the financial data of your company.

CMAs also prepare financial documents for decision-makers. They can work for a private or public organization. Your actual job duties will depend on your experience level. If you’re an entry-level accountant, you will spend more time preparing reports, while a senior-level accountant will likely make decisions and track the budget.

Some of the common job duties of a CMA include:

These job duties will be a big part of what you will do if you become a certified management accountant.

Requirements to Become a Certified Management Accountant

There are several requirements you will need to meet to become a CMA. The requirements to consider include:

Education and Training

You will need to earn a bachelor’s degree before you can become a certified management accountant. This degree should be in finance, business, accounting, management, or communication. You might be able to take the CMA certification exam while you’re getting your degree, depending on your situation.

While the exam is necessary, it’s not the only step to become a CMA. You will also need to gain the right training, which includes two years of continuous work experience. You can get this experience working at a full-time job that includes some type of financial analysis. Even part-time work can qualify, as long as you’re working more than 20 hours per week.

Becoming Certified

Of course, to become a certified management accountant, you will need to become certified. The CMA certification requires you to meet the education and experience requirements. You will also need to pass the exam before you can become a certified management accountant.

Skills Needed to Become a Certified Management Accountant

If you want to go into a career as a certified management accountant, you will need the right skills. Some of the common skills you need to work on include:

If you want to work as a CMA, work on these key skills.


Going into accounting means you will need to choose the right path for you. It’s possible to become a CMA or a CPA. These are not the same type of accountants.

CPAs handle financial tasks, such as accounts receivable/payable, taxes, and payroll. A CMA will help with the planning of a company’s future when it comes to the budget.

Frequently Asked Questions about Certified Management Accountants

How much can I make as a certified management accountant?

The average salary for a CMA, according to Indeed.com is about $64K per year. This salary will likely be higher if you work for a top employer. It can also be higher in certain locations, such as Austin, New York City, and Houston.

What type of benefits can I get as a certified management accountant?

There are many benefits you can get as a CMA. Depending on your employer, you will likely receive health insurance, paid time off, and a 401(k). Other common benefits include life insurance, dental insurance, disability insurance, AD&D insurance, commuter assistance, an employee stock ownership plan, and even a flexible schedule.

What type of work environment is common for certified management accountants?

The most common type of environment will be an office. CMAs might be able to work from home, but many will work at a desk most of the day. You will likely be in front of a computer working with specific financial software.

What industries do CMAs work in?

All industries hire certified management accountants. This type of position is very common in the construction industry, manufacturing, medical services, transportation, and education services. However, many other industries hire certified management accountants.

How long will it take me to become a CMA?

You will need to get a bachelor’s degree to become a CMA. This will take, on average, about four years. Along with a degree, you will need to take the CMA exam. A good test prep course will likely be necessary before the exam.

Most students will take a few months to prepare for the exam. Once you’re ready, you can take the exam, but you will still need to wait about six weeks to get your results.

What will the CMA exam cover?

The CMA exam has two parts. The first part will cover the following:

There will also be a second part to the CMA exam, which will cover:

There is a high emphasis on analytics, decision analysis, technology, and professional ethics. It will take about four hours to complete each part of the exam. About half of the first-time test-takers will pass the CMA exam.

How much will it cost me to become a CMA?

Becoming a certified management accountant will include the cost of your college degree. In addition, you will need to pay a $250 ($188 if you’re a student) application fee. The test will cost $415 per part ($311 if you’re a student) and you will also need to pay $245 ($39 if you’re a student) to become a member of the IMA.

You will likely need to pay for a CMA exam prep program, as well. These can range in price from around $500 to about $1,500.

When is the CMA exam held?

There are three testing windows for the CMA. You can take it in January or February, in May or June, or in September or October. Each testing window offers registration until the 15th of the last month.

Do I need a test prep course for the CMA exam?

Using a test prep course is a good idea when preparing for the CMA exam. It’s a rather intense exam and only about half the people actually pass the exam. With the right test prep course, you can properly prepare and pass the exam the first time.

If you choose to skip this step and you don’t pass, you will have to pay for the test again. You may also miss out on higher wages or lose out on job opportunities.

A certified management accountant is someone that works in a very important position. You now know what a CMA is, along with how you can become one and a few other helpful pieces of information. If this is a career you believe you want to go into, it starts with a bachelor’s degree. Then, you will need the right experience and, of course, you’ll need to pass the CMA exam.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.