When I started college at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada (UNLV), I had no idea what major I wanted to pursue. I started as a marketing major and later considered switching to management in my sophomore year.   It wasn’t until I took my first cost accounting course, ACC 202 – Managerial Accounting, that I realized accounting was for me. Each class session was engaging and challenged me mentally. I was intrigued by the different costs, formulas, and accounting systems unique from financial accounting.  

The course drove me to explore the additional opportunities that managerial accounting provided, and it’s where I first learned about IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) and the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification. The professor spoke about the importance of the CMA and IMA and asked the class what certifications we planned to get in our lifetime. To help enforce our future goals throughout the semester, he had us write our plan on our name cards. I thought deeply for a moment and then wrote I wanted to be a CMA, thus beginning my journey.

  The first step in my route was to become an IMA member. The process was easy, as the website was simple to navigate. As a student, I also received a generous discount toward membership.  

Membership came with plenty of benefits that exceeded my expectations. The most valuable benefit that helped me toward the CMA came from the monthly issues of Strategic Finance. In 2019, I stumbled across an article called "Dual Certification: It Can Be Done" by Joseph M. Hargadon and Lori R. Fuller. The article explained why acquiring both the CMA and the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certifications would be beneficial in differentiating yourself in a competitive business environment. It outlined a nine-step plan to prepare for the CMA and CPA exams while in college. I kept the article close to me and used it as my road map. Without IMA, I wouldn’t have access to the valuable information I use today as a graduate student.

  With the road map established, the next step needed was to pay for the CMA. As a college student, most of my income goes to paying off student loans. IMA recognizes the burden of student debt and offers scholarships for the CMA and college courses. These scholarships include the IMA Memorial Education Fund (MEF), Stuart Cameron & Margaret McLeod Memorial Scholarship (SCMS), and CMA Scholarship. The scholarships enabled me to take the CMA exams for free, so I had no excuse not to at least attempt them.   One requirement to apply for these scholarships was to become a member of the UNLV IMA student chapter. At first, I was hesitant to join a student organization. In addition to balancing the workload from my courses, I also had a part-time job. I worried that I would need to give up too much time to participate in the chapter. But I realized that if I wanted to become a CMA and fully embrace IMA, I would have to get outside of my comfort zone.   My first year in the UNLV IMA student chapter was wonderful. It allowed me to network with other students who had the same interests. There were also plenty of professional events that allowed me to explore the many different options in accounting. The student chapter didn’t pressure me to attend any of the events too, which was a huge relief. Being a part of the UNLV IMA student chapter also set my résumé apart from those of other students, which ultimately helped land me a job at a Big 4 accounting firm.   Another event I learned about from the UNLV IMA student chapter was the IMA Student Case Competition. It was a great way to test my knowledge from my accounting and finance courses as well as the CMA study materials. The case stimulates a real-world situation where you need to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize a solution to a management accounting problem. The case is complex but enjoyable as you work with your fellow peers to create the best solution to the problem. There’s no right or wrong answer and no grade, only an opportunity for your team to win an invitation to IMA’s annual conference and a chance to represent your university in front of business professionals.   Overall, IMA was the perfect home for me throughout my time in college. I was able to set a goal for how to pursue the CMA. IMA assisted me with that goal by providing resources like Strategic Finance and useful website information to help answer my questions. Multiple scholarships were available to help me with costs I couldn’t cover. I also experienced a welcoming environment from the UNLV IMA student chapter, developing friendships, networking with peers, and even testing my management accounting knowledge and skills through the IMA Student Case Competition.   While these benefits stood out for me, they’re only a tiny portion of what IMA offers. Explore for yourself and see what IMA can help you accomplish.  

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