Stephanie Ng is a CFO, IMA webinar presenter, and publisher of the website I Pass the CMA Exam. While she is a licensed CPA and is a CPA book publisher, she is most interested in the role management accounting plays within an organization.

If you’ve earned the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification, then you know that the process of doing so is very challenging yet rewarding. With this license, you can enjoy such CPA benefits as higher income, more vocational opportunities, heightened job security, elevated industry esteem, and more. Therefore, with the CPA, you could be all set for the duration of your career. But what if you knew that you could enrich your life even more by increasing the advantages of the CPA? Would you do it?

The way to get even more mileage out of your CPA certification is to combine it with the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification. Yes, dual certification is more valuable than a single certification for several reasons, and achieving this status is fairly simple. So, if you’re ready to take your certification gains to the next level, then learn why and how to become a CMA after securing the CPA.

Discovering the CMA

To understand why the CMA designation is worthy of your consideration, you first must know what it is.

According to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), the organization that awards the CMA, the CMA is a globally recognized certification that demonstrates mastery of the most critical practice areas of management accounting. These areas include planning, analysis, technology, analytics, risk management, internal controls, and performance management.

Management accounting involves providing financial information about a company’s operations to its internal managers. Therefore, CMAs focus on developing relevant and timely information that helps internal managers solve problems. CMAs also assist managers in daily decision-making.

What’s more, the CMA is the gold standard of management accounting certifications. So, with it, you’ll have the knowledge and credibility you’ll need to explain the “why” behind the numbers instead of just the “what.”

Enjoying the CMA + the CPA

Clearly, just like the CPA, the CMA is a respectable certification to have. So, what are the benefits of having both?

Well, by becoming a CMA after you’ve earned the CPA, you can experience the following career improvements:

1. Additional Job Opportunities

The CPA is a great resource for securing a position in public accounting. And if your first job is in public accounting, then you’ll get your career off to a good start.

However, you may not want public accounting to be anything more than the starting line of your career. And in that case, the CMA can help you make the transition into another type of accounting, such as private or management.

An individual who holds both the CPA and the CMA has a resume and a reputation that are about twice as good as someone who just has one of these certifications.

Specifically, when you have dual certification, employers will appreciate the proof of your ample aptitude in various areas of accounting. So, you can use the CPA + CMA combo to really break away from the pack of your peers vying for the same vocational opportunities.

What’s more, you can work for various businesses, governments, or agencies. And you can rise the ranks to positions such as CFO, CEO, VP of Finance, or Controller.

Therefore, doubling the number of certifications you have exponentially increases your employment options.

2. Increased Salary

As a CPA, you’ve hopefully already started receiving the additional compensation your certification can bring. Remember, accountants who hold the CPA certification can make 10-15% more than non-certified accountants.

And the CMA certification provides the same financial perk. Specifically, the IMA reports that CMAs earn 55% more in median total compensation than non-CMAs.

So, with these extra earnings, both the CPA and the CMA on their own are able to pay for themselves and allow you to live more comfortably.

Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that you can make even more annually when you put these certifications together.

For example, IMA salary surveys have demonstrated that when a CPA makes about $123,000 a year, a CMA makes approximately $128,000 in that time, and someone with the CPA and the CMA makes $132,000.

Consequently, putting 3 more letters behind your name lets you put a lot more money in your pocket.

3. Expanded Expertise

As you recall, the CPA Exam required you to really augment your general accounting competence. You had to learn all about auditing and attestation, business environments and concepts, financial accounting and reporting, and regulation.

For this reason, the CPA now testifies to your mastery of accounting, which makes you more confident in yourself and better at your job.

In the same way, meeting the IMA’s requirements for the CMA certification will sharpen your specific management accounting skills. Once you overcome each of the obstacles standing between you and the CMA, you’ll be proficient enough to make business decisions, conduct analysis, and perform financial planning.

Therefore, by adding the CMA to the CPA, you’ll strengthen the abilities you need to succeed in the modern world of accounting and finance.

By continuing to prioritize your education and test your resolve, you’ll become a more effective accountant and a more sensible person.

4. Added Distinction and Respect

Both the CPA and the CMA are among the oldest accounting certifications in America. However, the CPA is probably the most popular.

Many people outside of the accounting industry know about the CPA, and accountants, in particular, hold the CPA in very high regard.

The CMA experiences a similar admiration but to a lesser degree. Non-accountants might not know about the CMA, but accountants certainly do, and they actually think almost as well of it as they do the CPA.

Therefore, an individual who holds both the CPA and the CMA has a resume and a reputation that are about twice as good as someone who just has one of these certifications.

When you have dual certification, employers will appreciate the proof of your ample aptitude in various areas of accounting. So, you can use the CPA + CMA combo to really break away from the pack of your peers vying for the same vocational opportunities.

Furthermore, your coworkers will view you as a champion of accounting and will trust your word. For these reasons, you can set yourself apart significantly by enhancing your CPA with the CMA.

5. Overlapping Components

Just like the CPA, the requirements of the CMA certification include passing an exam. And thankfully, the CPA Exam and the CMA exam contain a lot of duplicate content.

Specifically, Part 1 of the CMA exam includes external financial reporting just like FAR and REG. What’s more, Part 1 also has planning, budgeting, and forecasting, performance management, and cost management in common with BEC. And both CMA exam Part 1 and AUD address internal controls.

CMA exam Part 2 covers almost the same amount of CPA Exam ground. For example, Part 2 takes on financial statement analysis in a comparable manner to FAR and AUD. Part 2 also evaluates professional ethics like AUD does. Finally, Part 2 shares an attention to corporate finance, decision analysis, risk management, and investment decisions with BEC.

Earning the CMA certification also necessitates gaining professional accounting experience. And the IMA is fairly lenient with this requirement, so the experience you used to meet the CPA experience requirement may also work to satisfy the CMA experience requirement. In that case, you could quickly knock out one of the most demanding CMA requirements and save a lot of time.

Furthermore, maintaining both the CMA and the CPA involves accumulating continuing professional education (CPE) hours. Therefore, the convenience of this situation is that you can use many continuing education courses to satisfy the CPE requirements of both certifications.

For these reasons, the fact that you already have the CPA will make both earning and retaining the CMA that much easier.

6. Savings Opportunities

Though the CPA pays for itself in a fairly short amount of time, it still costs money to acquire. The application fees, examination fees, and CPA review courses all add up and require you to foot a sizeable bill before you can come away with the CPA.

And the CMA is no exception. To tack on this second certification for the sake of multiplying your CPA profits, you will have to account for similar expenses. Completing the CMA certification process also involves paying CMA membership fees, program fees, examination fees, and exam prep prices.

However, whether or not you did, you could have saved money on the CPA Exam with CPA review course discounts. And conveniently, you can also get great deals on your CMA exam prep with comparable CMA review course discounts.

Therefore, the CMA also gives back more than you put into it.

Earning the CMA

Clearly, pursuing dual certification is an extremely worthwhile endeavor. And with the CPA in hand, the worst of it is actually already over. Yes, the CMA certification has a series of requirements that you must meet, but they are not quite as demanding as the CPA requirements. In fact, the IMA has established 7 CMA requirements in total, but almost all of them will be no problem for a CPA to complete. The CMA requirements are:

1. Hold Active IMA Membership

Unlike the CPA certification, which does not require membership to a particular organization, the CMA certification expects CMA candidates to be IMA members. You don’t have to earn the CMA if you are an IMA member, but you can’t earn the CMA unless you are.

To become an IMA member, you simply must fill out a short application and pay a fee, the price of which depends on your current professional status. So, if you’re a working professional, your membership price will be $245. If you’re an academic, you’ll pay $135 for membership. And IMA membership costs students just $39.

2. Pay the CMA Entrance Fee

In order to enter the CMA certification program, you must also pay the CMA entrance fee. The price of this fee varies based on your IMA membership. For Professional IMA members, the fee is $250, but it’s only $188 for student and academic members.

Paying the CMA entrance fee not only allows you to meet the CMA requirements and earn the CMA certification, but it also provides additional perks such as CMA Support Package access; performance feedback reports; a personalized, numbered certificate upon completion of the requirements; employer notification of achievement if desired, and more.

3. Fulfill the Education Qualification

The CMA education qualification is the first of the more intensive CMA requirements. You can fulfill this requirement either before or within 7 years of passing the CMA exam. And, the IMA allows CMA candidates to demonstrate their education in 1 of 2 ways: with a degree from an accredited institution or with another professional certification.

If you’d like to use your degree as proof of your education, you can confirm that your college or university is accredited by checking the list of accredited U.S. and international institutions. In the event that the institution from which you earned your degree is not accredited, you must have an independent evaluation agency assess your education. And in order for the IMA to verify your education, you must have your college or university mail your official transcripts or a notarized copy to the Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA).

If you want to meet the education requirement with a certification, you can check the IMA’s list of approved certifications. Sadly, you won’t find the CPA on the list. Then, you must have your approved certifying organization mail a letter confirming that you are a qualified member to the ICMA.

4. Pass Both Parts of the CMA Exam

Another CMA certification requirement is the CMA exam. The CMA exam has 2 parts that cover the following content areas:

Part 1: Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics

  • A. External Financial Reporting Decisions
  • B. Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting
  • C. Performance Management
  • D. Cost Management
  • E. Internal Controls
  • F. Technology and Analytics

Part 2: Strategic Financial Management

  • A. Financial Statement Analysis
  • B. Corporate Finance
  • C. Decision Analysis
  • D. Risk Management
  • E. Investment Decisions
  • F. Professional Ethics

Additionally, both CMA exam parts test candidates on these topics by presenting 100 multiple-choice questions and 2 30-minute essays. And total testing time for each exam part is 4 hours.

Once you enter the CMA program, you’ll have 3 years from your date of entry to pass the entire CMA exam. If you don’t pass both parts within 3 years, you will forfeit credit for any parts passed and any fees paid.

5. Fulfill the Experience Qualification

Another demand the IMA has of CMA candidates is the accumulation of 2 continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management.

In order for your job to qualify as such, your responsibilities must include regularly making judgment using the principles of management accounting and financial management. Therefore, your tasks could include auditing, company investment decision making, costing analysis, forecasting, financial statement preparation, and risk evaluation.

The IMA’s specifications for your CMA experience include full-time employment for 2 years or 4 years of part-time employment at 20 hours a week. In some circumstances, full-time teaching can also count as professional experience.

And like the education requirement, you can complete this requirement before or within 7 years of passing the CMA exam.

6. Abide by the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice

The IMA wants its members and particularly its CMAs to behave ethically at all times. Therefore, they ask CMAs to commit to practicing professional ethics by allowing certain principles and standards to guide their conduct.

Specifically, CMAs should act in accordance with the principles of honesty, fairness, objectivity, and responsibility. The IMA expects CMAs to encourage their coworkers to adhere to these principles as well.

Additionally, CMAs must uphold the standards of competence, confidentiality, integrity, and credibility. Failure to comply with these principles and standards could result in disciplinary action.

Finally, if a CMA encounters unethical issues or behavior in the workplace, the IMA compels CMAs to take specific steps to resolve these issues and disassociate from the organization if necessary.

7. Complete the Annual CPE Requirements

Though you must meet the IMA’s CMA CPE requirements every year so long as you want to maintain the CMA certification after you earn it, you actually have to start keeping up with these requirements after you pass the CMA exam.

The IMA will grant you the CMA certification after you’ve satisfied all of the requirements, and at that time, both your IMA membership and your CPE must be up to date. However, if you finish the CMA exam in the middle of the year, you can wait until the following year to address with your CPE obligations. Or, you can earn up to 10 CPE hours that year and carry them over to the next reporting year.

The IMA expects CMAs and CMA candidates to earn 30 hours of CPE each year, and 2 of those hours must be in the area of ethics. The CPE you seek credit from the IMA for must be relevant to a management accountant’s or financial manager’s career development and related to employer needs.

Preparing for the CMA Exam

Because you can pay the fees, meet the education requirement, comply with the statement, and satisfy the CPE requirements fairly easily as a CPA, the only CMA requirements you have to worry about are the experience and exam requirements. And depending on your job, you may already have the experience requirement in the bag as well. Then, you’d just have the CMA exam left, and you can pass that without too much difficulty when you use a CMA review course.

Surgent CMA Review has everything you need to prepare for the CMA exam effectively. And with their adaptive technology, including ReadySCORE, you can keep your study time to a minimum and still pass. Get on track to passing the CMA Exam today with Surgent CMA Review!

Stephanie is the Executive Committee member responsible for Finance at New Sight Eye Care, a charity registered in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong. She oversees the financial aspect of New Sight in Hong Kong, including accounting, taxation, financial management, and compliance. Stephanie also is a published author of a CPA book, and she is a licensed CPA as well. Additionally, she created I Pass the CMA Exam, the first CMA help site in 2010. Her guidance and mentorship have helped hundreds of thousands of candidates pass their exams. Stephanie was recently selected by the IMA to lead a webinar about the 2020 CMA exam changes.