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A Case for the CMA Designation

May 11th 2016
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As a CPA, you possess essential skills, but you may not have the management and analytical experience that employers are currently seeking.

The fact is, the finance and accounting industry appears to have a shortage of employees with the desired management accounting skills and knowledge. Earning your CMA designation may be just what you need to bolster your resume and help your career rise.

There are several similarities between the CMA and CPA, but there are key differences that I would like to point out.

Both certifications require candidates to earn (at minimum) a bachelor’s degree at an accredited school, but the CMA has a much lower barrier of entry compared to the CPA, as candidates aren’t required to have 150 credit hours or minimum accounting courses to qualify for the exam.

Though experience varies by state for the CPA, most states require candidates to have 1-2 years accounting experience under a licensed CPA. The CMA is similar, in that you must have 2 consecutive years of financial management experience in order to qualify.

Depending on where you are employed, your current job experience may qualify you for an exemption from this qualification. A simple explanatory note to the IMA will let you know if they consider your experience valid.

Having earned your CPA already, you understand how grueling the exam can be. The CPA has 4 separate exams focusing on Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), Audit and Attestation (AUD), and Regulation (REG). In total, you are looking at 14 hours worth of testing.

The CMA, on the other hand, only has 2 exams; Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance and Control, and Financial Decision Making. You can expect 8 hours of testing in order to complete these two exams.

As you can see from the different exam topics, the CMA exam focuses more on planning, management and helping businesses and corporations make financial decisions, versus the CPA which is focused on tax accounting and auditing.

Currently employers feel there is a shortage of candidates who possess the management and analytical skills that their businesses require, which is what makes earning your CMA even more desirable.

Now is the perfect time to beef up your credentials because there are so many opportunities available to newly minted CMA designates. It can even help you elevate your current practice because you would now be able to provide the analytical and decision making skills that clients need.

The average salary of a CMA designate is also continuously growing, making it a financially lucrative decision for you personally.

Having spent hard earned years attaining your CPA, this may seem like a fruitless mission, however, you meet most of the CMA requirements already. In addition to your current education and experience (pending approval from the IMA), you would only have to become an IMA member, prepare and take the exam.

If you are looking to give yourself a new challenge, transition into a more management based role or pivot your career, the CMA could be an incredible advantageous move for you. Feel free to share your thoughts and opinions below.


Replies (4)

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By hayden49
May 23rd 2016 00:53 EDT

You have commented on the 14 hours of the professional CPA exam and ignored the role of the 150 academic hours which would include planning, management , strategy etc that are the focii of the CMA. You have ignored the fact that the CMA accepts non related degrees as qualifying for its exam. That means that it is quite possible that the only testing in accountancy for a successful candidate, would be the 8 hours of the professional exams.
Most states dictate a minimum number of hours in accounting and additional hours in related courses to be included in the 150 hours for the CPA. Some of these courses are to be completed at an advanced level. In other words, CPA preparation includes the CMA syllabus but CMA preparation does not normally include CPA syllabus.
Thus, the requirements for the CMA are less while the CPA remains more demanding but with greater potential rewards.

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Replying to hayden49:
By GanNing221
May 24th 2016 22:11 EDT

Clearly, Nathan is an advocate of the CMA. I agree with your points regarding his lack of disclosure and overgeneralization of his case for the CMA license. There is a tremendous difference when a fellow business person or, in fact, anyone with the general understanding of business knowledge encounters a discussion between the CPA and CMA licenses. More than likely, that person or group would agree that the CPA is a very tough exam when you list out the requirements and strenuous study plans for four distinct parts.

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Replying to hayden49:
By Gunner
Jun 30th 2016 23:04 EDT

You always say the same things. I disagree, the CPA does not include the CMA syllabus, at least not to the extent of the CMA. Nobody is disputing the value of the CPA. The article simply notes that is might be advantageous to consider taking the CMA.
Furthermore, in reality I highly doubt that you find any CMA with only 8 hrs of testing in accountancy.

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Replying to Gunner:
By hayden49
Jul 1st 2016 00:00 EDT

I have done both exams and I would like to think I am in a position to compare them. As for the 8 hrs , let us begin with the CEO of IMA. I believe his degree is in IT.
There was a study published about 5 years ago in Strategic finance(not sure, but an IMA publication) that evaluated the two credentials and explored how the bachelor's degree in accounting impacted success in the both exams. We are talking about when the CMA exam was respected at 4 or 5 parts. The point proven was the commonality of the syllabi. But the edge is that the CPA finalist was required to complete an additional 30 hrs as part of the licensing process. So the CPA is tested at university and in the professional exams in areas beyond those demanded of the CMA.
The IMA can remedy this by requiring an accounting degree of all candidates, so that the exam is just a standard test of certain areas covered in the academic part of the process. At the moment not all CMAs can justify the claim to be management accountants. This is believed to be the reason for the failure of the attempted MRA with ACCA.
The article was deceptive when it based its comparison on the professional exams only, ignoring the entirety of the qualifying process.

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