In general, a certified management accountant (CMA) works specifically with a company to advise it on financial matters that affect the overall management of the company. He or she may provide advice on corporate spending, budgeting, financial planning, and issues related to taxation compliance.
Unlike a CPA, this accountant seldom works with the public. Instead, he or she is usually employed directly by a company in the capacity of in-house counsel on all financial affairs. The person may work with company employees to help them make good choices regarding investments or help them discover tax breaks and loopholes, but his or her primary job is to oversee the financial issues that affect the overall corporate structure.
CMAs have specialized training and certification processes. Training usually involves study in economics, financial analysis, performance measurement, budgeting, financial planning, business ethics, and corporate taxation. Certification involves a three to four-part test that is conducted over several days. The test itself tests for proficiency in both certified management and certified public accountant matters. Most people who specialize in this field claim that the tests are a little more difficult than CPA testing, though CPAs may disagree.
In addition, CMAs may come from a slightly different field than CPAs, although they both tend to at least have a four-year degree in business, finance or economics. In the US, states may also require specific classes prior to sitting for the certification exam. This accountant, however, may study more aspects of business than the CPA. Additionally, there are a number of schools that now offer correspondence or Internet courses to quickly pass the exams for people who already have a degree in business, finance or economics.
Most countries have some form of a CMA position or designation, since all big companies benefit by an in-house financial expert. In Canada, for example, the training and position title are the same. In the UK, the position is called a chartered management accountant.