CMA/CFM Credentials Designed for Professionals Working in Industry

The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential is conferred by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) upon applicants with a bachelor’s degree and at least two years’ management accounting experience, who have completed a four-part examination within a period of three years. Management accountants, who are employed inside industry, government, and academic fields are also called cost, managerial or private accountants, according to the Department of Labor’s web site. Their responsibilities may include budgeting, cost management and asset management, and financial analysis.

Cost management tools and techniques such as activity-based costing, the balanced scorecard and target costing, developed during the 1990’s, helped to change the role of the management accountant from a routine staff position to that of a consultant and business partner, a report in Management Accounting Quarterly June 2004 says. Management Accounting Quarterly is an online journal published by IMA.


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The IMA began the Certified Management Accountant program in 1972 to “establish an objective measure of an individual’s knowledge and competence in the field of management accounting, according to the organization’s Web page, as well as to encourage continued professional development by management accountants. CMAs must complete 30 hours of CPE credits each year.

The four parts of the CMA exam, publlished on the IMA Web site, are:

Part 1: Economics, Finance and Management
Part 2: Financial Accounting and Reporting (waived for individuals who have passed the U.S. CPA exam)
Part 3: – Management Reporting, Analysis and Behavioral Issues,
Part 4: Decision Analysis and Information Systems.

The CMA exam was revised in July 2004 to include writing as well as multiple choice questions, Management Accounting Quarterly reported in their Winter 2005 issue. Part 4 of the exam now consists of business-oriented essays and problems. CMA candidates must complete the first three parts of the exam before taking Part 4. The exam addresses financial accounting and auditing, with extensive coverage of managerial accounting and information systems, but unlike the CPA exam, does not cover federal taxation.

Certified professionals earn approximately 22 percent more than noncertified professionals, according to the IMA Web site, quoting Strategic Finance, June 2004. A survey of 1,400 members of IMA indicates that average compensation for corporate finance was $124,288 last year, while $110,465 for public accountants, according to jobsinthemoney. Internal auditors saw a substantial rise in 2004 with total compensation jumping 37 percent, jobsinthemoney says. Paul Sharman, IMA president and chief executive told jobsinthemoney, “”These changes in salary and compensation are a direct result of Sarbanes-Oxley.” Larry White, chairman of IMA said that Sarbanes had also created a demand for certain accounting skillsets, and that the demand had a “beneficial effect in raising overall salaries.”

IMA is currently revising the exam for Certified Financial Manager, another credential that the organization supports. IMA’s web site claims that this certification provides a measure of competence in “financial statement analysis, working capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management,”

The IMA has 82,000 members in the U.S, including CMA’s, corporate accountants and financial executives. It has developed the CMA Learning System: The Complete Solution to Preparing for the Newly Revised Certified Management Accountant Exam, which is used by Duke University’s School of Continuing Studies in a program that prepares students to take the exam, according to the University’s Web site. The learning module is also used by other business schools listed in IMA’s web site at http://www.imanet.org/ima/index.asp.

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