Journey from CMA to CFO

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So you want to be a CFO, but don’t know where to start. Often to achieve any high level management accounting position, you will need to have a special degree or certification.

While there is certainly an array of different certifications you could obtain in pursuit of this goal, the CMA is a wonderful option that will help you significantly in your career, and may even help you achieve your dream of CFO.

As a CFO you’ll be dealing with huge company responsibilities and major business decisions. To be a successful CFO, it is essential to grow upon this basic foundation by furthering both your formal and informal education. Obtaining your CMA certification is an excellent way to do this.

But you need to take some strategic steps along the way, and there are ways to fast-track your goals.


    • Financial planning and analysis
    • Cost management
    • Internal controls/information systems
    • Strategic planning and decision making
    • Banking
    • Risk Management
    • Investment decision making
    • Operations management
    • Human resources
    • Organizational behavior
    • Coaching staff
    • Marketing

    These are all skills that you will frequently utilize in your job as a CFO.

    You can start thinking like a CFO, by immersing yourself in the profession and all it entails. Another great thing about obtaining your CMA certification is that it comes with Membership with the IMA (Institute of Management Accountants).

    As a CMA, you will have access to all the IMA has to offer members, giving you ample opportunity to practice the skills so crucial to career development on the path to CFO, such as team building, networking, and leadership.

    There is no single path that can grant you success as a CFO, or even secure you a place as a CFO in a small company.

    Step 1: Get a Bachelor’s Degree in a Relevant Field

    If you’re a planner, you may have your eye on this prize as early as college. That’s commendable and important. Because chief financial officer qualifications include your education and degree.

    An attractive CFO degree is going to be in accounting or finance. It can be general, but needs to be in the right universe if you hope to work your way up the ladder one day.

    Most people with business degrees won’t go on to become a CFO. Some people do pursue an MBA with a concentration in accounting or finance, which may be an exception that gets you to the CFO role.

    Step 2: Get an MBA or MSF Degree (Optional)

    Most people who are really serious about getting to the top of the accounting field and becoming a CFO do either graduate studies, a professional certification, or both. While it isn’t required, having a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting/finance or a Master’s of Science in Finance (MSF) has numerous benefits.

    Step 3: Get a Professional Certification, Like a CPA or CMA

    In addition to college and possibly graduate work, it’s recommended that people who want to become a CFO go after an accounting certification. The two most popular and respected are Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

    Step 4: Get Well-Rounded Experience (more than just Accounting)

    CFOs need to be more than master management accountants. They have a decision-making role in areas as diverse as IT, human resources, investor relations, supply chain, and operations. Much of the test prep you do for graduate school and advanced accounting certificates can help you build this understanding in a meaningful way. However, landing a CFO role is a long-term commitment that takes demonstrated abilities.

    Step 5: Develop Management Skills

    Even if you love numbers, the path to CFO is going to include lots of people. CFOs are at the top of the heap. This means that you will inevitably be reported to by department heads and you will need to manage teams.

    Step 6: Establish a Solid Career (or Take a Fast-Track)

    Your track record should speak for itself. So, build it with intention. Each job you take can contribute to a body of work that clearly demonstrates your skills and abilities.

    If your end game is to be a CFO, you need to think strategically about where you work and how you build a network that can be useful to you.


    While the extra education and certifications go a long way, they aren’t actually necessary to becoming a CFO. In fact, chief financial officer requirements aren’t set in concrete. They will vary from company to company.

    1.Personal Skills

    There is no substitute for people skills. CFOs will be expected to communicate with boards, shareholders, fellow executives, and employees at every level of the company. The right personal skills include the following:


    CFOs are expected to be great leaders. They need to be able to manage teams, provide directives, and cast vision that gets people from every department on board.

    3.Time Management

    Managing time is a crucial part of providing financial leadership at a company. In addition to self-management, this will be important for managing staff.

    4.Accounting Knowledge

    CFOs need to have a significant body of knowledge about all areas of accounting. They will be responsible for managing everything from daily tasks to ongoing projects.

    5.Technology Adept and Data Analysis

    Finances and accounting are now managed primarily by various software platforms and technology. A modern CFO needs to be able to access and analyze data as well as use and oversee the use of financial tech.

    6.Financial Strategy Vision

    The high-level strategies and visioning that drives a company’s financial planning and operations is overseen by the CFO. The ability to craft and communicate both the broad vision and task-related execution is often part of a CFO’s job.


    • Preparing the annual reports of a company
    • Making capital expenditure decisions
    • Evaluating the various proposals  involving expenditure
    • Reporting financial performance
    • Preparation of budgets
    • Keep a track of the various expenses and incomes to ensure that they  are in sync with the budgets that have been prepared
    • Evaluating and managing financial risks of the company

    The CMA career path can get you there

    Any other certification like CPA, CFA or Chartered Accountancy can give you the necessary basic knowledge in accounting, taxation, economic and business laws, and even the basics of corporate finance and investment banking. However, this is not enough. You will have to get a solid grounding and in-depth knowledge about the work that you will eventually do as a CFO.

    To become a CMA certificate holder, you will have to acquire 2 years of experience in working in a role related to finance and accounting. Apart from the in-depth theoretical coverage that the CMA course will give, this practical experience will provide additional grounding to students who aspire to become a CFO someday. It will give you a clear idea about how the finance and accounts departments work in a company. Contact us for more guidance.


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