Is CMA certification important to the Big 4? When we talk about the Big 4 and the certifications they want to see, it’s almost always the CPA. You’re going to hear about the CPA so much you’ll be sick of hearing about the CPA. And while we know that the CPA is an essential certification, it’s certainly not the only one out there.

When it comes to accounting certifications and the Big 4, are there others that will catch their eye? Will Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Ernst and Young (EY), and KPMG care if you have the CMA?

The CMA, or Certified Management Accountant certification, is one of several professional certification credentials in management accounting and financial management. People holding this certification have tested and proven that they have the knowledge necessary to work in financial planning, control, analysis, decision support, and professional ethics.

Do the Big 4 even know that the CMA exists? First, yes, they do. Anyone who is anyone in the business of accounting will know about the CMA. But does it matter to them? That’s the real question.

And the even bigger and more relevant question: If you’re planning to get into a Big 4 firm, is the CMA a useful certification? So, let’s explore that for a bit.

Why Is the CMA Certification Important in Accounting?

What value does the CMA certification have in the world of accounting? The value of the certification(s) you are pursuing is a significant first thing to understand when looking at how the Big 4 will respond to a CMA vs. a CPA.

When looking at the CMA vs. CPA, it’s important to note that the CMA is not specifically designed for public accounting in the same way as the CPA. However, it most definitely has its purpose. It’s best for industry accounting and is the top credential for management accounting.

You will see that the CPA is big with the Big 4, but the CMA is in high demand for Fortune 500 companies. Any business with manufacturing facilities that require cost and inventory management is also going to want someone with a CMA. It has its place and value.

So, while we know that the CPA rings loud as the most known and respected certification in the industry, there are also many great reasons why the CMA is respected. The Big 4 knows this just as well as we do.

What Can CMAs Do?

Because CMAs can work for a broader range of businesses, there are many things that they can do. They are mainly in demand within larger companies since many smaller ones can’t budget for a professional in management accounting. However, larger companies list it as a must.

Both CMAs and CPAs can hold the title of CFO or controller, but CMAs will almost always have the upper hand when it comes to high-level management and related decisions. Decision-making is what CMAs have been trained for.

Some things CMAs do:

  • Financial planning
  • Financial analysis
  • Internal control
  • Professional ethics
  • Reporting
  • Risk improvement strategy
  • Monitor and administer compliance
  • Identify investment management opportunities

What is the Value of the CMA to the Big 4?

Well, first, the CMA is a global certification, and the Big 4 know this. Because the Big 4 offer a wide variety of services to different clients, they will respect what the CMA offers. Big 4s also look at quality over quantity. They want to see people who are experts at what they do. They want to hire the best of the best. The Big 4 hires many CPAs, but there are fewer CMAs, which gives you a high-quality position right from the start.

Some positions that could be available for a CMA at a Big 4 include:
  • Government and Public Sector Strategy Manager
  • Risk Management Advisory Manager
  • Accounting and Reporting Transformation Senior Consultant
  • Risk Assurance Advisor/ Manager
  • Risk Transformation Advisory Senior Manager

Because their clients include multinational companies, Big 4 firms will often have jobs for CMAs in various positions. They are also known to retain a staff of management accountants dedicated to advising large companies on all things related to restructuring or potential tax savings. Strategizing is where a CMA can really shine in a Big 4 setting. If this is the kind of work you are interested in, then you might consider the CMA.

Why Should YOU Consider the CMA?

Now that you have some basics about the CMA and how it holds up in the eyes of the Big 4, are you asking, “Why should I consider the CMA?” You’re not alone, as many accounting students face this choice yearly.

One of the most promising things about the CMA is that it will help you make more money. While it’s not all about the money (or it shouldn’t be), financial success is still a contributing factor, and CMAs make good money and get high-paying positions.

Accounting experts who want to make a lot of money will sometimes consider a dual certification and get the CMA and the CPA. The Institute of Management Accountants’ salary survey has noted that accountants with both the CMA and CPA make more money than those with just a CMA or CPA.

How much more? Recent reports state that dual-certification accountants earn an average of 59% more than single-certification accountants. That can really add up! It makes the financial and time investment of getting both certifications worth it.

So, what goes into getting the CMA? It all begins with understanding how to become a CMA. First, you must research and ensure this is the right certification for you. Second, you will need to meet the CMA educational requirements. Plus, you need to pass the CMA exam. There is also an IMA membership fee that is required.

How Hard is the CMA Certification Exam?

It’s going to be challenging – but most things worth having are challenging. (In fact, you might want to read this article about Is the CMA Worth It?) However, you have all the tools available to help you succeed and to pass the exam on the first try. So, take advantage of all of the resources available to you. You’re in luck if you’re concerned that the CMA exam might be difficult. A wealth of information is out there to help you study for and pass the exam. It all begins with understanding the CMA exam format. The structure of the CMA exam is how you know what’s on the exam and how it will be presented. It’s really the first step to studying for the exam.

From there, you need to know how many hours to study for the CMA exam, and there are guides available to help you with this as well. People who have gone before you have helped pave the way to make it easier than ever before for new CMAs to study and prepare for the exam. There’s no reason you need to “wing it” when there are valuable resources to help you, especially if your goal is also to make your way to a Big 4.

Help Studying for the CMA Certification

If you need help studying for the CMA, you can do what many other savvy students have done and choose the best CMA review course. One to consider is HOCK CMA Review; HOCK has been around the industry for a long time, and they know what you need to pass. They are a popular and well-trusted course in the industry. You might also want to consider Gleim CMA after reading my head-to-head comparison of Gleim vs. Surgent CMA.

Wiley is another excellent review course, and you can get CMA discounts to help you save on your study materials. A lot of time and monetary investment goes into getting CMA certified and trying to make it into a Big 4. It just makes sense that you want to save when and where you can.

Of course, don’t forget about these absolutely free CMA practice tests!


If you’re already working in the Big 4 or plan to work in the Big 4, you need to remember that you’ll likely want an exit strategy at some point. So, you’ll be forward-thinking if you pursue the CMA. I can’t tell you how many of my peers in Big 4 went to work for the clients they audited. And of those peers, many are now in high-level decision-making positions. If you have the CMA before you exit the Big 4, you will be much more competitive among your peers who are also vying for an industry position. Therefore, I highly recommend getting the CMA in conjunction with the CPA. Plus, there is so much overlap between the CMA exam and the CPA Exam content. Consequently, it makes sense to take the CMA exam immediately or soon after passing the CPA Exam. If you do it this way, you’ll cut down your studying time significantly.

So, go for it: become one of the highly-regarded and highly-paid dual-certified accountants. This solid medium- and long-term career plan is a no-brainer regardless of how the Big 4 feels about the CMA.