Facts: How to Become a CMA in 2021

If you want to become a CMA, it’s important that you learn all the information you can before you begin. This will help you plan all the steps that will be involved in preparing for the exam, taking and passing the exam, getting certified and maintaining your certification over time. In this post, I’m going to give you a full how-to guide to help you get your CMA.

If you’re ready to take your accounting career to the next level, it all begins with getting your CMA. This globally recognized certification sets you apart as a professional in the field. It’s granted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). This means it is respected in the industry.

It will look great on job applications. Having a CMA will show that you did the work and invested the time and money to get your certification. You’ll have opportunities within the financial and accounting management fields to do things you wouldn’t have been able to do without it, which also means better jobs that pay a bigger salary.

So, let’s look at how you do it in this complete guide.

What is a CMA?

First, let’s explore what a CMA actually is. CMA stands for certified management accountant and it is a designation given to accountants who have passed the CMA exam. CMA certified professionals usually work in financial planning and analysis such as budgeting and forecasting, and also in control and professional ethics.

A CMA may hold the title of a corporate accountant, cost accountant, management accountant, risk manager, financial strategist, FP&A manager, or a similar job title in this field.

CMAs can leverage their unique skills to perform various tasks in their field such as crunching numbers, preparing financial statements, arranging funding, and more. Usually, CMAs work withing corporate finance teams in the public or private sectors of those companies, or with the government.

There are many opportunities available if you get your CMA. So, how do you do it?

Become a CMA – The Steps

Let’s look at the steps to achieving this certification. First, to get your CMA, you need to meet all of the qualification requirements. The IMA has two basics qualifications you must meet in order to apply to take the CMA exam and get certified.

You must:

Once these conditions are met, you will also need to meet the educational requirements.

Educational Requirements for CMA

In order to get your CMA credential, you need to meet the following educational requirements:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited post-secondary educational institute. It does not have to be a degree in accounting specifically.

You may take the exam before you complete your degree if you are registered for at least 6 credits per semester (as an active student). It’s also possible to qualify for an exemption if you are already a professional certificate holder who qualifies.

Finally, you will need to request an original transcript or an official letter from your qualifying organization and have it sent to the IMA for review and approval of the educational requirements.

Once these conditions are satisfied, you can register to take the exam.

Joining the IMA

As stated above, you will need to join the IMA and be in good standing to meet the procedural requirements to become a CMA. While this does require an IMA membership fee, there are other benefits to it as well.

For example, the IMA membership can provide you with many opportunities through networking, and it can give you the tools and information needed to help enhance your career as a CMA.

There are different types of memberships available and what you pay will depend on your membership level. Qualified students (6 credits or more per semester) will pay only $39 per year for their membership.

Professionals pay $245 for their annual IMA membership fees. In addition to the professional benefits above, being an IMA member also gets you discounts on the CMA exam fees.

Joining the CMA Program

Now, as mentioned above, you also have to join the CMA program. This is like an application stating that you intend to become CMA certified. This is a different step from joining the IMA. You do need to join both in order to become a CMA.

The CMA program fee is not refundable so don’t join and pay until you are ready to take the CMA exam and you know this is what you are going for. Once you’ve made that decision, here are the fees for the CMA program:

  • $188 – student fee
  • $250 – professional fee

You will be required to sit for the exam within 12 months and complete the CMA program in its entirety within 3 years of enrolling.

Become a CMA – Take the Exam

Next, you need to take the CMA exam. Your first step will be to study because you want to greatly increase your chances of passing the CMA exam parts on the first try each. This saves you money and time when getting your CMA.

A good study review course will help you pass the CMA on your first try. Investing in a quality CMA course is the best way to ensure you pass the exam and that you don’t lose money in fees and retesting because you didn’t prepare properly. The CMA exam is given in two parts and you can register for, pay for, and take each exam part separately.

While there are free CMA study materials available, it’s best to purchase a comprehensive review course too.

Register for the CMA Exam

When you have sufficiently studied and you’re ready to take the exam, you will need to register. This will include providing important information about yourself as well as which part of the exam you are sitting for. Your CMA exam fees are non-refundable so be sure you pick your date and time carefully and don’t miss it.

The exam fee for each part is:

  • $388 – students
  • $415 – professionals

Paying the CMA Exam Fees

You’re also going to be responsible for CMA fees, which is one of the highest expenses of the entire CMA Program. Again, being an IMA member can save you some money. Furthermore, if you take the exam while you are still a student, that will also save you a little bit more on your fees. Let’s take a look at the breakdown:

IMA Membership Fee

  • $245 – professionals
  • $230 – students

CMA Program Fee

  • $250 – professionals
  • $188 – students

Exam Registration Fee

  • $415 – professionals
  • $311 – students

Two Parts of the CMA Exam

The two parts of the CMA exam are as follows:

  • Part 1 – Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control
  • Part 2 – Financial Decision Making

Each part contains 100 multiple-choice questions which you will have three hours to complete and two essay questions, that you have an hour to complete.

In total, you have four hours to complete each part of the CMA exam. Once you complete and pass both sections of this exam, you will be able to apply for your CMA license. However, there are a few more steps to getting it and keeping it.

Maintain Your License

Once you have completed all of these steps and successfully passed both parts of the CMA exam, you will earn your CMA certification. However, it’s also important that you maintain your license.

To do this, you must pay:

  • Your IMA Membership fee to make sure your IMA membership remains active
  • Your annual CMA maintenance fee

There are also continuing education requirements that you must maintain. These include:

  • 30 hours of continuing education per year
  • 20 of these 30 hours must be in the area of Ethics and comply with the IMA Statement of Ethics for practitioners.


Therefore, as you can see, there are many steps involved to become a CMA but the steps are fairly straightforward and the process is streamlined. This is a highly respected credential that can help you gain an edge over the competition in a very prolific field. While it will take a hefty investment of money and time to achieve your certification, you can easily see that the benefits are very much worth it.

Having your CMA certification puts you in a great position for better jobs and higher-paying positions. Are you ready to get your CMA?

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About the Author Lisa C

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