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What Is a Certified Management Accountant?

Certified management accountant

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A certified management accountant (CMA) is an accounting professional who is experienced in financial decision-making. Having a CMA certification shows high-level skills in managing corporate finances, in addition to accounting tasks like organizing and summarizing financial data.

What Do Certified Management Accountants Do?

Certified management accountants are financial decision-makers, often working for large businesses or governments on strategic financial planning and analysis. For example, a company might hire a CMA if it’s planning to expand in the near future. CMAs are skilled at managing the finances involved with taking on new liabilities and adding more employees, as well as analyzing the costs and benefits of new ventures. CMAs may also advise a company on risk and investment management

“A significant advantage of the CMA is the emphasis on strategy and management,” says Nikki Awuma, CMA at “In other words, not only putting together and managing accurate financials, but gleaning valuable insights and actionable data from the financials.”  

The day-to-day of a certified management accountant can sometimes be similar to any other type of accountant: You spend a lot of time tracking and reporting financial information. However, CMAs also play a bigger role in the management of a company as a whole. 

“The roles and responsibilities a CMA might be assigned include general ledger work and entries, reconciliations, month-end close process, financial reporting, financial planning and analysis (FP&A), variance analysis, risk management, internal controls and more,” Awuma says.

Certified Management Accountant Job Titles

Having a broad skill set often means having a range of potential job titles, too. Some of these titles include: 

  • Private accountant
  • Corporate accountant
  • Managerial accountant
  • Cost accountant
  • Industrial accountant
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Where Do Certified Management Accountants Work?

CMAs have a broad set of skills, allowing them to work in a wide variety of industries. Although many work for large organizations or governments, a CMA can specialize in certain sectors, such as education, manufacturing, insurance, communication, or finance. Most companies can benefit from having someone who can make meaningful decisions based on financial data. 

Certified management accountants also work in consulting roles. For instance, the Big Four accounting firms (Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, and EY) often have CMAs on staff to advise companies on corporate finance activities like restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and cost accounting.

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How to Become a Certified Management Accountant


You need at least a bachelor’s degree to become a CMA. While a degree in accounting, finance, or a related field may be useful, it’s not always necessary. Some schools also offer programs specifically for the certified management accountant career path or special courses to help you prepare for CMA exams. 

To qualify for the CMA exam, you must have a few years (two or more) of work experience in accounting. So, a degree in a finance-related field can help you get the work experience you need before taking the CMA exam.


The Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) is the governing body for CMA certifications.. The basic requirements for this certification include: 

  • Obtaining a bachelor’s degree
  • Passing the CMA exam
  • Two or more years of work experience in management accounting 
  • Annual continuing education credits to maintain the certification 

The CMA exam is a two-part test that involves 12 core competency areas. The first part of the exam deals with financial planning, analytics, and performance, while the second part covers strategic financial management and ethics.


A certified management accountant needs to have strong accounting skills, including: 

However, a CMA also needs management and leadership skills and certain soft skills, like: 


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors overall have an average annual salary of $86,740 across all designations and industries. However, CMAs may see slightly higher salaries because of their specialized management skills. According to a survey by the Institute of Management Accountants, the median salary for CMAs was 58% higher than non-CMAs.


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CMA vs. CPA Designations

The most well-known certification for an accountant is the CPA or Certified Public Accountant designation. While a CMA focuses on strategy and management, CPAs primarily focus on summarizing and reporting financial information, handling taxes, and auditing companies’ finances. 

A CPA license may be required for certain careers in finance, but the CMA license is rarely required. However, obtaining a CMA certification can be a great option for people with an accounting background who want to move up the ladder. 

“If someone were to tell me that they wanted to be a [Chief Financial Officer], [Vice President] of Finance, or Corporate Controller, I recommend the CMA track over the CPA,” says Awuma. 

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McKayla Girardin is a NYC-based writer with Forage. She is experienced at transforming complex concepts into easily digestible articles to help anyone better understand the world we live in.

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