Cost Accountant: Job Duties, Salary and Education Requirements

Working as a cost accountant requires some formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

The job title 'cost accountant' often designates an entry-level management accountant position. Cost accounting involves establishing a budget to manage costs and maximize profitability. The majority of such accountants hold baccalaureate degrees in accounting or finance, and many choose to voluntarily become Certified Management Accountants.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in accounting is standard, although an associate's degree may be sufficient for entry-level positions; a master's degree may be required by some employers
Other Requirements Voluntary certification as a Certified Management Accountant (CMA)
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 13% for all accountants and auditors
Median Salary (2013)* $65,080 for all accountants and auditors

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cost Accountant Job Overview

According to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), about 75% of professionals performing finance and accounting functions work inside businesses and organizations (www.imanet.org). This includes cost accountants, who help set budgets and record the costs of operations for an organization.

Job Duties

Cost accountants are responsible for budgeting, cost management, performance evaluation and asset management within a company or organization. They typically collaborate as part of an executive team to create a financial plan for the organization. They may work with corporate executives or heads of companies to strategically plan for a company, or they may prepare financial reports for tax authorities, creditors, stockholders and regulatory agencies.

Education Requirements for Cost Accountants

A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement for a job as a cost or junior accountant, although a growing number of employers seek prospective employees with a master's degree in accounting or a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.

Still, some companies might hire individuals who have only an associate degree or have taken accounting classes at a business school. Many individuals choose to become Certified Management Accountants (CMA), a globally recognized designation conferred by the IMA that involves an exam.

Cost Accountant Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted average job growth for accountants and auditors between 2012-2022, with those holding a professional designation, such as CMA or Certified Public Accountant (CPA), enjoying the best prospects (www.bls.org). A 2012 salary survey by the IMA found that certified professionals earned approximately 32% more than those without the CMA designation. The BLS reported the median annual salary of accountants and auditors as $65,080 in May 2013.

Career Advancement

Cost accountants may advance to higher-level positions within the management accounting world, such as accounting manager, budget director, chief cost accountant or internal auditing manager. Others eventually become chief financial officers, company controllers, treasurers or even presidents of corporations.

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