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IMA Life: Raising the Bar

By Reina G. Wiatt, CMA, CPA
October 1, 2016
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Obtaining the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential was one of my most important career achievements. When I took accounting courses in the late 1970s, the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) credential was all that was considered necessary for a career in accounting. Over time, I began to hear more about the CMA certification for staff and management positions, but I was still of the opinion that having a CPA plus years of experience was sufficient for a successful career. During my years working in the semiconductor industry, however, I decided to pursue the CMA certification for two reasons:

 

First, I had no expectation of working in public accounting, and, second, industry analysts were ­predicting that the CMA would soon be the preferred credential for entry-level and management staff positions.

 

In my career, I’ve seen that management accountants need a solid foundation that goes beyond hard accounting skills, knowledge of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and basic tax principles. Management accountants need additional core skills, including an understanding of different cost accounting methodologies, finance tools such as cash flow analysis, broad IT systems knowledge, and soft skills such as communication and business writing.

 

A management accountant especially needs to become involved with an organization’s strategic planning, such as creating decision tree analyses, making capital investment decisions, and analyzing foundational risk assessments. In contrast, the CPA focuses primarily on taxes, compliance, financial reporting, and auditing.

 

After many years of working for high-tech companies, I have found that the coursework for obtaining the CMA credential has continued to be a critical success factor in my career. Besides having the foundation to perform cash flow analyses, to assist in business construction projects, and to leverage my decision-making skills, the emphasis on ethics and ethics-related case studies has also increased my ability to identify a course of action when confronted by potential ethical challenges. I now have my own consulting practice and have had many different roles in developing cost-reduction initiatives, organizing charity drives, conducting sales tax audits, and creating new companies. I enjoy working with a variety of people from around the world and specialized teams to achieve company goals.

 

With jobs becoming more ­competitive, building your personal brand has become a greater challenge. Having both the CMA and the CPA certifications can help distinguish you from other job applicants, open doors to diverse opportunities, and provide greater flexibility to achieve long-term career goals. Not only is the CMA recognized worldwide, but achieving the designation demonstrates your mastery of financial planning, analysis, control, decision ­support, and professional ethics.

 

Reina G. Wiatt, CMA, CPA, is the president of Wiatt Consulting Services, LLC and a member of IMA’s Austin Area Chapter. You can reach her at trwiatt@swbell.net.
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