What Is a CMA Certification?

The certified management accountant (CMA) certification is a designation for accounting professionals who have demonstrated a high degree of proficiency not only in accounting, but also in evaluating an entity’s management decisions using financial metrics. The terms “management accountant,” “managerial accountant” and “cost accountant” are often used interchangeably. For a few more detailed questions and answers about what it takes to become a CMA and what life as a CMA is like, read on

What Is a Managerial Accountant?

A managerial accountant analyzes an entity’s cash inflows and outflows and uses the cash flow data collected to advise the entity’s managers regarding that entity’s short-term and long-term strategic business decisions. As a practical matter, this means that managerial accountants spend their workdays poring over reams of financial information in its most raw forms. If the idea of working with numbers makes you even a little bit uncomfortable, you may want to think twice about becoming a managerial accountant.

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How Much Schooling Do I Need to Become a Managerial Accountant?

At a minimum, you will need a bachelor’s degree in accounting from an accredited college or university. After you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you may also want to consider getting a master’s degree in accounting, which will increase both the breadth and the depth of your accounting know-how.

What Will I Study in School?

Your primary undergraduate major will be accounting. Completing your accounting degree will likely require you to take courses in financial accounting, managerial or cost accounting, individual federal income taxation, corporate taxation, partnership taxation, state and local taxation, accounting periods and methods, accounting information systems, accounting ethics and auditing theory and practice, among others In addition, you will probably need to take several business-related non-accounting classes, such as corporate finance, organizational theory and structure, business law, microeconomics, macroeconomics, statistics and probability for business, introduction to marketing, business information systems, closely held business organizations, and publicly traded corporations.

Where Can I Work As a Managerial Accountant?

Almost anywhere. Yes, really. You read that correctly. Any organization that makes or spends money needs at least one managerial accountant to advise its managers. This means you could work at a private company, for a healthcare organization, at a government agency, at a financial services firm or in the nonprofit sector. The choice is all yours.

How Do I Earn My CMA Certification?

For starters, you must have at least two years of work experience, and you must have worked as a managerial accountant for at least two years. Once you have met the work experience requirement, you must pay for, study for and pass two exams, which you have a maximum of three years to complete. You should allow yourself at least one year to study for and pass both exams. After you have passed your exams, you will be required to complete 30 or more hours of continuing professional education in accounting each year to retain your certification.


If you are an intellectually curious person with an interest in the intersection between financial metrics and management decisions, you should consider pursuing a CMA certification.