A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification is issued by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA.) This certification aims at teaching candidates to assist businesses with making risk management, strategic, planning and budgeting decisions.  

What are the requirements to apply for a CMA certificate?

Much like other prestigious certifications, a lot of the value of the CMA lies in the stringent requirements that must be met to obtain it.

Educational requirements

Candidates are required to have obtained a bachelor’s degree or professional accounting certification prior to applying for CMA certification. These requirements must be submitted to the ICMA within 7 years of completing the CMA exam. According to the CMA Handbook 2021, these are the recognized education routes:

Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.

  • A partial listing of accredited international and U.S. institutions can be found at: http://univ.cc/world.php. If your educational institution is not listed there, you should contact ima@imanet.org
  • Degrees that are not accredited must be evaluated by an IMA-recognized credential evaluation service. Listings of recognized services are available at: www.aice-eval.org or www.naces.org/members.php
  • All must be emailed directly from the registrar of your college or university to CMAEducationdocuments@imanet.org along with your IMA membership number
  • You can take the exam if you are expecting to graduate within 30 days after your exam date

Professional certifications

  • Listings of approved professional certifications can be found here
  • An official letter from an approved certifying organization confirming you are a qualified member

Work experience requirements

CMA candidates are required to complete two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management to qualify for CMA certification. It must be completed within 7 years of passing the exam. It does not matter whether it is completed before or after passing the exam. Further specifications can be found on page 7 of the CMA Candidates 2021 Handbook.

Exam requirements

Both parts of the CMA exam must be passed within a 3-year period. The IMA recommends dedicating between 150 – 170 hours to preparing for each part.

IMA membership requirement

You will need to become an IMA member before taking the exam. You will automatically be asked to create an account when you attempt to enroll for the CMA exam. You will be charged a once-off $15.00 registration fee, and will then also need to select and pay for a membership level:

  • Academic Membership – $150.00. This is for accountancy and financial management academics who require tools and resources towards reaching CPE and other courses.
  • Professional Membership – $275.00. This is for accountancy and financial management who wish to broaden their knowledge.
  • One-Year Student Membership – $45.00. You must be enrolled in 6 or more credit hours at a college or university to qualify for membership. Student members access to many of the benefits of regular Professional members, but at a reduced price.
  • One-Year Student Membership – $90.00. Same as above.

How do I apply for the CMA exam?

  • Create an IMA and pay the $15.00 registration fee
  • Enroll in the CMA course and pay the enrollment fee
  • Then you will need to book your exam date and pay the exam fee
  • Pay the CMA exam fee

What is the structure of the CMA exam?

The CMA exam is a two-part exam. Each Part is four-hours long, with an optional 10-minute break that can be taken at any point during the exam. Additionally, candidates are required to enter the Prometric app 30 minutes before the exam in order to complete the security verification process. Each Part is divided into two sections. The first section comprises of 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs), while the second consists of two 30-minute essays. However, at least 50% of the MCQs must be answered correctly in order for you to gain access to the essay questions. Otherwise, you will automatically fail that Part. Overall, candidates are required to score 360 out of 500 to pass each exam Part. The exam is graded on a sliding scale, and you can still pass even you fail one of the sections.

The topic breakdown for each part is shown below:

Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and AnalyticsPart 2: Strategic Financial Management
External Financial Reporting Decisions (15%)
Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting (20%)
Performance Management (20%)
Cost Management (15%)
Internal Controls (15%)
Technology and Analytics (15%)
Financial Statement Analysis (20%)
Corporate Finance (20%)
Decision Analysis (25%)
Risk Management (10%)
Investment Decisions (10%) Professional Ethics (15%)

It is important to note that you can take the parts in any order. They can also be taken within the same window. Most applicants pass the full exam within 12 – 18 months of starting their process.

Where can I take the CMA exam?

The CMA exam can be taken at any Prometric testing station globally, with the exception of the Crimea part of Ukraine, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Cuba. Candidates from those countries will need to apply elsewhere. China also does not issue the exam at a Prometric testing center, as the offer the exam as a paper-based option.

It is also possible to take the exam in other locations, provided that your exam area is completely quiet, well lit, has a closed door and is completely visible to your exam devices camera. This is done by downloading the Prometric ProProctor application to your exam device. However, the IMA does not recommend this due to the possibility of internet instability or the network’s firewall preventing the test from being submitted.

Further details can be found in Prometric’s ProUserGuide.

What can I take into the exam?

You are allowed to take four sheets of blank scratch paper on you desk at the beginning of the exam. The exam proctor will ensure that they are blank prior to the start of the exam. You will be required to rip the paper up into small pieces in front of the camera at the conclusion of the exam.

Furthermore, you are required to:

  • Sign the Prometric Log Book upon arrival and provide a fingerprint
  • Bring valid forms of identification.
  • Bring an approved calculator.
  • Prometric will provide paper and a pencil.

NOTE: You must arrive at the Prometric Testing Center 30 minutes before you exam time. If you are more than 15 minutes late for your scheduled appointment, you will lose your scheduled sitting and be required to reregister at full cost.

How often is the CMA exam held?

The exam is held three times a year, with each exam period lasting for two months, with a two-month break until the next window. Therefore, it is possible to take the exam during six months of the year.

The next three CMA testing windows are:

  • May 1, 2022 – Jun 30, 2022
  • September 1, 2022- October 31, 2022
  • January 1, 2023 – February 28, 2023

The last date to register is in the second half of the second month. Therefore, the final registration dates for the next three windows are:

  • June 15, 2022
  • October 15, 2022
  • February 15, 2023

Is the CMA exam hard?

According to the IMA’s FAQ, the global pass rate is about 50%. Based on pass rates alone, which is not an accurate assessment, this would make it easier than the FAR and AUD parts of the CPA exam, and easier than the REG and BEC parts of the CPA exam.

When will I receive my CMA exam results?

It usually takes about 6 weeks before you will receive your results. This is because the essays are graded offline by real people.

How much does the CMA exam cost?

For Professional Members:

  • CMA entrance Fee – $280
  • CMA Exam Fee – $460 per part

For Student/Academic Members:

  • CMA Entrance Fee – $210
  • CMA Exam Fee – $345 per part

Additionally, it is good to check into the website every now and then, as the IMA sometimes offers discounts of up to 40% off the entrance exam cost.

Is the CMA certificate as valuable as a CPA license?

No. A CPA license is a license that is issued by state governments. Therefore, it is considered to be more valuable than other US-based licenses and certifications. As one Redditor put it, ‘a CMA prepare you for the job, but a CPA gets you the job.’ In fact, in most cases where you will find a CMA mentioned in a job posting, it will often mention a CMA certification as a ‘preferred addition’ to a required CPA license. However, it is respected in private accounting fields where the focus is on management accounting and financial management.

What is the benefit in getting a CMA?

A CMA helps to prepare the candidate to actually perform accounting tasks in the real world. The CMA certification is most useful if you are not planning on entering public accounting or if you are planning on working in cost accounting and other accounting roles in manufacturing. Additionally, with the new ‘CPA Evolution’ CPA exam model being implemented in 2024, there will be less focus on the managerial accounting and costing methods, which should also boost the value of the certification.

Can a CMA testing date be rescheduled or canceled?

  • A CMA testing date can only be rescheduled within the same window. If an exam is cancelled within 30 days of the testing date, you will need to pay a fee
  • Exam appointments must be cancelled no more than 72 hours before the testing date, or the full fee is forfeited
  • The Entrance fee is non-refundable, but if you have not yet scheduled an appointment with Prometric, the examination fee is refundable within 30 days from the time you purchased the exam. A $25 processing fee will be deducted from the refund

What languages is the CMA exam available in?

The US-based exam is available in English and in Mandarin Chinese. So too, the written exam in China is available in English and Mandarin Chinese. In all other countries, the exam is only available in English and electronically.

What are the CMA renewal requirements?

The CMA certification needs to be renewed annually by December 31st at 23:59. For initial certificate holders, the reporting period will begin from January 1st following the successful passing of the CMA exam. Additionally, the certificate older must submit proof of meeting the annual 30 continued professional education (CPE) requirements. This CPE should contribute towards maintaining their proficiency in management accounting. These must be acquired through an ICMA-approved sponsor, as outlined in their CMA CPE Guidelines.  Of these, 2 CPE hours must be in ethics. These renewal requirements are the same across all states and jurisdictions. The IMA also offers over 1,000+ CPE courses and 50+ free webinars. Other valid sponsors include those under NASBA, and others.