The Importance of Integrity in a Certification Program

At IMA, we’re dedicated to quality and providing the most prestigious management accounting certification in the world: the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). For more than 40 years, we have been building a professional certification program that is a true reflection of the management accounting profession. And over the years, the standard for earning the CMA has remained high.

I attribute this continuous high standard and respected reputation to the integrity of the CMA exam. An exam has integrity if it’s both valid and reliable, which in turn leads to consistent outcomes. When professionals pass an exam—and earn a certification—that has integrity, they have more confidence in their day-to-day work, and employers identify them as experts in the field.




To earn the CMA, professionals need to pass the challenging two-part exam, fulfill an educational requirement, and meet an experience requirement. In addition, CMAs commit to the ethical standards in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice and an annual continuing education requirement.

To ensure the CMA validates competence in the in-demand skills needed by management accountants, we regularly update the questions and the content specification outline to reflect the most current knowledge and skill requirements.

These high standards advance the management accounting profession and the careers of those working in the field. A certification with high standards of integrity and trust is a signal to employers that you’ve taken and passed a rigorous exam and sets you apart from your peers.



comp_advantThroughout the years, we’ve ensured an unwavering attention to integrity by using robust processes to ensure the questions on the CMA exam are psychometrically reliable, ensuring strong internal controls at testing centers, and committing to continuous improvement.

In addition, we haven’t grandfathered anyone into the CMA program, meaning that every professional holding the CMA has taken an exam, and no one has earned our designation by simply writing a check.

Adding those three letters to the end of your name shows employers that you have taken a rigorous, relevant, and trusted exam and have the skills necessary to drive business performance. Employers see you as a trusted business partner.



asian business people

Investing in your career really pays off. Not only do CMAs earn an average of 61% more in total annual compensation than their noncertified peers, but they also enjoy faster advancement opportunities and employer recognition.

When you start searching for a credential with integrity, make sure you choose the right one for you and your career. Earning a certification with integrity gives you the confidence you need to take your career to the next level. And since the CMA is a global certification, you can take it with you wherever you go.

Nearly 50,000 of your peers in more than 100 countries have earned their CMA. We’re confident that those who have passed the exam have demonstrated competence in the management accounting and financial management skills necessary to perform at a consistently high level.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA


Related articles:

“The CMA: Rigorous, Relevant, and Trusted”Strategic Finance

“IMA’s 2015 Global Salary Survey” – IMA

Ethics Training: It Starts Earlier than You Think

Ethics is a serious topic for professionals working in business. Stories of financial professionals failing to act in an ethical manner – and the consequences – are unfortunately commonplace. It’s important for management accountants around the world to be able to understand and identify unethical behavior. This importance is reflected in the requirement for professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential to earn two hours of CPE credit in ethics each year.

While we often refer to ethical issues on the job, ethics training for professionals starts earlier than you think – even before college.

Higher Educationillustration2-BlogGraphic

Growing up, you acquire ethical values through many avenues, including your culture, religion, family, and more. These values stay with you throughout your life. While many people would agree that ethics isn’t something that you can be taught in school, you can learn how to recognize unethical situations in kindergarten through college.

In college (and with continuing education courses), you can learn about applying your ethical beliefs in the real world, the red flags that alert you to fraud and other unethical situations, and the procedures to report these situations. Most higher education institutions require their accounting majors to take an ethics course before graduating or incorporate an ethics component in other courses. This is a great way for students to learn how to address real-world ethical situations and understand what can happen when faced with financial pressures and your business’s reputation is on the line.

If you were ever to get caught cheating in school, consequences can range up to getting expelled. But if you get caught “cheating” in the real world, the consequences can be much more serious, including losing your job, damaging your reputation, and facing criminal charges.

After you graduate and get your first job, you’ll need to continue to develop your ability to identify unethical situations and learn how to avoid them. One way to do this is by asking for a mentor at your company, who could explain how a seasoned professional would handle such situations. How would he or she recognize the red flag? How would he or she report it? Each company has different procedures, which should be followed first. The IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice can also be a guide in resolving ethical conflicts.

HiRes - stepsApplying what you’ve learned in the classroom to the business world can be intimidating. But if you know the signs of unethical behavior and the resources available to you, you will be able to successfully uphold your values in the workplace and keep your company on the ethical path to success.

As a leader in upholding the highest ethical standards in business, IMA offers many resources to help guide accountants and financial professionals:

In a time when the news is flooded with stories about big corporations committing fraud, it’s more important than ever to understand your values and responsibility as an accountant to hold yourself to the highest ethical standards.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

Related Articles:
Overcoming the Fraud TriangleStrategic Finance
The Importance of Internal ControlsForbes
Nine Steps to Make Your Company’s Ethics Training Program Stick – AccountingWeb

Code of Ethics: Making Your Business Valuable

As children, we were taught right from wrong, good from bad. Then we took those values and modeled ourselves from that internal code of ethics. Over the years we develop and build our personal codes, and organizations should apply that same approach in designing standard ethical guidelines for conducting business.

building_blocksEnforce the Code from the Top-Down
Leaders have to create and enforce a standard code to have a solid and realistic set of guidelines. Then, they should implement these guidelines throughout the organization. If it starts at the top, the example can trickle down through the organization, creating an ethical business culture. Every employee should be equipped with the knowledge to handle daily moral dilemmas using this code without exceptions or deviations, which is where many organizations’ ethical codes tend to fall apart. Annual employee training also will help enforce the code.

Create Core Values
A well-thought-out corporate mission, vision, and core values statement are important in driving business strategy and creating company values. Senior leadership must regularly and clearly communicate these messages to their team and continuously endorse them. The companies with the highest ethical values win customer trust, gain employee loyalty, and benefit from increased revenue over a sustained period of time.


Value = Ethics
Without a definitive set of guidelines, organizations will inevitability try to boost their bottom line however they can. But don’t ever compromise your values to get ahead. Instead synchronize your values with your plans for the future of your business. If you have a great commitment to values but not the right leadership and strategy, you’re doing a disservice to customers and all other stakeholders. Your emphasis should be on doing both. Ethics is at the core of what makes a business successful.

How do you make your business valuable? How do you implement your company’s code of ethics?

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Related Articles

Why Have a Code of Conduct

The Importance of a Code of Conduct

Earning Value through Trust

Following my initial year as IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) president and CEO, I intended to move the organization to the next level by creating more sustainable value outside of what’s defined as “economic” or “monetary” value. I recognized that we focused on what we do on a daily basis; that’s the easy part. It was time to place more focus on how we do it.

Here at IMA, we promote ethical behavior through daily actions—not hollow words—and thus the mantra of “creating value through values” was formed. I recently contributed a chapter on this subject to the book Trust Inc.: Strategies for Building Your Company’s Most Valuable Asset. In this post, I’ll summarize the key takeaway: creating a value statement is only the beginning. Leaders must have an internal strategy for ethical leadership and accountability in order to increase business value and overall performance.

Making Values Your Anchor

As the world’s leading management accounting association, IMA raises the bar with how anchorwe serve our members, volunteers, staff, as well as regulators and other external stakeholders. Our organization was going global after my first year as president and CEO. This meant that IMA’s values and culture would go far beyond our U.S. headquarters, reaching our growing markets in China, the Middle East, and Europe. Our values would attempt to cross various cultural norms and, while nothing is ever perfect, it’s critical to make the substantial effort in initiating foundational principles of how we do business.

Ethical Leadership Starts from the Top

It’s disheartening to reflect upon the many public scandals that have negatively impacted the reputation and perception of corporate leaders and the accounting and finance profession. This particular issue was the reason I decided not to outsource the process but draft IMA’s initial Core Values statement myself. If exemplary behavior and ethical leadership is required and expected to start from the top, then the genuineness and authenticity of the values become evident through the whole organization.

But in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni advises that people have to weigh-in before they buy-in. So I took my initial draft and invited input from different levels of the organization for two months. This process involved personal feedback from my leadership team, then from a confidential comment period with the entire global staff.

IMA’s Global Core Values

The final draft of IMA’s Global Core Values reflects the ideal values of the organization as a whole and the inner strength of trust, ensuring its survivability beyond the current management. The following five Global Core Values can be read separately but are mutually dependent, reminiscent of the relationship between the IMA organization and its members.

  1. Respect for the Individual
  2. Passion for Serving Members
  3. Highest Standards of Integrity and Trust
  4. Innovation and Continuous Improvement
  5. Teaming to Achieve

These five Core Values and their in-depth descriptions are framed, distributed, adopted, and hung all over our headquarters and in volunteer leaders’ hallways and offices. It serves as a symbol of unity and trust. While it may be easy to talk about Core Values, enforcing these behaviors in action is the next step in generating value for the organization.

Individual Accountability

Organizations must create ways to recognize and hold individuals accountable for their behavior. For example, IMA has incorporated the Global Core Values in our staff performance reviews and volunteer selection and recognition processes. They also serve as a guide as we evaluate and pursue strategic partnerships with other organizations.

The Good Guys Can Win

The results of enacting Global Core Values show our dedication to the qualitative investment in our human capital and growth. In time, we’ve seen high employee and volunteer retention, promotions of exemplary leaders, an increase in continued education and certification, new partnerships with like-minded organizations, and a visible self-regulating culture. These successful signs reveal that Global Core Values have transitioned from symbolic to being “real.” It’s our proactive approach to promote the old saying, “the good guys can win” in the end.

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE

Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Related Articles:

Spotlight on Association Leadership: IMA’s Jeff Thomson
IMA’s Jeff Thomson and Curt Verschoor Recognized as Top Thought Leaders in Business Ethics
Recipe for a Trusted Advisor: An Interview with a Former Fortune 100 CFO
Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior 2013