The Institute of Management Accountants released its salary survey Thursday, showing that accountants worldwide who earned certification through the Certified Management Accountant program received more in base salary and total compensation than accountants without certification.

In the U.S., CMAs earn 31 percent more in median total compensation than professionals without certification ($127,200 vs. $97,000). The median annual total compensation for all respondents in the U.S. is $120,000, up 6.2 percent from last year’s number ($113,000).

While CMAs in all age categories earn more than their non-certified counterparts globally, CMA professionals in the 30-39 age group outearn their non-certified components by a whopping 40 to 50 percent. Those aged 50 and older with CMAs receive more than $23,000 more in total median compensation than non-CMAs ($138,413 vs. $115,000).

The data came from over 2,500 respondents across 81 countries. Globally, CMA-certified finance professionals across the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa earn 61 percent more than their non-CMA counterparts. This finding signals the value global employers place on the skills possessed by CMAs as traditional accounting and finance roles continue to evolve.

In addition to a higher total compensation, this year’s survey shows a positive outlook for raises in the accounting profession. Like the 2014 Salary Survey, more than three-fourths of survey respondents expect to receive a raise this year, with a median expected increase of 8 percent. 

However, salaries and total compensation vary considerably by responsibility area. Internationally, those working in education, information systems, government accounting and corporate accounting will demand the highest salaries. Public accounting remains the lowest-paid area globally.

For the first time in the history of the annual survey, the number of Chinese respondents (28.6 percent) exceeded the number of U.S. respondents (26.3 percent), reflecting the increased emphasis on management accounting and the CMA in China. Asia also saw the largest increase in CMA credentials and increase in female respondents. While global salaries are lower than last year overall, the decline is largely due to lower salaries in regions such as the Middle East and North Africa.

“CMAs across all regions feel that their certification enhances their ability to move across areas of the business,” said IMA director of research Kip Krumwiede, who wrote the survey. “Certified professionals report substantially higher salaries and total compensation than their non-certified counterparts. This salary premium, along with the greater career opportunities available to CMAs, attests to the ongoing value of this program.”

The IMA's CMA certification has been competing in recent years against the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation offered by the American Institute of CPAs and the U.K.-based Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. The organizations began offering the designation in 2012 to their members who were already management accountants on a grandfathered basis, and last year began a testing program. However, the IMA contends that its exam is more rigorous.

“It’s a different philosophy,” said IMA president and CEO Jeff Thomson. “Starting this past May or June here in the U.S., if you’re a U.S. CPA, in addition to writing a check you actually have to take a one-part exam. It’s a three-hour case study which I believe is sent to you several weeks or months in advance. We have a different philosophy in testing, in terms of multiple choice and a case base and an objective base. We’ve not seen any results from that first window of CPAs taking the CGMA. We don’t have strong opinions either way, other than that we know that our testing metaphor ensures credible and competent management accountants around the world, and I’ll leave it to others as to whether a single case study is the best means to objectively test competence.”

The complete survey results are available at www.imanet.org/salary_survey.

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