If you’ve earned the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification, then you know that the process of doing so is challenging and rewarding. With this license, you can enjoy the CPA benefits of higher income, more vocational opportunities, heightened job security and elevated industry esteem. You might consider yourself on the ultimate career path.  

But what if you knew that you could enrich your life even more by increasing the advantages of the CPA?  

Get more mileage out of your CPA certification by combining it with the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification. Dual certification is more valuable than a single certification for several reasons, and achieving this status is fairly simple.  

What is the Certified Management Accountant Certification? 

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 
  • Risk Management & Internal Controls 
  • Performance Management 
  • Technology & Analytics 

How are management accounting responsibilities different from CPA? 

CMAs hold an analytic and advisory role, focused on business growth strategies. On the other hand, CPA responsibilities are more related to general accounting. 

Management accounting involves: 

  • Providing financial information about a company’s operations to its internal managers  
  • Presenting relevant and timely information that helps internal managers solve problems  
  • Assisting managers in other 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.” 

What are the benefits of holding two certifications? 

While either certification unlocks plenty of career opportunities, having both gives you an additional advantage. Here’s what you can expect.  

1. Become double qualified for 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 your career is off to a good start. 

However, adding the CMA can help you boost your career and make the transition into other types of accounting (like private or management). 

An individual who holds both the CPA and the CMA has a resume twice as powerful as someone with one. Employers will appreciate the proof of your ample aptitude in various areas of accounting, and you can use the unusual CPA + CMA combo to break away from the rest of the candidate pool. 

2. Increase your earning potential 

As a CPA, you can make 10-15% more than non-certified accountants. And according to the IMA, CMAs earn 58% more in median total compensation than non-CMAs. 

So, with these extra earnings, both the CPA and the CMA pay for themselves. And 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. 

3. Expand your expertise 

As you recall, the CPA Exam required you to 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 make smarter decisions. 

4. Increase distinction and respect 

Both the CPA and the CMA are among the oldest accounting certifications in America. CMAs garner immense trust and respect in the accounting industry. However, the CPA is more widely known outside the industry. 

Therefore, an individual who holds both the CPA and the CMA will be more widely recognized by all industries. Plus, your coworkers are also more likely to trust the leadership of someone who holds both.  

5. Take advantage of CPA and CMA overlap 

Just like the CPA, the requirements of the CMA certification includes passing an exam and earning CE credits. Lucky for you, CMA and CPA have overlap in both steps. 

Exam overlap for CMA and CPA

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. 

CPE overlap for CMA and CPA

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 makes earning and retaining the CMA much easier than if you were starting from scratch. 

Take advantage of course discounts 

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. 

Earn the CMA in 7 steps 

Clearly, pursuing dual certification is an extremely worthwhile endeavor. And with the CPA in hand, the worst of it is actually already over. While the CMA certification has a series of requirements that you must meet, they are not quite as demanding as the CPA requirements.  

The IMA has established 7 CMA requirements in total: 

1. Hold an 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.  

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. Visit IMA.org for the membership fees for working professionals, academics and students.  

2. Pay the CMA entrance fee 

In order to enter the CMA certification program, you must pay the CMA entrance fee. The price varies based on your IMA membership. For professional IMA members, the fee is $280. For students and academic members, it’s $210. 

Paying the fee also provides perks such as CMA Support Package access; performance feedback reports; a personalized, numbered certificate upon completion of the requirements; and employer notification of achievement. 

3. Fulfill the education requirements 

You must fulfill the CMA education qualification before or within 7 years of passing the CMA exam. 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, check the list of accredited U.S. and international institutions. In the event your institution is not accredited, you must have an independent evaluation agency assess your education. And 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 IMA. 

4. Pass both parts of the CMA Exam 

The next CMA certification requirement is passing the CMA exam. The CMA exam has two 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 requirement of CMA candidates is two continuous years of professional experience in management accounting and/or financial management. 

For your job to qualify as such, your responsibilities must include regular judgment using the principles of management accounting and financial management. Tasks might include:  

  • Auditing 
  • Company investment decision making 
  • Costing analysis 
  • Forecasting 
  • Financial statement preparation 
  • 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. 

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 ethical behavior of its members and CMA candidates. 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. 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 

You can begin fulfilling IMA’s CMA CPE requirements after you pass the CMA Exam. 

The IMA will grant you the CMA certification after you’ve satisfied all 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 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 

Since many of the CMA requirements overlap with CMA, passing the CMA Exam should be your biggest focus. 

Surgent CMA Review has everything you need to prepare for the CMA Exam effectively. With time-saving features, plenty of study formats and automatic content updates, you can trust you’ll be on track to pass on the first try.