The Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification is a universally recognized credential focused on management accounting and corporate finance. The Institute of Certified Management Accountants (ICMA), a division of Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), is the credentialing body for CMA certification.

What exactly do CMAs do?

In their 2021 Global Salary Survey, IMA details four main roles of CMAs: steward, operator, strategist and catalyst.

  • Stewards are responsible for safeguarding a company’s assets and ensuring compliance with financial regulations and external financial reporting.
  • Operators provide services like financial planning, treasury and tax solutions.
  • Strategists are financial leaders who align business and finance strategies for their organizations.
  • Catalysts execute new strategies related to a business’s finance function.

Typical CMA career paths and salaries

After earning the CMA credential, professionals can take a variety of operations and decision-making career paths. Job opportunities and CMA salaries differ depending on years of experience and work background.

Financial analyst

Financial analysts track financial statements, prepare reports, analyze results and give recommendations to improve company productivity. A financial analyst’s average salary is $65,817 per year. 

Cost accountant

As the title suggests, cost accountants collect, analyze and report details about a company’s costs in order to find inefficiencies that may be eliminated to save money. Throughout the CMA credentialing process, cost accountants learn the skills they need to perform successful cost accounting and to communicate strategic plans to high-level executives for implementation. The average annual salary of cost accountants is $62,207.

Financial risk manager

After acquiring the necessary analytical and decision-making skills through the CMA credential and related work experience, financial risk managers predict future changes that may affect the company’s finances and create strategic plans based upon those insights. This position requires a solid foundation of analytical skills, as well as a proficiency in mathematics. Financial risk managers make an average of $99,949 per year.

Financial controller

Financial controllers work directly with chief financial officers as heads of the finance department. This managerial position involves overseeing other accountants and accounting managers. Additionally, it involves converting data into financial reports and formulating financial strategies. A CMA credential is highly recommended for this position, because financial controllers are required to make strategic recommendations while simultaneously managing other accounting professionals. The average annual salary of a financial controller is $108,651.

Chief financial officer

The chief financial officer (CFO) is the head of a company’s financial decisions and often reports directly to the chief executive officer. CFOs are involved in financial reporting, financial forecasting and company investments. The leadership, communication and analytical skills involved in this position are all part of the CMA credentialing process. A CMA or an MBA is often required to reach positions in this level of management. CFO’s make an average annual salary of $146,053.

Who should earn the CMA?

If you are an accounting or finance professional looking to advance your career by completing an internationally recognized benchmark for strategic thinking, the CMA may be for you. Throughout the credentialing process, CMA candidates will learn how to turn data into dialogue and make important, strategic business decisions based upon that data.

Due to the CMA credential requirements, most professionals who earn the certification are more experienced; however, candidates may sit for the CMA exam before completing all certification requirements. Therefore, the CMA is a viable option if you’re looking to boost your career early on.


The CMA credential is often juxtaposed with the certified public accountant (CPA) credential. While either credential may provide a career boost, the CMA credential and the CPA license are vastly different. The CMA exam is focused on higher-level decision-making skills, specifically in corporate finance and managerial accounting, whereas the CPA exam requires a broader knowledge of many accounting and finance topics. The CPA credential is often earned before the CMA credential, because the CPA license requires only one year of work experience in accounting, rather than the two years of management accounting or financial management experience required for the CMA.

Some professionals choose to pursue both the CPA and the CMA, as possessing dual certifications affords greater career opportunities and a higher salary. According to IMA, professionals with both the CMA and CPA earn a median of 50% more than non-credentialed professionals in the same industry.

What are the requirements to become a CMA?

CMA candidates must:

  • Hold an active IMA membership
  • Pass both parts of the CMA exam
  • Have attained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
  • Have two continuous years of professional experience

Is the CMA the right choice for you?

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