What is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)?

Definition: A certified management accountant or CMA is a professional designation in the accounting and finance world that demonstrates the professional has expertise in strategic business management and financial accounting. This accreditation is similar to the CPA credential, but it focuses more heavily on business and operational management.

What Does CMA Mean?

The Institute of Management Accountants or IMA regulates and grants the CMA credential to candidates that have passed the exam and fulfilled all of the educational and work experience requirements.

The CMA exam is not as difficult as the CPA exam because of the subject matter and they length. It consists of a 100 question multiple-choice section and an essay section. The entire exam lasts 4 hours, where as, the CPA exam consists of 4 separate four hour sections. Even though it’s not as long of an exam as the CPA exam, it is still difficult and shouldn’t be underestimated. Most candidates purchase a CMA prep course to help them learn and review the material before their exam day.


Before candidates can to apply to take the exam, they must also meet the minimum education requirements of a bachelor’s degree including accounting, management, finance, and economics coursework. In addition, students must have at least two years of management accounting work experience. This is why many students choose to pursue the CPA designation before they take the CMA exam.

After fulfilling the educational requirements and passing the exam, the IMA will grant a certification qualifying you to become a staff accountant, financial analyst, or financial manager. Many CMAs also get promoted to executive level officer positions like CFO, COO, and CEO because of their expertise and knowledge in accounting, finance, and management.