Becoming a CMA requires some first, crucial steps. One, you have to pass the CMA exam. But even after you’ve put in the time and sailed through this challenging test, there are more CMA requirements to meet, including CMA education requirements and CMA experience requirements.
It’s important that you know what you need to do and when, following the right steps to become a CMA. Otherwise, you could miss an opportunity to progress and lengthen your journey to getting certified.
This article will detail the CMA experience requirements you need to obtain a CMA certificate. Read on to find out if your past or current positions will meet the criteria, so you can make the right career moves to ensure your eligibility.
Originally published in March 2020, this article was updated and republished on Dec. 14, 2020.
CMA Work Experience Requirement
To become a Certified Management Accountant, you need at least two years of full-time work experience. The work has to include management accounting or financial management.
While you need to work continuously, you may be able to fulfill this requirement with part-time work. However, it will take twice as long.
3 Tips to Determine if You Meet the CMA Experience Requirements
If you want to become a CMA and you are questioning the eligibility of your current work experience, here are a few factors to consider.
1. Is Your Work Experience Relevant?
Firstly, it may be helpful to review what the actual CMA Candidate Handbook deems to be appropriate work experience. The handbook states:
Qualifying experience consists of positions requiring judgments regularly made, employing the principles of management accounting and financial management.
Such employment includes:
- Preparation of financial statements
- Financial planning and analysis
- Monthly, quarterly and year-end close
- Auditing (external or internal)
- Budget preparation and reporting
- Manage general ledger and balance sheets
- Company investment decision making
- Costing analysis
- Risk evaluation
Chances are, you’re reading that and still thinking the definition is pretty broad. Well, what is a CMA? They cover a broad scope of work.
The truth is, as long as your work is in the capacity of an internal or external audit or financial analysis within a corporation, handling financial statements and how they affect the company, or analyzing and reporting on financial investments for a company, then your work can be considered eligible.
2. Does Your Experience Include Analysis?
A critical aspect of consideration for CMA experience is whether or not you are analyzing data.
If you are simply inputting data or preparing journal entries, but not actually analyzing or considering any of the data, then your experience will likely not be considered.
Additionally, if you are not in any sort of accounting or financial field, but rather in an area like HR, marketing or sales, then this will not be considered eligible either.
CMA experience requirements can be fulfilled prior to sitting for the CMA exam or within 7 years of completing the exam.
3. Are You a Permanent Employee?
Though internships and trainee programs are a great way to gain valuable experience, they are not considered the same as being a permanent hire in the eyes of the IMA.
You must be considered a permanent employee for two consecutive years for your experience to count.
There is one caveat here though – your two years can be made up of part-time work as long as you clock a minimum of 20 hours per week for 4 consecutive years. Two years of part-time work is considered the equivalent of one year full time.
Some of you may be thinking to yourself, “But Nathan, I have a decade of financial experience running my own business.”
Well, good news! The IMA does take special cases into consideration. In these cases, you must submit a proposal containing your job description, showing how your experience qualifies.
Getting the IMA Approval for the CMA Experience Requirements
CMA experience requirements can be fulfilled prior to sitting for the CMA exam or within 7 years of completing the exam, as I mentioned earlier.
If you have any more questions regarding your work experience, I would encourage you to reach out to the IMA. They have a CMA Experience Requirement Form on their official website and you can email it to them at ima[@]imanet.org.
Make Sure You Fit the Requirements
While the CMA work requirements are necessary, there are some special case allowances. You can reach out to the above contact info to learn whether your situation merits a manual review or lenience.
For example, teaching may qualify as professional experience, as long as it is full-time and 60% of the course content relates to accounting or finance.
As mentioned before, part-time positions may qualify, as long as the complete hours are fulfilled. Clerical positions, internship positions, and nontechnical jobs won’t suffice.
Submit Proof of Fulfilled CMA Experience Requirements
Before you even begin, you should verify that the CMA experience you’re gaining ticks the right boxes. Then, when the time comes that you’ve completed the right number of hours, you will submit proof.
You can fill out the online form and either email it to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail it to the address below:
Institute of Certified Management Accountants
10 Paragon Drive Suite 1 Montvale, NJ 07645-1759
If you want to get someone on the phone to ask questions about your experience requirements, you can call 1-800-638-4427.
Once you become a CMA, your work is not yet complete. In order to maintain your CMA certificate, you’ll have to log continuing professional education (or CPE) hours. The CMA continuing education requirements to maintain your certification are 30 hours of CPE per year.
Details on the breakdown of required CPE hours include:
- Two hours of continuing education must be in ethics.
- An excess of the required two hours of ethics can be carried over to the next year.
- All IMA-sponsored programs count toward credit hours.
- Other program options can be college courses, technical meetings, workshops, seminars, etc.
- Instruction can be digital but must meet NASBA requirements.
Can I Take the CMA Exam Without Experience?
To become a CMA, both the experience and education requirements don’t have to be met before you take the exam. However, most people find that an accounting degree and some finance experience are helpful before attempting the CMA exam.
Taking a CMA review course is recommended, but prior education and experience will give you a baseline of understanding and applying the knowledge required to pass the CMA exam.
While there is flexibility, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be dedicated to your CMA exam studies or in meeting CMA requirements. All of the requirements are set to ensure that CMAs continue to meet the highest standards for accounting and finance professionals.
Have more questions about the CMA exam or CMA experience requirements? Drop a question below and I’ll provide some guidance!
P.S. Did you know that my highly successful online CMA prep course is now open for enrollment?
Click here to learn more about how I can coach you until you become a CMA.
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!