How to Become a Cost Analyst: Education and Career Roadmap

Should I Become a Cost Analyst?

Cost analysts are responsible for running a complex bank of tests on data for their company of employment. They use these tests to determine specific solutions, such as the most profitable scenario for a large construction contract or the cost-effectiveness of current operations. Cost analysts work extensively with numbers and complex data and perform a wide variety of math-based tests upon these figures.

The majority of cost estimators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS,, work full-time, although overtime in order to meet deadlines is not uncommon. They spend most of their time in an office setting but light travel is required to visit sites or clients.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required; some cost analysts have master's degrees
Degree Field Accounting, finance, business administration
Licensure and/or Certification Voluntary certification is available
Experience Required for some certifications
Computer Skills Knowledge of accounting, financial analysis and spreadsheet software
Key Skills Math skills, complex problem solving, critical thinking
Salary (2015) $57,338 per year (Median salary for cost analysts)

Sources: O*Net Online, Payscale (July 2015), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Though there are no bachelor's degree programs that are specific to cost analysis, a major with a strong financial component is sufficient at the undergraduate level. Candidates must have a decent GPA in high school math classes as well as sufficient math scores on standardized tests to gain entry to math-oriented programs at the postsecondary level.

The Bachelor of Science (BS) in Accounting and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with a major in accounting are two common degrees that combine business and math. Many employers also appreciate a background in their specific industry; for example, construction companies may seek new hires with a bachelor's degree in building science or construction management.

Similarly, manufacturing companies prefer degrees in mathematics, statistics or engineering. Those who major in a non-financial field may wish to minor in business finance or accounting, or concurrently enroll in a certificate program.

Step 2: Choose a Specialty

Financial degrees in accounting, economics or finance are valued highly across all industries, but specializing may provide students with a valuable advantage against their competition. This can be accomplished by enrolling in programs with niche concentrations, such as taxation or business statistics. Another option is to accept an internship while completing an educational program; by doing so, individuals begin to gain training specific to one field in particular.

Step 3: Obtain Additional Certifications

Many cost analysts choose to sit for the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) exam administered by the Institute of Management Accountants. Other boards such as the Association for the Advancement of Cost Engineering, the American Society of Professional Estimators and the International Cost Estimating and Analysis Association administer examinations to professionals once they acquire the required years of experience. Obtaining these certifications verifies that individuals are experts in their field with the knowledge required to perform job duties and may lead to increased job opportunities.

Success Tip:

  • Consider options for advancement. Opportunities to advance to a higher pay level should continue to open as cost analysts gain experience. One may also look into whether additional education, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA), might be helpful.
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