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IMA Life: The Payoff of Early Exams

By Daniel O’Laughlin, CMA, CPA/ABV
April 1, 2018
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My CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) story began in the fourth year of my 3/2 (bachelor’s/ master’s) accountancy degree at the University of Denver. I had switched my major from finance a few years prior but had never lost interest in the subject. That interest, paired with the challenge and holistic approach to business offered by the accountancy program, led me to an unflinching professional goal: to become a versatile and accomplished business advisor in my chosen field.

 

In my fourth year, I struggled through cost accounting. Although discouraged by a subpar grade, I felt determined to prove my management accounting abilities. I could have waited to take the next level, but my drive to become more agile and multifaceted in my craft, as well as prove to others I had the requisite skill set to succeed, drove me to take action right away.

 

This desire brought me to IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and the CMA. The certification was suggested by one of my professors. The CMA could help me tout my interest in finance to employers without having to add a minor to my coursework.

 

I studied relentlessly over winter break and passed both parts of the exam the following quarter. Six months later, recruiting commenced. I was eager to demonstrate to employers both my comprehensive qualifications and multifaceted interests within the accounting field as a result of passing the CMA exam.

 

I accepted a position with RSM LLP’s business valuation practice. RSM is the leading provider of accounting, tax, and business consulting to the middle market. The fact that I passed the CMA exam while finishing the University of Denver’s 3/2 accountancy program undoubtedly paved the way to an offer for a consulting position in an esteemed firm right out of college, an achievement I take a lot of pride in. Business valuation requires consultants who are well-versed in both accounting and finance. We deal with the strategic, operational, and financial affairs of the businesses we serve and value just about any asset or liability from inventory to options.

 

After having met the requirement for two years of work experience, I officially earned my CMA certification around the same time I became a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Having both certifications demonstrates to clients that I have foundational understanding of both their internal and external accounting and finance issues and how those impact the rest of their business operations. The CMA, paired with my CPA, allows me to concentrate on what makes my clients unique in the accounting and finance arena, and, in turn, I deliver a more tailored and complete solution. My clients have confidence in my services. They feel understood and advised.

 

Taking both parts of the CMA exam while completing my degree and earning other certifications early in my career relieved a great deal of pressure going forward. Additionally, it has placed me in the best possible standing among my peers and from the perspective of my employer and clients. I’ve had opportunities to work with teams and value assets all across the world.

 

Plus, there’s always the side benefit of not having to take many more tests!

 

Daniel O’Laughlin, CMA, CPA/ABV, is valuation services supervisor at RSM US LLP and a member of IMA’s Denver-Centennial Chapter. He can be reached at danolaugh12@gmail.com.
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