What is a Certified Management Accountant?

An accountant who evaluates an organization’s financial data for strategic planning purposes and who holds certification credentials for this specialty area within accountancy is called a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). Instead of reporting historic financial data to a variety of stakeholders in accordance with national and international financial reporting standards, management accountants make recommendations about the future use of organizations’ finances. They regularly use a broad array of skills to accomplish these tasks such as quantitative analysis, multimedia presentation, interpersonal and communication skills.

These accountants must be able to quickly learn different financial software systems, and they often possess above average working knowledge of spreadsheet applications.

Management accountants present their research findings and recommendations in succinct formats that are supported by quantitative information that they can easily access and explain to audiences in greater detail.

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Here are the primary steps that business professionals take to become CMAs.

Education and Training

Most management accountants minimally earn four year undergraduate degrees in business administration with concentrations in areas like accounting, finance, economics and management.

Sometimes management accountants hold undergraduate degrees in math and engineering disciplines, but these exceptions happen most often when people decide to transition into finance related careers from other technical disciplines.

Advanced degrees in business, accounting and finance are required for many management accounting jobs. Course topics that directly relate to management accounting include those for cost analysis, cost behavior, budgeting, cost systems and pricing.

Work Experience

Most of today’s employers strive to select employment candidates who can quickly make significant contributions as soon as they are hired. This often means identifying graduates who have participated in relevant internships. These internship positions as well as the full time jobs held by management accountants are found throughout all industries. Examples of accounting internships available to today’s students are the Financial Leadership Internship that is sponsored by AT&T, the Financial Management Program conducted by General Electric and the Finance Rotation Analyst Internship administered by Microsoft.

Besides private companies, managerial accountants also work for government agencies as well as non-profit organizations.

The heavy emphasis that university course work places on cost analysis often steers aspiring managerial accountants into the niche managerial accounting category that is known as cost accounting.

Professional Certification

Finance professionals pursue industry certifications to establish credibility, gain access to better jobs and enhance their salary potential in their current jobs. Besides the certified public accountant designation that is the most common credential held by accountants worldwide, the CMA designation may be the most useful professional credential that is available to management accountants. This certification is administered by the Institute of Management Accountants, which is a private association that is concerned with the promotion of the managerial accounting career field through the implementation of standards, best practices and business ethics. A finance or accounting professional can earn the CMA designation by completing an exam that demonstrates their deep knowledge of managerial accounting principles, methods and processes. CMA candidates must have two years of continous managerial accounting work experience.


While all types of financial professionals find employment as management accountants, gaining industry certifications usually makes it a lot easier for them to find and maintain quality positions in this career field. Specialized certifications like the certified management accountant designation provide convenient ways for employers to assess the competence and professional potential of job candidates as well as their current employees.