In my last post, I wrote about the credentialing process that I went through in order to fill a perceived gap in my undergraduate curriculum (formal project management).
While my undergraduate degrees in Finance and Economics covered many foundational topics, including Financial and Managerial Accounting, my focus was primarily Investment Finance. The Accounting courses that I took as part of my major focused more on the principles of External Financial Reporting and less on Management Reporting & Analysis (e.g., Budgeting & Forecasting, Detailed Cost Accounting, etc.).
With that, as a junior management consultant supporting process improvement initiatives across Corporate Finance and Accounting Departments, I felt that it was very important to supplement my on-the-job learning and Firm-sponsored training with the self-study responsibilities to come when preparing to earn a new professional credential.
Included below are a few details which I hope you find useful in determining whether the CMA is right for you.
What is it?
The IMA describes the CMA as an exam that is ‘designed to measure the advanced skills required to be an effective member of finance and accounting teams within organizations and to create value in today’s complex and challenging business environment.’
To apply for/attempt to earn the CMA program, ‘candidates must be members of IMA…pass both exam parts and fulfill the following education/experience requirements.’
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university AND…
- Two continuous years of experience in management accounting/financial management
The CMA Handbook provides additional detail concerning eligibility requirements and the processes for both joining the IMA and applying for the CMA Exam.
What do the CMA Exams Cover?
Part I – Financial Planning, Performance and Control
- Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting
- Performance Management
- Cost Management
- Internal Controls
- Professional Ethics
Part II – Financial Decision Making
- Financial Statement Analysis
- Corporate Finance
- Decision Analysis and Risk Management
- Investment Decisions
- Professional Ethics
A detailed ‘Content Specification Outline‘ is available from the IMA.
During my research, it seemed that there were three primary companies providing CMA study materials. My observations on each are included below for your reference.
- Hock International – I’m using CMA materials from Hock International to prepare for the CMA Exams (successfully passed Part I) and have found the resources to be very clear and thorough. They offer a wide range of materials to support all types of learning styles (e.g., traditional ‘textbooks’ and flashcards, practice questions/exams, online Q&A forums, classroom recordings, etc.). Their materials are also available on/compatible with iPhones/iPads. From what I understand, the Hock Materials are the most detailed and comprehensive in the marketplace (perhaps more than is needed to pass the exam in certain areas).
- Gleim – During my research, which included reading several reviews on CMA-related blogs/forums, it appears the Gleim resources are geared more toward those who already have a very strong Finance & Accounting background (education and professional experience), whereas the Hock materials are better suited to those earlier in their careers. Without much academic exposure to the subject matter, or relevant work experience, several people suggested that you’d need to supplement the Gleim materials with a review of Management Accounting textbooks, etc. As with Hock, Gleim delivers their resources across a variety of mediums (e.g., traditional textbooks, practice questions, audio recordings, etc.).
- Institute of Management Accountants – The IMA offers an Exam Support Package which ‘includes downloadable/printable multiple-choice and essay practice questions, along with an online assessment tool with multiple choice exams for Parts I and II.’ After many hours working through the questions I received from Hock International, I used the online IMA question bank to ensure that I wasn’t just memorizing how to solve questions based on how they were posed by Hock and that I was truly learning/understanding the core concepts. I found the ability to review additional questions to confirm this point to be very valuable, though using the IMA resources alone, in my opinion, wouldn’t be sufficient to adequately prepare for the exam.
Why the CMA? Why not a CPA?
As I started researching potential professional credentials to bolster my Finance and Accounting knowledge, I naturally considered the Certified Public Accountant (CPA); however, I soon realized that it wasn’t the credential that would best fit my needs, for the following reasons…
Subject Matter – My interest in pursuing additional education was to become more familiar with topics related to Management Accounting, Reporting & Analysis. While the CPA requires knowledge of the Business Environment (covered in one exam), it is much more focused (as should be expected) on External Financial Reporting (e.g., Regulations and GAAP Concepts, etc.) and the Auditing process. As such, while the CPA is a world-class, highly recognized credential, it wasn’t the best fit for me at this point in my career, nor is it particularly aligned with the career path I expect to take.
- Engagement Acceptance and Planning
- Entity and Internal Control
- Procedures and Evidence
- Accounting and Review Services
- Professional Responsibilities
Financial Accounting and Reporting
- Financial Accounting and Reporting Concepts
- Accounts and Disclosures
- Ethical and Legal Responsibilities
- Business Law
- Federal Tax Process
- Gain and Loss Taxation
- Individual Tax
- Taxation of Entities
Business Environment and Concepts
- Corporate Governance
- Strategic Planning
- Operations Management
Requirements – While the CPA Exam largely covers topics outside my area of interest, if I had been interested in pursuing it, I wouldn’t have been eligible, given the education requirements of 150 semester hours of relevant university education (Master’s-level Accounting Coursework including Auditing and Taxation, etc.). While it isn’t the right fit for me right now, I suppose I’ll never rule it out, as having a CPA is very valuable in a number of different fields, not just Public Accounting.
Hopefully this post helps to provide you with the information and resources necessary to determine if the CMA Exam is right for you. Best of luck studying for the exam!
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
I welcome and look forward to your comments!