To become a CMA, you must learn all the information you can before you begin. Understanding the CMA certification will help you plan all the steps involved in preparing for the exam, taking and passing the exam, getting certified, and maintaining your certification over time.

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 because it’s granted by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

So, there are many benefits to becoming a CMA. For instance, listing that you are a CMA will look great on job applications. Plus, 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.

Next, 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, 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 within corporate finance teams in those companies’ public or private sectors 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, you need to learn about the CMA exam fees and meet all of the CMA requirements. The IMA has two basic qualifications you must meet 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 addition to the experience requirements, you also need to satisfy 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 — accounting major or any other major). 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 CMA education requirements are satisfied, you’re good to go.

Joining the IMA

Additionally, 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 $45 per year for their membership.

Professionals pay $275 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

Further, you also have to enter the CMA program. Entrance into the  CMA program is like an application stating that you intend to become CMA certified. This is a different step from joining the IMA. And you do need to pay both fees to become a CMA.

The CMA program fee (also known as the CMA entrance fee) is not refundable, so don’t join and pay until you are ready to take the CMA exam. Once you’ve made that decision, here are the fees for the CMA program:

  • $188 – student CMA entrance fee
  • $280 – professional CMA entrance 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. It has two sections, and the topics in the CMA exam part 1 differ from part 2.

Your first step will be to study because you want to significantly increase your chances of passing the CMA exam parts on the first try. Passing the first time saves you money and time when getting your CMA.

Studying with a CMA Review Course

Most candidates use a CMA review course to study for the CMA exam. After all, the exam covers a lot of material. And without a solid study plan, it can seem overwhelming.

Therefore, an excellent CMA 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. One of our partner websites has reviewed the best CMA prep courses to help you fit the right one for your learning style. For these first-hand insights, check out these reviews of Gleim CMABecker CMA, NINJA CMA ReviewHOCK CMA vs. Becker CMA, Gleim CMA vs. Becker, Wiley CMA vs. Becker CMA, or even HOCK vs. Gleim.

Register for the CMA Exam

The CMA exam is given in two parts, and you can register for, pay for, and take each exam part separately.

When you have sufficiently studied and you’re ready to take the exam, you will need to register. Registering 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:

  • $345 per CMA exam part – students
  • $460 per CMA exam part – professionals

Paying the CMA Exam Fees

You’re also going to be responsible for CMA fees, which are one of the highest expenses of the entire CMA Program. Again, being an IMA member can save you some money. Plus, popular CMA review courses also offer discounts, so you’ll want to consider these CMA Discounts. 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

  • $275 – professionals
  • $45 – students

CMA Program Fee (also known as CMA Entrance Fee)

  • $280 – professionals
  • $188 – students

Exam Registration Fee (Per CMA Exam Part)

  • $460 – professionals
  • $345 – students

Two Parts of the CMA Exam

The two parts of the CMA exam are as follows:

  • Part 1 – Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics
  • Part 2 – Strategic Financial Management

Each part contains 100 multiple-choice questions (MCQs), 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. The MCQs count more toward your CMA score (75%) than the essays (25%).

Once you complete and pass both sections of this exam, you can apply for your CMA license. However, there are a few more steps to getting and keeping it. While waiting for your CMA Exam results, you should learn what it takes to maintain your credential.

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 essential that you maintain your license.

To do this, you must pay the following:

  • 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 professional education (CPE) per year
  • 2 of these 30 hours must be in the area of Ethics and comply with the IMA Statement of Ethics for practitioners.

In the past, CMA holders sometimes had to go out of their way to find opportunities for CPE. However, today it’s much simpler. For instance, several companies like Becker now offer online accounting CPE courses. Becker’s CPE classes come in different formats and have flexible schedules. This way, you’ll be able to meet your CPE requirement regardless of your busy career.


So, it seems like many steps are involved to become a CMA. However, the steps are relatively straightforward, and the process is streamlined. The CMA is a highly respected credential that can help you gain an edge over the competition in a 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.

Your CMA certification puts you in an excellent position for better jobs and higher-paying positions. Are you ready to get your CMA?

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