The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential is awarded to financial and accountant professionals who have passed the rigorous CMA examination. The test covers a number of areas relevant to the working financial professional, and passing this test can help to demonstrate proficiency and expertise to potential employers.
The credential is awarded through the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) and those applying for the exam must first become a member of the IMA. Membership can be acquired through filling out a simple web based form and paying the membership fee.
After joining the IMA, those eligible can apply to take the CMA examination. Eligibility for the CMA exam requires both education and experience. A fee is also required. The minimum level of education required before being eligible to take the examination is a bachelor’s degree in any area of study from an accredited university. Some non-accredited bachelor’s degrees may also qualify, but transcripts have to be submitted to an outside organization such as the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) for evaluation first.
While degrees may be in any area of study, a significant amount of education in accounting and finance is recommended and will be beneficial in the student’s ability to pass the examination. Additional course work in business and management can also be useful in improving the success in passing the Certified Management Accountant examination.
The examination also requires two years of experience in financial management or management accounting. This experience can actually be acquired after certification is obtained. Two years of full time experience in one or both areas needs to be acquired within seven years of successfully completing the exam to maintain the credential. Teachers of accounting or corporate finance may also be eligible to complete the examination if they teach courses beyond the first year, or introductory level of study.
The test is administered in two parts, and both parts must be completed within three years of the initial application. Candidates for the CMA credential must register for at least one part of the exam within twelve months of the initial application. The entrance fee must be repaid if both requirements are not met.
Part one of the examination covers financial planning, control and performance. Part two of the exam covers financial decision making. Both portions are four hour tests with 100 multiple choice questions each and two 30 minute essay questions. One hour is allotted for the essay portion of the exam and three hours are given for the multiple choice questions. The essays are completed after finishing the multiple choice portion of the exam. If the student has not answered at least half of the multiple choice questions correctly, the essay portion of the test will not be given. Both exams are given in a computer based format.
Earning and Maintaining the CMA credential
The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential shows potential employers that the finance professional has achieved a high level of knowledge and preparation in the field of management accounting. Awarded by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the designation confirms that the candidate has demonstrated excellence in the field. After earning the credential, professionals are required to participate in continuing education to maintain their level of expertise and must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the IMA for maintaining the CMA designation.
After passing both sections of the CMA examination, candidates are awarded the title of Certified Management Accountant and may use the acronym CMA behind their name. To continue to maintain the CMA credential, professionals must also obtain two years of continuous employment in the financial field where they have responsibility for using the principles of management accounting that they have learned. Employment must include responsibilities that the IMA has designated as appropriate for the CMA, including financial analysis, auditing, budget preparation and financial management. Two years of continuous full time employment in the field of management accounting must be procured within seven years of obtaining the CMA credential. Part time employment is also considered at the rate of two years of part time employment to one year of full time employment.
The Institute of Management Accounting has some additional requirements to maintain the CMA credential as well. Professionals must obtain a minimum of thirty hours of continuing education each year. At least two of the continuing education hours must be on ethics, and the remaining hours must include other topics relevant to the profession of management accounting. The IMA publishes acceptable continuing education opportunities on its website and in its newsletters, which is often helpful for finding relevant educational conferences and opportunities. Educational opportunities offered from institutions other than the IMA are considered as well, and the professional will need to check with the IMA to ensure that any other continuing education that is taken meets the standards set forth by the IMA.
All CMAs must also comply with the code of ethics that the IMA has set forth. Candidates are required to sign an affidavit affirming their commitment to upholding this code before being allowed to take the CMA examination. An annual fee for membership in the Institute of Management Accountants is also required of all professionals holding the CMA credential. A CMA is also required to follow all state and local laws that relate to the practice of the Certified Management Accountant.
The Certified Management Accountant credential sets the professional apart from her peers by showing potential employers that she has obtained a high level of knowledge in the field of management accounting. After passing this rigorous test, the professional must also meet minimum standards as set forth by the Institute of Management Accountants to maintain the title of CMA. Minimum standards include at least thirty hours of continuing education each year, upholding the ethical standards of the IMA, following all state and local laws as they pertain to the profession and paying the annual fee as charged by the IMA.
Part one of the Certified Management Accountant test covers financial planning, control and performance. Candidates can expect that about thirty percent of questions will cover financial planning, forecasting and budgeting. About twenty percent of the examination covers performance management. An additional twenty percent covers the area of cost management, with another fifteen percent dedicated to internal controls and the remaining fifteen percent on external financial reporting decisions. The two essays on this portion of the examination will also be these areas.
The second part of the CMA examination covers the area of financial decision making. Those taking this part of the exam can expect about twenty-five percent of questions to cover financial statement analysis. Another 20 percent will cover corporate finance with an additional 10 percent covering risk management and decision analysis. The remaining portion of the exam allows about 15 percent to be devoted to the area of investment decisions with the remaining questions devoted to the area of professional ethics. This portion of the examination also will have two essays, which the candidate will complete after the multiple choice portion of the examination, as long as at least fifty percent of questions have been completed correctly.
The score for the examination is calculated offline, with the results of the essay portion of the test graded separately from the multiple choice portion. Candidates will not know their scores when leaving the testing facility. Instead, the Institute of Certified Management Accountants grades the examination and mails the scores to candidates about six weeks after the end of the month in which the candidate took the test. Scores can also be accessed online after they have been mailed. Should the candidate fail the examination, they will also be issued a performance report which will show the performance in the individual areas of the exam.
The CMA exam is rigorous and requires a great deal of preparation. Understanding the topics that are covered on the examination will help the candidate to prepare and achieve a successful result on this difficult test.
Taking the CMA Examination
The test is offered via computer format several times each year and is scheduled online. The examination is taken online at a testing center at a time scheduled by the candidate during the testing window of the IMA. There are some specific requirements that candidates can expect when taking the CMA examination. Knowing what to expect from the examination itself can make the process easier and less stressful for the candidate.
The CMA test is given in two parts and is taken via computer at a Prometric testing center. Candidates may choose when to schedule their examination during one of the testing windows offered by the IMA. Before scheduling either part of the exam, candidates must first meet all of the requirements as set forth by the IMA. After all of the requirements have been met, the IMA will send the candidate an authorization to test. This authorization must be in the candidate’s possession before they will be allowed to test. When the authorization is received, the candidate may then call in or go online and schedule the examination during an open testing window. Examination fees must be paid at the time the test is scheduled, and a discount is usually offered if both parts of the exam are scheduled within the same testing window. Candidates should keep in mind the fact that the exam fee is non-refundable once a test has been scheduled.
Upon arriving at the testing center, candidates are required to present their authorization to test and two form of identification, one of which must be photo identification. They will be required to sign an ethics statement in which they agree not to release any information about the test. The candidate must also agree to not engage in any cheating on the test, which includes copying answers from other candidates, use of unauthorized materials during the test, helping other candidates and removing testing materials from the testing room. Should the testing center feel any of these rules have been violated, the candidate will have their test score invalidated.
Candidates are allowed to bring a calculator to the examination. Calculators can have a maximum of six functions only and cannot be programmable in any way. Calculators can also not use any form of tape or paper or have a printing function. Candidates will be provided with two blank scratch paper booklets and pencils to use on the test. Should the candidate want another booklet, they may trade one or both in for new booklets, but a maximum of two booklets can be kept by the candidate at any time. No other items can be brought into the testing center, and personal items will need to be locked in a provided locker before entering the testing room.
While the Certified Management Accountant exam can be a stressful ordeal, understanding the rules and expectations before taking the test can help to alleviate some of the stress. Knowing what to expect from the testing center on the test day can help the candidate to better prepare for this rigorous examination.