How to Become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)


Do you have an interest and aptitude in business management, and working with numbers? Are you interested in an office-based career that involves preparing complex reports and advising others? If so, a career as a certified management accountant (CMA) is worth considering. Here are some quick facts about working in this field:


• Excellent level of pay

• Long hours with very detail-oriented work

• Opportunity to apply your skills in accounting and in business management

• Outstanding opportunities for career development


If you want to know more about the ins and outs of this career, then read on; we’ll fill you in on the details, including an overview of what these opportunity identifiers do, how much they can earn, and what you’ll need to qualify!



What is a Certified Management Accountant?

Certified management accountants (CMA's) are management accountants that have met certain professional standards, and earned the CMA* credential.


*Please Note: In Canada the the accounting designations have been unified into the CPA credential. Provincial CMA associations are longer accepting new applicants. 



Education Needed to Become a CMA

Education in Canada

Due to the unification of the accounting profession in Canada, provincial CMA Associations are no longer accepting new applicants to their programs. If you wish to earn CMA credentials, you are encouraged to pursue designation as a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), as this is the new unified credential.


To become a CPA in Canada, you first need to have an undergraduate degree. Your degree can be in any field, although a degree in Accounting, Finance or Business will give you an advantage, as they are likely to include all of your pre-requisites.


If your degree does not include the pre-requisite coursework, you can either pursue it at an accredited post-secondary institution, or you can take it through your local CPA Association’s PREP course, which takes around 2 years to complete on a part-time basis. 


Education in the United States

The educational prerequisite to qualify for the CMA credential in the United States is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university (or an equivalent degree as determined by an independent evaluation agency). An exception to this may be granted if you have substantial and relevant professional achievements.





Certification for Becoming a CMA

Certification in Canada

Due to the above-mentioned unification process of accounting designations in Canada, new applicants for the CMA certification program are no longer being accepted. Please contact your provincial CPA association for certification information if you are interested in pursuing the new unified credential.


Certification in the United States 

To earn the certified management accountant (CMA) designation, offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), you must first complete a bachelor's degree, pass the two-part CMA exam and acquire two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting or financial management.



General Job Description of a CMA

CMA’s working in larger organizations are typically responsible for supervising lower-level accountants who handle a company's basic accounting tasks, which include recording income and expenses, tracking tax liabilities and using these data to prepare income statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets.


CMA’s that work in smaller firms however, often manage these tasks themselves. Regardless of who prepares it, the CMA must then analyze this data and make forecasts, budgets, performance measurements and plans, then present them to senior management to assist in its operational decision making.



General Job Duties

• Assess organization’s regional and federal taxes and look for ways to reduce taxes payable, such as through deductions and tax shelters

• Identify ways to lower expenses by analyzing monthly, quarterly and annual budgets

• May be involved in corporate strategic planning relating to new projects or product development

• Suggest selling price for new product or service based largely on its exact cost of production

• Look for ways to control or reduce production costs

• May be involved in preparing financial reports for investors and auditors





Traits Needed to Be Successful

To enjoy working in this field, you need certain personal characteristics and traits, including:


• Aptitude for and interest in numbers, math, and business management

• High ethical standards

• Willingness to work long hours

• Enjoy having clear rules and organized methods to guide work activities

• Enjoy working with and completing complex reports

• Enjoy developing innovative solutions to problems

• Enjoy advising others in an area in which you are knowledgeable



Crucial Skills to Have

While being able to work with numbers is important, you don't need advanced skills in mathematics to become a management accountant. Below is an overview of the skills you’ll need to be effective in this profession:


• Knowledge of basic accounting, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) and basic tax principles

• Knowledge of cost accounting

• Knowledge of finance tools, such as discounted cash flow

• A good grounding in economics

• Knowledge in both human capital management and financial capital management

• Well-versed in areas such as capital investment, operational structuring and foundational risk assessments

• Softer skills such as communication and presentation skills, writing, persuasion and interpersonal skills



Who Employs CMA’s?

Management accountants may be salaried employees or work on a fee-for-service basis. They can be employed by a wide variety of organizations including:


• Businesses

• Governmental agencies

• Non-profit organizations

• Educational institutions

• Management consultant practices

• Corporate and personal tax preparation offices

• Accounting practices

• Self-employment



Average Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as a CMA can vary, depending on the following factors:


• Your level of education

• Your level of experience

• The size and type of your employer

• Your client base (if you’re self-employed)

• The region in which you work


CMA Salary - Canada: According to the 2015 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the latest figures available at the time of writing), Albertans working in the Financial Auditors and Accountants occupational group earn an average salary of $75,474 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 30, 2019).


CMA Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Accountants and Auditors occupational group is $63,550 per year. 



Current Job Openings

Our job board below has 'CMA' postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Career Advancement Possibilities

A career as a management accountant involves an almost unrivaled opportunity for upward mobility, especially once the CMA credential has been earned. Certified management accountants often make their mark at companies as vital decision-makers and have opportunities to advance in many different areas.


For example, CMA’s may advance to management positions or teach at the post-secondary level. Those working in public accounting firms can move up to take on bigger accounts, or become managers and partners. In private industry, accountants can become:


• Controllers

• Treasurers

• Chief financial officers (CFO's)

• Senior executives

• Entrepreneurs (inside or outside of accounting)


Success Tip: A great way to advance in your career as a CMA is by volunteering to work on various projects and decision-making tasks in your company to increase your knowledge of the company, and to make your role in its success highly visible.



Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are professions in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they may be in the same field, or they involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities:


Business Valuator

• Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA)

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)


Cost Analyst

Pricing Analyst

Tax Accountant




Please consult the following resources to learn more about a career as a certified management accountant:


Occupations in Alberta:Accountant.” (March 4, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

Business & Financial:Accountants and Auditors.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

Resources:Become a CPA.” (n.d.). Chartered Professional Accountants website - Government of Canada. Retrieved November 2, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a CMA

The scholarships in our database that are relevant for becoming a certified management accountant are those that are found on our Accounting Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below can serve as an excellent foundation for this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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Certified Management Accountant