BONUS | Celebrating 100,000 CMAs
IMA certified CMA #100,000! Since 1972, IMA has now certified more than 100,000 management accounting professionals, helping them advance their careers and to make a difference within their organizations and communities. To celebrate this milestone, IMA has planned a month-long celebration to promote the impact the CMA has had on the accounting and finance profession. To kick-off the celebration, IMA’s Brand Content and Storytelling manager, Margaret Michaels, spoke with IMA’s Senior Vice President of Certifications, Exams, and Content Integration, Dennis Whitney, about the state of the management accounting profession and the trends impacting its future. Congratulations to all the CMAs! Congratulations to IMA! Download and listen to the milestone bonus episode now!
Welcome back for a special bonus
episode of IMA's Count Me In podcast.
As you know,
this series is dedicated to bring you
the latest perspectives and learnings on
all things affecting the
accounting and finance world,
as told by the experts working in the
field and thought leaders shaping the
IMA is pleased to announce that it has
continued to shape the profession through
its CMA certification and has just
officially certified it's 100,000th.
To celebrate this milestone
IMA has planned a month
long celebration to promote
the impact the CMA has had on the
accounting and finance profession.
To kick off the celebration, IMA's
brand content and storytelling manager,
Margaret Michaels, spoke with IMA's
senior vice-president of certifications,
exams, and constant
integration, Dennis Whitney,
about the state of management accounting
profession and the trends impacting its
Keep listening to hear this insightful
and celebratory discussion about IMA's
Great. Well thank you Dennis for
joining the Count Me In podcast.
The first question is about the
certified management accountant
or CMA program that was launched in 1972
Can you tell me a little bit about what
the impetus for creating a certification
program like this was?
Yeah sure Margaret, thank
you for having me today.
I'm very happy to talk
about the CMA program. Yeah,
it's interesting, back in the 1960s,
IMA started seriously
thinking about a certification
The impetus behind that was that
rightly so they believe that management
accounting was a distinct profession
from public accounting and
that the competencies
needed inside organizations
were different from public accounting.
There was quite a bit of overlap.
financial accounting is necessary
both for public accountants
and accountants working
inside the company, but there
are distinct competencies,
cost management, financial planning,
and analysis that are very important
for accountants working inside
So they identified that need
and they started the planning
process to develop the CMA program.
And it took several years of planning,
but they had their first Board of
Regents meeting in the beginning of
1972 and rolled out the first exam in
December of 1972.
Wow. So the CMA has a long
history and how does IMA
ensure that the program is relevant
to the profession right now and
evolves alongside it?
the CMA program has evolved
quite a bit over these,
almost 50 years now. You know, when
we first developed the CMA in 1972,
there was more of a
focus on cost accounting,
but today the focus is more on a planning,
analysis, decision support, and
also technology and data analytics.
So the way we keep up with
the profession is, you know,
we're constantly scanning the
environment, reading research papers,
talking to CFOs, corporate controllers.
But what we also do is every
six years or so, five to six,
seven years, we do what's
called a job analysis survey.
So with that,
we identify the tasks that
management accountants do every
day and what they need to know
to do their job efficiently and
effectively. And so from that research,
we're able to develop the content
specification outlines and the new exam
and keep up to date with the profession.
And how does continuing education
fit into the CMA program?
Yeah, well, you know,
it's interesting that you use the word
program because the CMA is a program.
It's not just the exam.
When you finish the exam,
you're required to do 30 hours of
continuing education every year,
including two hours of ethics and the
reason for that is management accountants
need to stay on top of the
latest trends in the profession.
They need to develop new
skills, new techniques.
You know, if you got your
CMA 20 years ago, you know,
most of that knowledge is still relevant,
but there are new skills and in order
to maintain your relevance on your
job and add value to your company
and also help you develop your
career, it's very important that
you keep your skills current.
So that's why we have the continuing
education as part of the program.
That makes sense.
And I'm sure that continuing education
aspect appeals to a lot of professionals
who are looking to stay current right now.
In looking at the growth
of the CMA program,
it seems as if the CMA has been growing
most significantly in the last
five years with 50,000 CMAs
added from 2016 to the
present. And for perspective,
it took 50 years or from 1972 to
2016 to reach the first 50,000 CMAs.
So what trends do you think
are contributing to the CMA's
astronomical growth in
the last five years?
Well there are a couple of
factors that go into that.
First of all, for most of our
history, we were pretty much a US,
primarily a US certification.
I mean, we are still a US certification,
but our candidate growth
has expanded beyond the US.
So about 10 years or so ago,
we started seriously looking
to develop markets overseas.
So we've seen tremendous growth
overseas. Now we're still,
we're growing actually
quite well in the US,
but we're actually growing
very, very well overseas,
especially China. We've seen
tremendous growth in China.
But we've also seen growth
in Europe, middle east,
very strong growth in the middle
east over last 10 years. And India,
India is a market now that's
really growing quite a bit.
And also Southeast Asia, for example,
in the Philippines and Vietnam.
So it's a global growth
and that's attributed,
contributed a lot to the
growth of the program.
The other thing is that we've,
we really work hard to
communicate the value of the
CMA. And for example, we have
every year now for the last,
I'm not exactly sure how
many years, five years or so,
we've been doing a commercial and an ad
campaign where we make sure
that we tell the public,
not just our CMA's and our candidates,
but tell corporations through business
development and tell the public
through marketing, how
relevant the CMA is.
So that increasing exposure has
more people who know about the CMA
and more people who realize
the importance of the CMA,
particularly hiring managers.
So we're seeing, for example,
more ads saying CMA preferred
and I think those are
the reasons primarily
for the growth. Well,
one other thing actually is a
bigger exposure on the university
campuses. So more students are
interested in the program as well.
That makes a lot of sense and
clearly now more than ever,
hiring managers and organizations are
faced with challenges revolving around
rebuilding post COVID and the talent
war that we hear about where
there's fierce competition for
CMAs in particular.
So as organizations look to build
a more enhanced digital
capabilities and transform their
finance and accounting departments,
how does the CMA specifically
prepare them for those types of
CMA has a very unique set of
skills. So, you know, for example,
over the last year we all
had the terrible challenge
of the pandemic. A lot
of companies struggled,
but it really was the accountants
working inside organizations,
many of them CMAs,
who were able to help companies manage
cash better, to implement
strong internal controls,
to identify risks.
And those risks also extend to information
technology risks like cybercrime,
cybersecurity is a big risk these
days and management accountants,
CMAs, can help in identifying those risks
and identifying ways to mitigate those
risks. So that's on the
one hand in maintaining
a company, as stewards, good stewards
of the company, financial stewards,
but also as we move out
of the pandemic into a
new world where technology as you say,
will be more and more part of our lives,
intelligence. Management accountants,
CMAs in particular,
have the ability to work
as strategic business
advisors to senior management.
So they can sit at the table,
help them to identify new
opportunities for growth,
ways of adding value to the company,
because they have the critical thinking
skills, the strategic insight skills,
and these strong financial analysis
skills to help companies create
competitive advantage and become
successful for the long-term sustained
success for the long-term.
And sustain success for the
long-term definitely involves strong
competency in technology, data
analytics, and other emerging areas.
And so the CMA exam has to
reflect those competencies
and has to make sure that
people that earn the CMA are
entering the workforce ready and able
to handle those types of challenges.
And in 2020,
ICMA introduced a revised CMA content
specification outline to include
new competencies in technology,
and other emerging areas necessary for
management accountants to do their job.
So what was involved in
updating the CMA exam?
Yep. Well that's, you know, that's
a big job and it's, you know,
it goes back to what I said a little
earlier about doing a job analysis survey.
So, you know,
we want to make sure that our exam
stays relevant and as you say, you know,
technology is impacting all professions
and it's having a big impact
on the accounting profession. So
technologies like RPA, blockchain,
they are currently impacting the jobs and
will do so even more in
the future. So, you know,
we want it to reflect that in the
exam to make sure that our management
accountants or our CMAs
have the skills that are
needed now and in the future.
So what we did is we surveyed all
of our members around the world,
plus other management accountants
around the world too, you know,
we had a very long survey. It's almost,
it takes about 45 minutes to complete.
So it's a big commitment of time
on the people who participate,
which is a great benefit to us,
but we asked them what they do on the
job basically. And when we did that,
we saw that technology and data analytics
is becoming more and more and more
important in their everyday
work. So that's why,
what we did is we took those
results and work with the
Board of Regents who did say,
a committee of CMAs who
helped govern the CMA exam.
We work with them to identify the
actual skills and the learning
outcome statements that they
need to be up to date with those
technology and analytical skills.
So we created the new
content specification outline
along with the learning
outcome statements, which go
into a lot more depth. And then,
you know, from that there's
a lot more work too,
because then we have to develop new
questions, which is a long process.
We have to make sure that we
communicate the changes to
our stakeholders, including our
candidates of course, and our CMAs,
but also our review course providers.
They need to know what's going to be
on the exam. So it was a big process.
It really takes about, you know,
from the beginning of starting the
job analysis survey to actually
coming out with the new exam is
probably close to a two year process.
That's a really long timeframe and it
certainly makes sense that you have to
take into account all of those various
stakeholders that you mentioned.
Earlier you talked about students and
how they oftentimes just learn
about management accounting
in either entry-level jobs, or maybe if
they're lucky a professor mentions it.
And they then enroll in the CMA program
and take the test and study
for it while they're in school.
What is IMA doing specifically to
help students and make
them workforce ready,
able to succeed in an environment
where technology skills are as
important and as foundational
as finance and accounting
Yeah, we're actually doing quite
a bit. We have, for example,
we have the campus influencer program,
and this is a program
it's managed by staff,
but basically volunteers go
out and they talk to students.
They give presentations to students
about a rewarding career in management
accounting and also about
the CMA exam. We have a,
every year we have what we call
the Student Leadership Conference,
where students, really
from all over the world,
come to learn about the
profession and in particular,
they can go to sessions, for
example, on data governance,
which is actually a section on the CMA
exam and they can learn about those
skills and then apply them when they
go back to school in their classes.
We also have,
we just started what we're calling
a student series of bi-annual
panel, where we invite
professionals, successful management
accountants, mostly CMAs, or CFOs,
or corporate controllers
and they talk about their
their job and explain how interesting
a career it is and what skills they
need to do their job. And I
mean, in terms of resources,
it's a long list of
resources to talk about one,
is the CMA.
So we actually give scholarships
to students to take the exam for
So each college and university
can give up to 10 scholarships to
their top students and they can
take the entire exam at no cost.
And that's been very successful. In fact,
I think there's been close
to 16,000 scholarships
and these are granted
throughout the entire world.
So it's been a very successful program.
The thing about the CMA is you can
take the exam while you are in college,
generally should be junior or senior to
make sure you have the coursework and
then you have seven years to get
the experience to earn the CMA.
So it's a great way to
show that you have mastered these
skills when you're looking for new jobs
and including those technology
skills, which you mentioned, you know,
and then also just with the
student memberships that we have,
it's a very nominal fee
and you have access to
our strategic finance magazine,
which has articles on
technology every month.
We have our research reports, you know,
we did a recent report on
RPA. So I think, you know,
we do quite a bit for students
and the future, I think,
is going to be bright for the CMA program
because there's a lot of young people
interested in it and they're getting
the skills they need to have successful
It sounds like IMA puts a
lot of weight on making sure
that there is a pipeline of
talent and grooming future leaders
through all of these kinds
of student initiatives.
So it makes perfect sense also
when we're celebrating the 100,000
CMA to talk about the future as lying with
undergraduate students and making
sure that we're preparing them to be
workforce ready and able to handle
the challenges that will come with the
Yep, absolutely. We
look forward to the next 50 years. I
certainly won't be around for that,
but I look forward to seeing much
success for the CMA program in the future
and another 100,000 CMAs.
This has been Count Me In,
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of thought leaders from
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visit IMA's website at www.imanet.org.