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A Winning Combination

By Russell Stevens, Ph.D., CMA
December 1, 2021

Learning about the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) began for me in 1981, when the manufacturing company for which I worked sent me to meetings of the National Association of Accountants (now IMA®) for professional development.

 

Besides enjoying the camaraderie, I found the topics interesting, particularly because my job was in management accounting. It also helped that the person I was dating at the time was in the process of earning her CMA. That piqued some interest. But I was still in school at California State University, Fullerton, working toward my bachelor’s degree, so the CMA was a little way off for me.

 

My girlfriend passed the exam and became a CMA. She and I also got married not long after. I continued my degree and certification process, sitting for the exam soon after I graduated with my B.A. in accounting. For me, the combination of work experience and having just finished my degree helped me pass the test. And to our knowledge, we were the first CMA couple in California.

 

My CMA certification facilitated a few job changes, and I found the subject matter valuable in my successive positions in government and nonprofit. I’ve always found it unfortunate when people think that the CMA is only about cost accounting. It is—and should be recognized as—so much more.

 

My most interesting career transition was when I moved into academia about 20 years ago. Between my CMA and MBA, plus excellent recommendations from my professors, I was offered a part-time teaching job at the school where I had earned my MBA, Hope International University. My new dean was impressed by my experience and the range of knowledge in the CMA program. Based on a broad background from school, the CMA, and some special training, I also created and had published an academic workbook to teach personal finance using principles gleaned from the Bible.

 

Most recently, I was asked by another dean to teach part-time in my university’s online MBA program. I accepted that move, earned my Ph.D., and later accepted offers from other schools to teach in their online programs as well. I have encouraged my students to pursue the CMA certification as a smart career choice.

 

As a teacher, I have been heartbroken to see the toll that student debt takes on students and their families. Drawing from my professional experience, schooling, and CMA, I published a book last year on avoiding college debt. The key principle in the book is that if you follow the crowd, you can expect to suffer the crowd’s consequences—like the crushing load of student debt. For me, earning the CMA was a way to stand out from the crowd, as the peer pressure when I was in business school was to go for the CPA (Certified Public Accountant).

 

As I look back, I see my CMA as a critical part of the mix of education and experience that has allowed me to be where I am today. And I love what I do now.

 

Russell Stevens, Ph.D., CMA, is an online professor for multiple colleges and universities. He is a member of IMA’s Charlotte Chapter. You can reach him at profruss@saynotocollegedebt.com.
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