DUAL CERTIFICATION: IT CAN BE DONE: This updated nine-step model prescribes the way for undergraduate accounting students to pass the CMA examination before graduation and the CPA exam within six months after graduation.

Author:Hargadon, Joseph M.

Dual certification is an excellent way for accounting students to differentiate themselves in a competitive and dynamic business environment. Acquiring both the CMA[R] (Certified Management Accountant) and CPA (Certified Public Accountant) certifications demonstrates that holders have varied and essential skills and expertise. It further signifies to a prospective employer that the holder is highly ambitious, motivated, and committed to lifelong continuing education.

In fact, the March 2019 IMA Global Salary Survey (bit.ly/30AsjZt) found that accounting certification in general--particularly dual accounting certification--provides financial rewards. The survey indicated that CMAs in the United States earn 31% higher median total compensation than non-CMAs and that U.S. holders of both the CPA and CMA earn 50% higher median total compensation.

Employers recruiting on campus today look for more than just expertise in auditing, tax, and financial reporting. The CMA certification combined with the CPA credential demonstrates that a candidate has both significant managerial and finance knowledge along with a strong financial accounting background. That's why, in 2007, we proposed a streamlined strategy for undergraduate accounting students to pass both examinations within six months after graduation with their bachelor's degree.

That initial article was followed by three major sequels in 2010, 2015, and 2018, each incorporating significant updates to the CMA and/or CPA examinations. The impetus behind those previous updates was recent or forthcoming changes in either the structure (number or parts on each exam), format (time per part and multiple choice vs. tasked-based simulations), and/or content (topics) on each exam.

By working with the comprehensive nine-step plan (updated anew to reflect the recent changes to both exams), undergraduate accounting students can efficiently prepare for both exams at a time when they're in the best position to do so--while they're still students. As students, they capitalize on the "freshness" of the topical content along with the fact that they're used to taking examinations. In our previous articles, we modified the sequencing, timing, and types of courses we recommended students take to better align with the respective exam changes.

We again limit our focus on dual certification to the CMA and CPA exams for several reasons:

* Both permit candidates to take one section (part) at a time.

* Both are computer-based using Prometric testing sites. Thus, the modes of delivery and assessment are similar.

* Both exams provide for flexible scheduling (see Table 1).

* Neither exam requires the candidate to have qualifying work experience to sit for the exam. Both require qualifying work experience to earn the designation.

Recent/Forthcoming Changes

ICMA[R] (Institute of Certified Management Accountants) establishes the requirements to sit for the CMA exam and earn the designation and administers the CMA exam; its counterpart for the CPA exam is the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). Both organizations work diligently to ensure that their certification requirements are rigorous and relevant. Both examinations are continually reviewed and modified, as needed, to fully reflect the higher expectations and expanding roles that accounting and financial professionals play in today's global business environment. For example, given that technology is rapidly transforming our profession, it isn't surprising that both ICMA and the AICPA have recently incorporated an increased emphasis on IT and data analytics into their respective examinations.

The key changes to the CMA examination represent alignment with IMA's enhanced Management Accounting Competency Framework, published in February 2019. This Framework includes a mapping of the competencies to the subjects covered on the CMA examination. The changes to the exam go into effect on January 1, 2020. The changes to Part 1 include:

* Title change to Financial Planning, Performance, and Analytics. The previous title was Financial Reporting, Planning, Performance, and Control.

* Planning, Budgeting, and Forecasting's weight is reduced from 30% to 20%.

* Cost Management's weight is reduced from 20% to 15%.

* Technology and Analytics, a new topic, is added with a 15% weight. The changes to Part 2 include:

* Title change to Strategic Financial Management. The previous title was Financial Decision Making.

* Investment Decisions' weight is reduced from 15% to 10%.

* Financial Statement Analysis's weight is reduced from 25% to 20%.

* Increased weight on Professional Ethics from 10% to 15% and on Decision Analysis from 20% to 25%.

The major changes to the CPA examination, as noted in the AICPA Uniform CPA Examination Blueprints, essentially reflect recent Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) releases to various topic areas tested on the applicable section(s) of the exam. The major changes that went into effect as of January 1, 2019, include:

* Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR) incorporates the major changes in lease standards and includes GASB 84 relating to fiduciary activities of state and local governments.

* Regulation (REG) incorporates applicable taxation changes as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

The following changes went into effect as of July 1, 2019:

* In Auditing and Attestation (AUD), the area of Performing Further Procedures and Obtaining Evidence has been updated and expanded to include audit data analytics.

* Business Environment and Concepts (BEC) expanded coverage of data analytics in the area of Information Technology.


To continue reading