Building Your Brand: The Value of Having CMA and CPA Certifications

By Ashley Gibson
Member of IMA's Young Professional Committee and Director of Marketing, IMA St. Louis Chapter
Enterprise Risk Services (ERS) Consultant for Deloitte & Touche in St. Louis, MO

"Why are you getting a CMA if you are getting a CPA?" Colleagues, friends and family often ask me this question. I explain to them that having both provides me with an advantage over colleagues, allows me to provide better services to my clients and grants me more flexibility.

Not to mention, being dual-certified can also be financially lucrative. According to the Institute of Management Accountants 21st Annual Salary Survey, respondents in the 19-29 age category with both a CMA and a CPA earned 42% more than their non-certified counterparts ($77,630 versus $54,352).

Advantage Over Colleagues

Many years ago, jobs required a high school diploma as the standard education background.  This trend has since blossomed into a bachelor's degree and for some jobs, a master's degree.  Now, students are doing whatever it takes to get to 150 credit hours to sit for the CPA exam.

In my opinion, the CPA certification will become just as the high school diploma is today--widespread and expected. With the recent economic struggles and jobs becoming more competitive than ever, building your brand has become a greater challenge. Having both the CMA and the CPA certifications can assist you in standing out from other applicants.

Provide Better Service

The CMA certification differs from other certifications in that it provides an individual with a generalized, managerial, and internal prospective. On the other hand, the CPA certification focuses on an external business prospective.

In the accounting profession, service and the quality of which it is given to clients is the key to success. I have discovered this to be especially true in public accounting, and being an exam candidate for both the CMA and the CPA certifications allows me to provide an internal and external examination throughout client engagements.

More Flexibility

Do you think you will stay in the same job for the rest of your life? The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published in June 2008 a report titled "Number of Jobs Held, Labor Market Activity, and Earnings Growth among the Youngest Baby Boomers: Results from a Longitudinal Survey," which showed that younger baby boomers held an average of 10.8 jobs from age 18 to 42. This report is available on the BLS website at: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/nlsoy.pdf.

For generations X, Y, and Z, this trend will increase substantially and ensuring your brand is compliant will become essential. The advantage of having the CMA certification along with the CPA certification, especially for current and developing young professionals, is that it grants more flexibility throughout industries than other certifications.

Balance Studying While Working

Often times, I hear colleagues discuss how challenging it is to study for any certification examinations while working or even still going to school. Fortunately for me, I was able to sit for the CPA exam between the time I graduated from my masters and I started with Deloitte.

I know that I will face this challenge while working on the CMA exam while working, but my solution is finding a proper balance of work, personal life, and studying through time management. My rule of thumb is you have to pay the time in order to increase your chances of passing. Events in everyone's lives place a damper on studying, but properly allocating time to the exam is crucial.

As a young professional, I also suggest sharing your ambitions of sitting for any certification exam with a boss, mentor, counselor, advisor, etc. within your company or firm in order to discuss approaches to achieving this objective. Proper communication with your employer can make this situation less stressful and more achievable.

Overall

Having the CMA and the CPA certifications can assist you in building your brand, granting you more job opportunities and flexibility throughout industries and your future. Lastly, it will give you a larger range of expertise to allow you the ability to provide better service.

How strong is your brand?

This blog

The IMA Young Accounting Pros Blog features the insights of IMA's Young Professionals Committee. Committee members share advice and experiences on careers, continuing education, work/life balance, and other issues affecting young accounting and finance professionals.

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