Certified Management Accountant – The “Other” Accounting Designation

Employee working in cubical

Our accounting majors at the Colangelo College of Business have been exploring the designation that tends to be an alternative to the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license – the CMA designation. While most accounting majors have heard of the CPA license, they are not all familiar with the CMA designation. Both designations require that candidates pass an exam and meet experience requirements, but the career paths of the CPA and the CMA are often quite different.

Before I explain how these certifications differ, I should share that I have each of these and that they have both served me well. There are certain instances where the CPA license was necessary and there have been circumstances where the CMA has been an added bonus. However, I am pretty sure that having both of these certifications has never hurt me!


The CPA license is necessary for accountants who intend to go into public accounting – that is, accountants who want to do accounting for other companies. Auditors are required to have a CPA license, and many tax preparers will have a CPA or will become an EA (Enrolled Agent).

If you want to prepare financial statements for a publicly traded company, get your CPA. The SEC wants to deal with representatives that are licensed.


Do you think that you want to work within a corporation instead? Do you envision yourself as an integral part of a company’s management team, providing analysis and insight for decision making? Then you might be an ideal candidate for the CMA designation!

CMA candidates take an exam that consists of two parts: Part I – Financial Planning, Performance and Control and Part II – Financial Decision Making.

Accounting at GCU

At Grand Canyon University, we are committed to helping students find their purpose. At the Colangelo College of Business, that includes exploring career options within the fields of accounting and finance. Last spring, we welcomed speakers from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) to share the value of the CMA designation for a management accountant.

Jeff Thomson, the CEO of the IMA, shared with our students that CMAs make one-third higher compensation than non-certified accounting professionals. Now that alone seems to be a good reason to consider pursuing the “other” accounting designation!

GCU offers business programs that can help you prepare for a purposeful career in accounting. For more information about becoming an accounting major at GCU, visit our website today!


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.