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IMA Endorses More University Accounting Programs

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By Michael Cohn
January 17, 2014

The Institute of Management Accountants has recently endorsed the undergraduate accounting programs at Michigan State University and Brigham Young University, joining Pennsylvania State University and Washington State University Vancouver, whose programs have already been endorsed by the IMA.

In order to receive the IMA’s endorsement, the programs need to cover material that will be tested for on the IMA’s Certified Management Accountant exam. The IMA introduced the endorsement program last summer to encourage more schools to provide education in management accounting (see IMA Endorses University Accounting Education Programs).

“It’s a program that we’ve set up to identify and promote schools that have management accounting programs, and we hope to endorse quite a few more going forward,” said IMA vice president of research and professor-in-residence Dr. Raef Lawson.

Raef Lawson

To be endorsed, schools have to cover at least 70 percent of the body of knowledge on the CMA exam, and some schools are modifying their curricula accordingly.

The universities that are seeking endorsement by the IMA also need to have adequate faculty resources in place, be accredited by a recognized accreditation organization and have a faculty member designated as an IMA Campus Advocate. The Campus Advocate program helps professors demonstrate a commitment to the future of the accounting profession by mentoring students and encouraging CMA certification.

To become a Campus Advocate, academics are required to: (1) receive and disseminate IMA/CMA marketing materials; (2) promote IMA benefits, student membership, the formation of student chapters and the CMA credential; (3) invite managerial finance and accounting practitioners to speak on campus; and (4) leverage IMA resources to advance the relevancy of the accounting curriculum.

“The Campus Advocate is a liaison between the school and the IMA,” said Lawson. “They help promote the field of management accounting and disseminate the resources the IMA has to promote management accounting as a profession.”

The endorsement program offers two tiers of recognition: full endorsement for those university programs that meet all endorsement criteria; and provisional endorsement for programs with some minor to moderate shortcomings in meeting all the criteria for full endorsement.

“We understand some schools may not meet the needs for full endorsement, but we want to work with them to meet the standards that we think programs should meet,” said Lawson.

Susan Convery, professor of practice at Michigan State University, noted that the process for applying to be endorsed involved filling out an application in which the university mapped out the particular courses in its undergraduate program to the objectives that the IMA had spelled out for the content areas on the CMA exam.

“It was quite a detailed application,” she recalled. “It took me all last summer. On each of the two parts there are about 15 or 20 objectives and I had to say in which course we covered that, whether it was a junior or senior level, and whether it was high, medium or low coverage.”

She had to look at all the syllabi for all of the courses taught, not just accounting but for other business courses such as management, as well as consult with other faculty members on the appropriate levels to list on the application.

So far the IMA has endorsed seven higher education programs and has set up a Committee on Academic Relations to review the applications. “It’s similar to an accreditation process,” said Lawson. “A large part of it is self-evaluation.”

Convery has seen more students considering management accounting in recent years. “It feels like there is much more interest this year than five or six years ago,” she said, noting that more students have been attending the informational sessions given by the IMA’s university liaison.

The CMA exam also seems more doable now by students, as it only has two parts as opposed to the four that it had in 2010. And unlike the CPA exam, which is still a four-part exam, students can take it during their undergraduate years. Like the AICPA, the IMA is also offering scholarships to students to encourage more of them to become management accountants.

Convery noted that many students may still want to become CPAs in addition to being CMAs. “We don’t pitch this as an alternative to a CPA, but it’s a credential that would complement their other achievements and their resume to signal that they understand what it means to be an accountant within an organization,” she said.

Michigan State has a large accounting program, with about 550 undergrads and 225 students enrolled in the graduate program. “A large share of them go into public accounting, and certainly we get a lot of public accounting firms coming to campus to recruit them,” said Convery. “Traditionally that’s been the career path.”

However, a number of other types of businesses also visit the Michigan State campus to recruit accounting students, including companies in the auto industry like Ford, GM and Chrysler, as well as chemical companies like Dow Chemical, along with energy companies and the financial industry.

“The CMA is very much directed toward integrating accounting and finance so a lot of students want to go into financial institutions, banks and investment firms,” said Convery.

Lawson believes the IMA’s endorsement program is accomplishing a number of objectives. “One would be to beef up the management accounting content,” he said. “The other is to publicize the programs that have strong management accounting content. We think that knowledge is critical. We also help promote schools that meet these criteria and help them attract more and better students.”

The trend toward online education should not be a hindrance either. So far, the programs that have applied for endorsement have been classroom based, but Lawson said that if some component of them were delivered online, that would not disqualify them from an endorsement.

For more information on the IMA's endorsement program, click here. For information on the Campus Advocate program, click here.

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