What Does a Certified Management Accountant Do? Career Path Options Are Limitless

Lamar University offers a unique, online Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Management Accounting and Analytics degree that integrates the advanced study of accounting and finance with business management, analytics, ethics, strategy and decision-making.

These studies reflect a central tenet and purpose of this degree program: to prepare students to sit for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam. CMA certification can be critical for graduates seeking management roles, as passing it means they have the complex competencies needed to be leaders in the changing field of accounting.

What Is the CMA?

The CMA certification is a globally recognized designation. The certification program comes from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Investopedia explains that the CMA designation “signifies expertise in financial accounting and strategic management.”

Or, as IMA puts it, CMA certificate holders (known as CMAs) “can explain the ‘why’ behind numbers, not just the ‘what.'” CMA certification integrates accounting and corporate finance knowledge with managerial practices and decision-making.

The central component of CMA certification is the CMA exam, consisting of two main parts. The first part is focused on the “nuts and bolts” of accounting and finance. Subjects include areas like performance management, financial planning, technology and analytics, financial reporting and cost management. The second part covers topics regarding strategic management such as decision analysis, corporate finance, investment decisions, risk management and professional ethics.

While these parts differ in subject content, there is a great deal of overlap. CMA certification emphasizes this overlap, connecting numbers and analysis to strategy formulation, decision-making and managerial practices.

What Other Requirements Must I Meet to Earn CMA Certification?

CMA applicants must join IMA, pay the necessary fees, pass the two-part CMA exam and adhere to IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice. Applicants must also have a bachelor’s degree or related professional certification as well as two years of management accounting or financial management work experience. Candidates can satisfy educational and work experience requirements prior to or within seven years of passing the CMA exam.

The CMA Exam Academy reports that applicants spend (on average) 16 weeks studying for each part of the exam (32 weeks total). Notably, students in Lamar University’s BBA in management accounting and analytics online program get extensive, tailored CMA exam preparation. At the same time, they work toward earning their bachelor’s degree and satisfying the CMA education requirement.

Plus, Lamar University’s program allows students to continue working while in school. So, a determined student can complete their CMA exam prep, educational requirements and work experience requirements concurrently. The accelerated program format can help speed up what can otherwise be a lengthy certification process.

What Do CMAs Do in Their Professional Roles?

Narrowing down “what CMAs do” can be difficult. However, accountants can apply the integrated technical knowledge and strategic management skills from CMA certification to many roles. This benefit of CMA certification is clear: It shows potential employers that a candidate has specialized, yet versatile, expertise as well as the capacity to analyze, advise, make informed decisions and lead. Given this, CMAs can pursue any career related to accounting, corporate finance and management.

Management accounting is the most obvious application of the CMA skill set. Unlike straightforward finance accounting, management accountants leverage financial information and analysis to aid in decision-making processes. It is accounting in action, applied to meeting a business’ needs and solving problems.

With expertise in finance and strategy, CMAs can also excel in financial management roles. Financial managers guide organizations’ financial planning and investments, oversee the finance team and work closely with leadership.

CMAs can also work for or start their own financial, accounting or management consultancy firm. CMA consultants can provide complex analysis, insight and advice into a business’s financial operations, performance management and decision-making systems. This kind of professional pursuit can offer a good deal more flexibility, variety and independence than the traditional accountant job.

Of course, CMAs are well suited for many traditional roles such as controller, treasurer and financial risk manager. With the advancement of AI-driven process automation and analytics, tech-driven CMAs are reshaping many such roles to be more strategic and advisory, increasing their value to the organization.

Plus, as IMA notes, CMA certification helps professionals pursue career advancement goals, such as that to have “a seat at the leadership table.” Investopedia also points out that CMAs can be qualified for chief financial officer (CFO) roles. This C-Suite position combines the foundation of finance expertise and business savvy with long-term strategy, goal and policy formulation — essentially the core components of CMA certification.

Earning this designation can open the door to a wide variety of career opportunities. It demonstrates a professional’s skills, knowledge, potential for leadership and commitment to professional excellence and growth. Employers value these qualities as well as the expertise and strategic insight CMAs can bring to any organization.

Learn more about Lamar University’s online BBA in Accountant Management and Analytics program.

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