IMA Life: Choosing My Career PathBy
Four years ago, when I started my Master’s in Accounting and Financial Management at Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University) in the Netherlands, I was immediately presented with a dilemma regarding my electives.
Depending on my future job preference, I would either have to take some auditing-related classes and end up in the CPA (registered accountant) track or choose the management accounting track with the possibility of earning the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification after completing my master’s degree. I found the idea of obtaining the CMA quite appealing. I decided to follow the management accounting track, and, by the end of the master’s program, I had passed both parts of the CMA exam.
My first professional experience in the field of accounting came in the form of an internship in the global finance headquarters of a multinational logistics firm. A significant part of my time was devoted to management accounting tasks while supporting the financial planning and analysis team. The benefits of having passed both parts of the CMA exam became immediately evident. Dealing with budgeting, forecasting, and investment decisions, even from a facilitating role as an intern, became much easier because I had the theoretical understanding of the concepts and tools used in the process. Furthermore, I was able to perform better analyses while evaluating the monthly performance of the reporting entities.
When I started at PwC a couple of months later as a junior staff associate in external audit, I felt that the benefits of the CMA would subside because I wouldn’t have to deal with management accounting tasks anymore. But that was far from true. Many of the tools and concepts that an auditor uses to better understand a client, evaluate a client’s internal controls, or use as evidence for year-end procedures are either directly or indirectly linked to management accounting. Having the knowledge of a CMA enhanced my ability to interpret such information in a meaningful way.
I learned through my own professional experience that the choice between the CMA and CPA is no longer clear-cut. There are significant benefits to both, and an external auditor can be much more effective by understanding the concepts behind management accounting. Digitalization and the need to increase efficiency are bringing changes in the accounting and audit professions. Many of the repetitive and low-complexity tasks will no longer need a junior staff associate.
Consequently, even auditors will have to be involved in more complex work from the beginning of their career. And that’s an area where having a CMA can contribute a lot. These candidates will be in a better position to understand the tools used by their clients, assess risks, and draw conclusions based on them. Last but not least, the CMA provides access to an important, global network of finance professionals. The more you get involved, the more benefits you’ll see.
As Plato once said, “The beginning is the most important part of the work.” I encourage you to take the extra step, get your CMA (the sooner, the better), and enjoy the benefits.