Why CMA is the Best Accounting and Finance Certification

Why CMA is the Best Accounting and Finance Certification

There are several well-known international certifications for accounting and finance professionals, including CMA, CPA, CIMA, ACCA, ACA, CIA, CFA, and others. The first step for you as a professional seeking a certification is determining which one will be the most beneficial. This requires looking not only at your current job, but also what you would like to do in the future. By looking ahead, you can be certain that you have the needed skills, experience, and certification(s) for your career.

I have been involved in professional certifications in accounting and finance since 1998 and through all of these years, the certification that is generally the most valuable is the CMA. Of course, if you want to be an internal auditor, you become a CIA and if you want to be an investment banker, you should become a CFA. However, if you are looking for a career in accounting or finance, are looking to start or operate a small or medium-sized business, or want to have a certification that will provide the most flexibility and most options for you in your career, the CMA is the best certification for you.

There are five main reasons that the CMA is the overall best accounting and finance credential:

1. The CMA Syllabus is practical and relevant to your job.

Everything in the CMA syllabus is something that a business does or should do. Such a practical syllabus provides a lot of benefits to you:

  1. It makes studying easier. It is a lot easier to study and learn something when its relevance to a business is easy to understand. Also, by being practical, there is a greater chance that you will have some experience or exposure to the concepts before you start studying.
  2. The content you learn is useful for your current and future jobs. Ideally, studying for your certification will help you perform your job better. Whether you are in accounting, finance, budgeting, management, or operations, what is covered on the CMA Exam is what a company does or should be doing.
  3. The knowledge does not limit you to a specific department or career path. With topics ranging from financial accounting to management accounting, to planning and budgeting, to internal controls, to ethics and decision making, CMA prepares you for any job that is connected to management of a small or medium-sized business, or the accounting and finance functions in any size company.

2. You only need a Bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant work experience.

While some accountants have advanced degrees, there are many accountants who started in a different career and may not have a business degree or number of hours of accounting courses. For the CMA exam, as long as you have a 3 or 4 year Bachelor’s degree in any subject, you meet the education requirement.

Furthermore, as long as you have two years of relevant work experience, you will meet the experience requirement. Your experience does not need to be with any specific position nor does your supervisor need to be a CMA.

3. You only need to pass two exams to become a CMA.

While it may seem at first that only two exams are not enough for a professional certification, the two CMA exams cover a wide range of topics that are all tested in depth. This means that you get a rigorous exam that covers everything it needs to cover, but without a multi-year time commitment. With only two exams, you will be able to earn your CMA in around a year (average), and you will actually have a certification. While there are certifications with many more exams, if you don’t complete them all there is no benefit to you.

4. Your CMA certification is internationally recognized.

In all likelihood, you will have a number of different jobs during your career, which may include working for a multinational corporation, or in another country. Because the CMA certification is internationally recognized, it will help you get a job anywhere in the world. Having a CMA will also show to others in your organization that you are committed to your profession, which will help with promotions.

5. The CMA Syllabus is practical and relevant to your job.

Yes, this was also #1, but it is so important that it needs to be listed twice. An international syllabus (without country-specific details such as US Tax law) allows you to learn what is needed in today’s international accounting and finance marketplace.

For all of these reasons, I strongly recommend CMA as the best international certificate in accounting and finance. Of course, when you have a particular career goal, or your company requires a specific certification, then you need to pursue that required certification. If, however, you are looking to develop and expand your career prospects and possibilities within accounting and finance, then I strongly recommend the CMA Certification.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA

What is my first step to becoming a CMA?

Sign up for the free session “How To Pass the CMA Exams.” In this session, you will learn about the HOCK CMA study methodology, exam preparation challenges, study tips, and more. 


  1. Hayden Joseph on March 25, 2018 at 3:38 am

    I agree with points 1 and 5. But points 2.3.and 4 are not really positives. One only needs a bachelors degree. But that could be completely unrelated to accounting or finance. So with a degree in French Literature one can take two 4 hr exams and think that one has been thoroughly tested and ready to be a management accountant. How much depth can two 4 hr exams cover? After all, that might be the only testing of a candidate in accounting and finance. As for international recognition that is really limited to the Middle East, India and to some degree, the USA.
    Why not look at the US wanted ads and see how much in demand the CMA is?
    ICMA goes well with a CPA, MBA. BS Accounting or a CFA. On its own it is not a robust qualification in accounting or finance.

    • Brian Hock on March 25, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      Thank you for your comments, Hayden. Just a few comments in response:

      1) What I expressed is my opinion. I realize others may see things differently and I welcome a thoughtful discussion about the issues.

      2) A lot of this comes to perspective – if you are an individual who has been in an accounting or finance job at an entry level and would like to go further, and your education was not in accounting or finance, then the fact that CMA does not require an accounting or finance degree would be a very big benefit for you. For a person who does not have a Master degree in accountancy, CPA is not a realistic option.

      3) It is easy to challenge a point by using an extreme example. I doubt that many people with a French Literature degree are interested in becoming accounting or finance professionals. However, in that example, the fact that they need experience to get their certificate would mean that only a person who has some experience would be able to become a CMA. Additionally, CMA is not alone in requiring only a bachelor’s degree to be eligible. CIA, ACCA and CIMA (to name a few) do not require a specific field of study to be eligible to take their exams.

      4) As for the number of exams – this is a matter of opinion. Yes, I would expect that a candidate learns much more taking ACCA or CIMA than they do taking CMA, CIA or CPA. But, again, it is a matter of perspective. If I am a candidate, 2 exams is certainly better than 4, or 12.

      5) The scope of countries that any exam is recognized in is usually very limited. In addition to the areas you listed, China, a growing number of African nations and Russia are also areas where CMA continues to grow. Job postings asking for CMA are increasing in the US and other countries that we know candidates are active in. But, this is also something that is different from city to city and even company to company within a country.

      It is good that we both agree that the CMA syllabus is very relevant and practical as for me that is really the main issue in selecting a certification – learning content that is useful in your job and career.

      Again, thanks for reading and sharing your perspective on this.


      • Buhari Semiu on June 22, 2020 at 10:52 am

        CMA is a professional exam certification that is most relevant to job practice. I also have other finance and accounting qualifications, most of which were mentioned in this article, but I have not directly observed a professional exam/certification well designed and tailored towards real life job practice like the CMA. Upon completion of the CMA certification program, the level of confidence I gained multiplied and my technical competence improved significantly on the job. Any employer that has a CMA should be proud of its human resources.

        Yes, I also belief that the entry requirement into the CMA program is way too easy. A background in Accounting should be a minimum floor so that professionals from other fields cannot use CMA as a bridge to compete rigorously in the Accounting and Finance Profession with candidates or professionals who started the Accounting and Finance journey from start, throughout their academics up to the professional level. For example, it is practically tedious for an Accountant to cross into the medical or legal field unless the background is rooted from academics. This, among other reasons, may have contributed to the increased employment competition that Accountants now faced with in recent times.

  2. Mohammed AlShumrani on June 22, 2020 at 10:23 am

    Thanks, i would like to ask about some thing out of scoop, i have red the part 1 material for the CMA and i found that the leased hold improvement was defined under the intangible assets which i do believe is not correct, could you pls Correct me if I’m wrong,?

    • Brian Hock on June 22, 2020 at 9:02 pm

      The accounting for leasehold improvements is one that there is not a lot of specific guidance on. It seems that the most common treatment is to classify it as an intangible asset, and the amortize it over the time period that the assets (which are very possible tangible assets) will be used. If you have specific guidance that states it is not an intangible asset, please share that guidance.