15 Tips on How to Study for the CMA Exam While Working Full Time

15 tips on how to study for the CMA exam while working full time

Are you a full-time professional looking to earn the designation but don’t know how to study for the CMA exam?

If yes, then the good news is that you don’t need to quit your job to make time for its preparation. All you need is effective time management skills, an organized routine, and a step-by-step CMA exam prep course to see through the exam without sacrificing your day job.

Once you decide how long to study for the CMA exam, you can implement a plan to make the most of your study time.

Here are my solid 15 tips on how to study for the CMA exam, come out on top, and without having a drastic impact on your full-time job.

1. Schedule your priorities

1. Schedule your priorities

You don’t want to do a lazy job or be an inefficient resource at work. The best way to avoid this is to sit down with your employer and plan the coming months in terms of what projects or tasks are on the horizon. Once you can anticipate your workload you will best know how to manage your study time.

2. Flexible work timing

2. Flexible work timing

If you’ve been a good employee, chances are that your boss will show some leniency in granting you flexible hours to help you better prepare for the CMA exam. After all, becoming a CMA will be beneficial to your employer too.

3. Cut out the noise

3. Cut out the noise

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. This means that you will need to cut down on time spent on doing non-productive activities like watching TV, social networking, or going out to too many happy hours.

Online CMA classes let you go at your own pace, but you still have to make time each week for studying.

4. Health is wealth

4. Health is wealth

While you’re studying and working, it’s quite likely that it will affect your body, and exhaustion will creep in. It’s important that you eat healthily, exercise regularly, and get adequate amounts of rest in between to keep yourself healthy.

5. Resist temptation

5. Resist temptation

You will get invited to a lot of events, social obligations, and office parties, but you need to remind yourself that your CMA exam is your top priority. Everything else is secondary.

6. Motivation

6. Motivation

One of the best tips for how to study for the CMA exam is to stay motivated. Not everybody concentrates on their personal growth and development. The fact that you have taken that step should serve as a reminder that you need to make the most of the time available at hand.

7. Productivity hacks

7. Productivity hacks

If managing your time doesn’t come naturally to you, then make use of planners, organizers, time tables, charts and stick them on the walls of your room so that you know what you should be studying next.

Also, part of knowing how to study for the CMA is being able to visualize how much free time you have and how much you need to allot to studying. It will make balancing your 9-5 and studying so much easier.

“A man who dares waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” – Charles Darwin

Keep an eye out for procrastination. Keeping in check and following a CMA study guide will help you succeed!

8. Call a friend

8. Call a friend

Not literally, but figuratively. Committing to a goal and asking your friend to be your accountability-buddy makes you work all the harder. Let yourself be accountable to that friend should you digress from your goal. Committing to a colleague at work for help in this matter will also be helpful.

Or consider joining a review course with accountability check-ins to keep you on track weekly until exam day.

9. Find your sweet spot

9. Find your sweet spot

There are different places and environments in which our productivity thrives. What is it that makes you work your best? Find that spot, listen to that music that fuels your mind, and helps you concentrate better. This will not only better your studying, but also your productivity in your full-time job.

10. Career centers

10. Career centers

If your current employer has a career center within its HR department reach out to them. Chances are that someone there will be able to help you plan your studies and manage your work goals effectively as you pursue CMA accounting.

11. Find a study buddy

11. Find a study buddy

Is there anyone else in your organization who is also preparing for the CMA exam? If yes, then you can exchange notes, review each other’s progress, and act as sounding boards when you’re stuck or lacking motivation.

12. Plan ahead

12. Plan ahead

You will need to start thinking a couple of weeks ahead if you want to manage your time. Figure out your strong and weak areas and how much time needs to be devoted and slot your study pattern accordingly.

13. Have some fun

13. Have some fun

All work no play is no good for anyone. You are allowed to have a cheat day every once in a while where all you do is relax, go out and not think about work or CMA at all.

14. Give it all you got at work

14. Give it all you got at work

When you’re at work, you shouldn’t be studying. That would be a disservice to your employer and could potentially get you in trouble. You still need to excel at your work and doing so will give you even more of an impetus to repeat the same in your CMA exam. Success breeds success.

15. Take a week off before your exam

15. Take a week off before your exam

When the exam day nears, request a few days off from your employer. This will give you the chance to recharge your mental energy and make sure it’s focused towards the exam.

To sum up, all it takes to effectively manage your work and study at the same time is commitment. Once you do that, you will find a way to use 24 hours of each day to your advantage and reap the benefits of that in both the short and long term.

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.”

– Thomas Jefferson

Which one speaks to you? Pick and choose the ones that make the most sense to you and share them below with everyone. 

Nathan Liao

Hi, I’m Nathan Liao (aka the CMA Coach)! For the last 10 years, over 82,000 accounting and finance pros came knocking at my door seeking guidance and help. If you’re also aiming to conquer the CMA exam on your very first try—without wasting away time or money—you’ve found your ultimate guide. Dive in deeper to discover more about me and the dedicated team that powers CMA Exam Academy. Click here and let’s embark on this journey together!

43 Comments on “15 Tips on How to Study for the CMA Exam While Working Full Time”

  1. Sir, I am a MBA in finance holder presently working in finance for full time. Now i am very much intrested to do costing course of CMA. So, I have to start from beginning or i have any option to join from intermediate level. And also suggest me how to plan workings hours and attending the classes.

    1. Hi Sowjanya,

      Great to hear about your interest in the CMA course.

      Regarding where to start, with your MBA in finance, you might find some familiarity with the concepts, but you’ll still start with either Part 1 or Part 2.

      Our weekly guided program was designed for full-time working professionals to help manage coursework and other responsibilities. The lectures are pre-recorded so you can watch them at your convenience.

      We also have a Fundamentals of Accounting textbook inside our program to help candidates understand basic accounting terminology and concepts. It’s been a game-changer for many of my students.

      Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any other questions.

  2. Hello sir! the article was handy. But suppose I am working in one of the big 4’s after completing my intermediate in CMA I have to undergo 15 months of practical training, is it possible that I can consider my work experience in the field of finance as a reasonable training period?

  3. Three months left and exam held on 1st july 2023 . i am working . can i try to combine both groups ?

    1. Hi Nikita,

      I don’t usually recommend students take both exam parts within one exam window. The exams are hard, so it’s best to focus on one part at a time to increase your chances of passing on your first attempt.


  4. Hi Nathan,

    Hope you are doing great.

    I have found your article very helpful with thorough information.

    I am looking for some advise from you. I have been working as Accounting technician with no accounting background, I really see myself working in Finance sector in the future I have enrolled to study part time in Msc in Accounting & Finance in Oct which will be fully funded by my Employer. With this, I have also enrolled myself with IMA to learn CMA and really keen to crack those two exams for my career & self growth.
    I am hoping to book first exam in Oct just before I start my college so I can finish first part and book the second one sometime next year as per my convenience.
    I am just little worrying about how to get start with my CMA studies, will that be doable in next four months with no proper accounting skills.
    Will your text books help me to understand and plan my study for next four months. What else should I be doing alongside with Text books? How can I crack this in one go?
    And, how should I do essay sections?

    Thank you for your guidance & support.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi Chetan,

      The best way I can help you pass the exams is via my CMA Exam Academy program. It’s a weekly step-by-step program.

      CMA candidates often come from varying backgrounds, but we’ve had students with no previous accounting background who successfully completed our program and passed the exam.

      For those who don’t have an accounting/finance background, learning the fundamentals of accounting is the first step before diving into the CMA exam content. Our course includes a textbook to help in this area.

      To learn more please click the link below for all details:

  5. Sir I’m Yasin.
    I’m completed my MCA course,
    Sir is it possible to do a CMA course while doing a job sir ,
    If it is possible How many hours I need to prepare a day for part1 exams while doing the job sir.

    1. Hi Yasin,

      It is possible to earn your CMA while working full time.

      Once you’re ready to begin the CMA exam prep, you can follow my 16-week study program and devote 8-10 hrs/week to your exam prep. That way, you’ll complete the course for one part in 4 months.

      If you cannot fit lengthy sessions into your schedule, you can start at a slower pace and study in small chunks. Retention may become an issue when studying over a longer period, but as long as you frequently review previous topics, you’ll do great.

      You can also read this article for the best time management tips to help you achieve that goal.

      If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

  6. Hi Nathan,

    I’m currently pursuing MBA in Marketing after completing Graduation in Commerce. I would like to pursue CMA USA which needs relevant work experience to get certified. So, I’m confused that do I need work history in specific finance zones? Because it is most likely I’ll be placed in a marketing job.

    1. Hi Midhun,

      You can learn more about the work experience requirement here.

      Candidates can choose to fulfill it after passing the CMA exam, which gives them a competitive edge in the job marketplace and the knowledge they gain from studying for the CMA helps them advance to management accounting positions quicker.


  7. Hey Nathan,

    I am working since 4.5 years and want to pursue CMA US now. But my shift timings are 6 PM to 3 AM. If I am not wrong this course is of 6 months right? I really want to opt this course and want to crack in my first attempt. I am a B.com graduate and CA inter. But there is a huge study gap. Please advise how can i manage to prepare for this exam?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Akansha,

      The study plan in my coaching course is for 16 weeks, but you have the flexibility to move through the program at your own pace if you’d like.

      Your access to all course materials and coaching support will last for 2 years if you enroll in the combo course, and 1 year if you enroll in one part at a time.

      Let me know if you have any other questions, Akansha.

      I look forward to coaching you to CMA exam success!


  8. Hello Sir..,

    I am Kamal , and i am working in MNC company and want o do CMA , so i want to know that for working Person how to do Article ship for CMA as i have to quit my job. because it is necessary for financial need. so how to manage this.

    kindly suggest

    1. Hi Kamal,

      You don’t need to quit your job to prepare for the CMA exam. I have a comprehensive article on the steps to becoming a CMA – check it out here.

      But if you have more questions, please reach out.


  9. Hi Sir,

    I’m Pavithra from Bangalore. I completed B.com in 2015 and now im working in MNC from past 4 years. I’m interested in doing CMA, but I don’t know how and where to start since I’m a full time employee. Is it possible to self study or should I opt for classroom training.
    Could you please guide me with the details.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Pavithra,

      As a full-time employee, it may be challenging to attend live classroom lectures, so I would suggest opting for an online program instead.

      If you’d like to be guided on every step of your journey until you pass your CMA exam, then my CMA coaching course would fit your needs best. It combines the best of both worlds: the flexibility to study at your own time, and also the accountability, step-by-step study plan, and coaching support offered within an instructor-led course.

      If you have any other questions or doubts, just hit reply and I’ll gladly help you clear them up,


  10. Hi Nathan Sir,

    This is Rahul. your article is very motivating and really helps to add fuels to the thought of ones who are willing to do CMA like me.
    I want to know from you that i am an accountant and live a bachelor life. I barely get time for study. But i want to do my preparation for my CMA. Please guide me on the same.

    1. Hi Rahul,

      That’s great to hear! I’m glad you found this article motivating 🙂

      You can reduce your study time by opting for a coaching course instead of self-studying. With a coaching course like the one we offer at the CMA Exam Academy, you’ll be guided on what and for how long to study to get the best results so that you don’t waste time figuring out on your own how to navigate the CMA material. And if you feel you don’t fully understand a topic or a concept, you’ll be able to drop questions for my team and me, and we’ll get back to you with detailed explanations in less than 24 hours.

      This course was designed to help busy professionals like yourself prepare more efficiently for their exams and pass them on their first attempt.

      If you have any other questions or concerns, just hit reply and I’ll gladly clear them up for you 🙂


  11. Dear sir
    I have completed foundation and intermediate level at first go in 2012, and wasted 4 years after that for govt job preparation,I am working as a manager in privileged private bank since last 3 years,with the pressure of sales and branch it is really difficult and I want to complete this final level now with job,how can I start preparing now and will it be beneficial for for my future growth,what all options of job do I have after this. Please guide……

    1. Hi Mayank,

      Are you preparing for the Indian CMA? I’m asking because there is no foundation and intermediate level in the US CMA exam – this is the exam that I offer coaching support for.

      But if you’d like to pursue the US CMA, which is a global certification and also recognized in India, I’d be happy to help you in your journey.

      Click here to learn more about the US CMA certification.

      Thank you,

  12. Hi Nathan

    With all these questions I have one more quick question what if I will not be able to do 16 weeks consecutively for health or some other reasons would you be able to redesign or what else you would do ?


    1. The program is flexible to fit your needs. Although we encourage our students to complete one module per week, if that’s not possible we adjust the program to fit the needs of our students. Thanks, Nathan

  13. Thank you Nathan for your reply . I don’t think I am self study person I need some one to guide me . I will check out the link you have sent me .


  14. Hi Nathan,

    I am planing to start CMA this year and I am mother of 11 year old and full time accounting job and starting studies after very long gap , can you please let me know which material I should buy for study the exams or which one would fit better for me and how I can manage the time , I would appreciate your reply.

    Thanks !

    1. Hi Nav, I appreciate you for reaching out. Juggling the exam with a full time job and kids is no joke. If you are disciplined, don’t procrastinate and like to figure things out on your own, then any of the self-study courses will work just fine. But if you’re looking for a structured program with highly personalized coaching support, check out this course here. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out again. Thanks, Nathan

    1. Hi Nathan,

      I work full time and am a mother of two young kids who need my full care and… well, I have issue with time management..

      Do you think I have chance to pass CMA exams? What i need to do to achieve my goal within a year?

      1. Hi Vittoria, It sounds like a guided course may be a good fit for you. Self-study courses won’t provide you with the structure you’ll need to complete the course and take your exam. The biggest issue with most self-study courses is not the course itself, but fighting procrastination. This is why I recommend a guided course like this one for people who have issues with time management.

        A guided course will work if you are able to devote at least 15 hours a week to your study program. That’s about 2 hours per day. Do you think that would be feasible for you? Nathan

  15. Hi Nathan,
    this is Syed I have just started studying for CMA but I found it very difficult still I am working in Accounts Dept, Nathan you said that you are studying for 3 Hours Daily at Star Bucks but my question is how we can practice problems at coffee shop or out side the house because I found that there is less theory and more problems. Are you doing the problems at coffee shop or just reading them?
    Your Answer will be very much helpful to me.
    Thanks in advance

    1. Hi Syed,

      Thanks for reaching out. I used my iPad or laptop to take practice exams at coffee shops. I just had to make sure I chose a coffee shop with fast Wi-Fi. I also read too. I liked to have noise in the background. It helped me stay alert for some reason. Studying at home made me sleepy or just lazy. Being out helped. But I know it may not be the case for many. This is just something that worked for me. Thanks, Nathan

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    1. I’m glad to hear that, Hima. If you need more help or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out!

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