How to Become an Accountant Without an Accounting Degree

Do you like numbers? Are you detail-oriented and think that a career in accounting might be perfect for you? The only problem is you don’t have a related degree.

You, like thousands of others, are interested in moving into an accounting career, but worry that it may be impossible without spending years in school earning an accounting degree. The good news is, there is a way for you to become an accountant without one.

How to become an accountant without an accounting degree, you ask? Let me break it down for you.

Get into Managerial Accounting

The CMA allows candidates with any 3 or 4 year bachelor’s degree to take the exam, among other exam prerequisites. Whether you studied business, psychology or anything else, as long as you graduated from an accredited institution, you are eligible.

Obviously the exam material will be much easier for someone with a finance and accounting background, but if you prepare for the exam properly, you too can pass.

Better yet, taking the CMA exam fast tracks your career because you learn the skills and knowledge that once was only acquired from years of working experience. Now, instead of spending 3, 5, even 10 years of working to learn the ropes of the industry, you can jump ahead by devouring the CMA exam curriculum.

What if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree of any kind?

You’d be surprised how common this is, but more good news — there are exemptions.

The first exemption is available for candidates who are fully qualified ACCA members. The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants is an international accountancy qualification that is recognized across the world. The IMA and ACCA have a mutual agreement allowing fully qualified ACCA members to qualify for the exam regardless of whether or not they hold a bachelor’s degree.

To become ACCA qualified you must complete and pass 14 papers in total. There are several papers that offer exemptions based on past educational experience.

To learn more about the ACCA and how to become qualified, visit http://www.accaglobal.com/ca/en.html

The second exemption is stated in the CMA Handbook. Candidates who do not hold a bachelor’s degree can plead their case to the IMA and explain why past educational or work experience, and any other credentials they may have, qualify them. If accepted, the IMA will allow you to take the CMA exam without holding a bachelor’s degree.

Showcase your Related Skills

How else to become an accountant without an accounting degree? On top of earning credentials like the CMA, you will want to highlight any related skills.

Any experience you have with finance or accounting based software, examples of bookkeeping or detail-oriented work, and so on can be valuable when applying to accountant positions. If you have attended any seminars or conferences that were accounting related you will also want to mention these on your resume. This sort of experience can really appeal to potential employers.

Taking Your Career to the Next Level

Accounting and finance is a great industry to go into if you are looking for a stable career. Now, more than ever, is the best time to work towards an accounting certification like the CMA because employers are in desperate need of the skills and knowledge they possess, yet there is a lack of CMAs available to fill these positions.
Thanks to the low barrier of entry for the CMA exam, you can earn your designation with the right study plan and review course. Don’t let  your lack of an accounting degree hold you back from a promising career as a management accountant. For more information on how I can help you go from zero accounting background to becoming a Certified Management Accountant, visit CMA Exam Academy.

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32 Comments on “How to Become an Accountant Without an Accounting Degree”

  1. Thanks for sharing this post. I am an Economics major and also did a Masters in Operational Research. Both of this are outside the USA. Currently I am about to complete MBA Finance in the US and I am waiting for my results for CMA Part 2. As you can see I have zero accounting credits. I wanted to do the CPA after my CMA but for the lack of accounting credits. I was trying to find out if the AICPA accepts the CMA in lieu of the 24 credit hours of accounting. Thank you.

    1. Hi Felix,

      There are IMA CPE credits which is also recognized by NASBA. Log in your IMA account and check this link.

      Thanks and Regards,
      Nathan

  2. I was studied BE. but i have experience in accounts field (2 years). still i have lot of doubts. so how to clear. which book suitable to refer.

  3. Hi this is salil am not able to finish b com degree due to several family reasons but am having experience in same field more than 17 years so is it possible to do CMA ON THAT BASIS

    1. Hi Salil,

      Besides the experience requirement, you also need to meet the education requirement (a bachelor’s degree) in order to qualify for the CMA certification.

      You could try reaching out directly to IMA explaining your situation to check whether they can make an exception for you.

      Best of luck!

  4. I am a Pharmacist with a Masters degree in Pharmacy. I want a change in my career and wondered if this would apply to myself?

    1. Hi Inderjit,

      If you want to get into the management accounting field, then the CMA certification will be the fast-track to it.

      Check the roadmap to becoming a CMA to find all the steps you need to take to become certified.

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

  5. Hello Nathan,
    I have only completed Exec Diploma im Accounting conducted by the University Malaysia CCED. In order to achieve my goal to become an accountant i have come across this article about CMA. Currently i am working as a treasury executive in a mnc company. Not considering my promotion my qualification is one of the reason holding the management back. I need you advise. Thank you.

    1. Hi Kalaivani,

      I recommend you to send your resume to the IMA to see if they’ll accept your work experience. If they do, then your are cleared to prepare for the exam and get certified.

      You can also fulfill the experience requirement within 7 years after passing the exam.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  6. Hi Nathan,

    I’m on my way to earning an AAS degree in accounting within the next several years. Would I be able to sit for the CMA exam or would I be disqualified? I don’t currently possess industry experience, but I’m on my way to working with small businesses in that department once I complete junior college.

    Thanks!

    Yvette

    1. Yes, absolutely. If you don’t want to get an accounting degree, then the CMA certification would be the fastest route to a career in management accounting. I recommend you to enroll in a coaching course though, so you can get all the coaching support you need to fully grasp the tough concepts and pass the exam on your first attempt.

  7. I do not see job prospects from the CMA? will my background of IT and customer service work and passing the CMA change my prospects for accounting jobs? I have a Finance degree

    1. Yes, passing the CMA exam will pave the way for you to get into management accounting and will open new career opportunities for you.

      As a CMA you’ll have the necessary management skills to make financial decisions for a business or corporation, and hence be able to obtain an executive role and a higher salary.

  8. Hi
    Ive battled with finishing any sort of degree.
    Do to family commitments and work commitments.
    I handle an accounting office about 4 staff
    We doing data capturing to submission of vat returns to compiling financials for the accountant to sign off.

    I have the experience.. Being in the industry for 8 years. I have passed spme first year modules in tax financial accounting and business management in the accounting diploma.

    Im registered as a saipa trainee and completed my 3 year articles aswell. Just it holds no value cause i have no completed my degree.

    I wish to open my own small accounting practice. Please help to obtain a certificate or something with my experience and prior learning modules.

    Advise.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Mohamed,

      The CMA certification requires a bachelor’s degree, but I recommend you to email directly to IMA and share your experience with them and see if they can exempt you from the education requirement.

      Good luck! And if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

  9. Hi
    I am a finance professional with an experience of more than 14 years holding a senior position in listed bank in finance department.
    I have a diploma in accounting, diploma in IFRS by ACCA and have attended different seminars in financial and tax updates.

    I am looking forwards to be certified and I know I have the capabilities to do so. How can I use the food of IMA in being exempted from holding a degree by using my experience.

    Need to know who write to gain this examption and to be certified.

    1. Hi Yasser,

      I recommend you to email directly to IMA. You can reach them at ima@imanet[dot]org.

      Good luck!

    1. Of course, not all candidates who pursue the CMA certification come from an accounting background. For candidates who come from other professional fields the CMA certification is the fast track to getting into management accounting.

  10. Pingback: CMA Exam Changes Coming in 2020 - CMA Coach

  11. I am from a medical background did bachelors outside USA and masters in USA. However after that took a diploma course in CSBA( computerized small business accounting) in USA. Will I be able to pursue a career in accounting what will be the steps?

    1. HI Nila,

      Yes, of course. At the CMA Exam Academy we provide coaching support for candidates at all accounting levels and we’ve also had students from no accounting background who had successfully completed the course and passed the CMA exam.

      The first step is to enroll in a coaching course. Within the course, you’ll be guided through your entire CMA journey and my team and I will be there to help you whenever you have any questions or feel stuck.

      Check also this roadmap to becoming a CMA for more info about the CMA certification and what you need to do to obtain it.

      If you have any other questions, just hit reply 🙂

      Thank you

  12. Hello Nathan,

    I have a 8 year hotel accounting experience and currently I’m in a financial accountant position at one of the 04 star chain hotel in UAE.
    And I’m really interesting to go for the CMA but unfortunately I have no any degrees and I only have passed the A/L and the CBF ( Certificate in banking and finance) has complete partly .
    Would it be possible for me to apply for CMA. Kindly advise.

    Best Regards

    Dinusha

    1. Hi Dinusha,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      In order to meet the education requirements for the CMA certification you’ll need to get a Bachelor’s degree. You can, however, try reaching out to the IMA to check if they would be able to exempt you from this requirement.

      Best of luck!

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