Exploring why a University degree alone isn’t enough anymorePosted on October 23, 2014

Q: How important is Professional certification today considering the wide offerings of universities and the academic system?

A: Professional certification is more important than ever today.  It supplements – not replaces – academic programs, and the two can work hand-in-hand.  IMA, for example, is working with many universities to embed the body of knowledge from its Certified Management Accountant (CMA) program into their curriculum, and endorsing schools that do so at a rigorous level.  University accounting and finance curricula provide a good theoretical grounding, but often do not develop in enough depth the skills most needed on the job.

Q: A lot has been talked about the Competency gap particularly in the Accounting and Finance profession. What are your thoughts on  some of the new competencies required by employers and professionals? Do today’s educational establishments truly equip an accounting  student to be part of the CFO’s team?

A: The role of the management accounting professional has changed dramatically over the past several decades.  Management accountants now aspire to  move from being a “counter of wealth” and compliance “cop” to being a “creator of wealth” and influencers of strategy.  This requires a whole new set of skill sets, including integrate planning, budgeting and forecasting; enterprise risk management; and predictive analytics as well as “softer” skills such as influencing, collaboration, and constructive contention.  Sourcing these new skill sets is problematic – many universities’ programs are too focused on public accounting.  These skills therefore tend to be “home grown”, especially in larger enterprises with funds.

Q: What do you think should be done by educational institutions to tackle the competency gap resulting from changing business environments? How does the IMA help bridge the competency gap?

A: Educational institutions need to ensure that they are preparing their students for their life-long careers and not just their first job.  This requires that they prepare their students with a broad range of competencies, such as those contained in the IMA-MAS Accounting Education Framework.  They can also compare their curriculum to the CMA body of knowledge.

IMA is helping bridge the gap in many ways.  It has identified the key skills needed by management accountants and is endorsing schools that adequately prepare their students for management accounting careers. IMA is also helping through its Campus Advocate program, which is a community of faculty interested in advancing management accounting education.  IMA also has student chapters that help students develop essential “soft” skills.  Information regarding these and IMA’s many other student and academic programs is available at http://www.imanet.org/educator_resources/index.aspx and http://www.imanet.org/ima_student_programs/student_membership.aspx.

Q: I understand you have visited the region and have met with several academic institutions, how would you describe their readiness to tackle the competency crisis?

A: Overall, I was very favorably impressed with the programs at the universities that I visited.  Several of these schools are already well preparing their students for their careers and have already applied for IMA endorsement.  Several more will qualify for endorsement with minor changes to their curriculum.

Q: IMA is a not-for-profit association whose mission and purpose go beyond the CMA certification. Can you elaborate and explain why it is important to be an active members of the IMA?

A: IMA supports its members’ career development through access to an active professional community, continuing education, providing valuable information through its ongoing research activities, and promoting the highest ethical standards.


Dr. Raef awson is Vice President-Research & Policy and Professor-in-Residence for IMA (the Institute of Management Accountants).  He received his MBA and PhD degrees from the Leonard N Stern School of Business, New York University.  He holds a variety of professional certifications including CMA, CFA, CPA and ACMA.  Prior to joining IMA, Dr. Lawson served 20 years as a professor and Chair of the Department of Accounting and Law at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany.  Dr. Lawson has published several books and over seventy articles in the areas of sustainability, business ethics, performance scorecards, activity based costing, Chinese cost management practices, and cost and performance management systems in journals including The Accounting Review, Cost Management, Journal of Business Ethics, and Journal of Business, Finance and Accounting.

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