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Managerial Accounting Career Info and Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a managerial accountant. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and required exams to find out if this is the career for you.

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Managerial accountants manage assets and budgets for different businesses. They need at least a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions. Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) credentials are a must, and earning additional certification can increase their overall earning potential.

Essential Information

Managerial accountants, or management accountants, specialize in the internal accounting needs of businesses. Cost analysis and management, asset management, performance analysis, budgeting and financial reporting are all standard job responsibilities for these professionals. Adherence to government standards of audit and disclosure is mandatory. Often part of an executive management team, managerial accountants also provide data and analysis to stockholders, federal or state taxing bodies, creditors and regulatory agencies. Most managerial accounting positions require at least a bachelor's degree and certification.

Required Education Bachelor's degree; master's degree may be required for specialties
Other Requirements Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) designation; some employers also require the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation
 Median Salary (2018)   $70,500 (for all accountants and auditors)*
 Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)   6% growth (for all accountants and auditors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Employment Overview

Managerial accountants usually follow a recognizable career arc through the businesses for which they work. Recent college graduates are junior auditors, cost accountants or trainees. Staff accountants, the next rung up the ladder, may specialize in financial reporting, management or auditing. Senior accountants supervise lower-tier employees and are responsible for special reports and sensitive financial data.

Once in upper management, practitioners may progress from assistant controller to controller or become departmental managers. The top executive tier practitioners are treasurers, chief financial officers or presidents of corporations.

Salary Overview

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an above average job growth can be expected for all accountants and auditors from 2018-2028; an average rise of 6% is anticipated in open positions. Increasing compliance issues and continued globalization in business will likely contribute to growth. In 2018, the BLS reported a median annual salary of $70,500 for all accountants and auditors. The school and employee bus transportation industry was listed as the highest-paying employer in the field, paying an average of $109,250 annually.

Educational Requirements

Most employers of managerial accountants require a bachelor's degree at a minimum, and often a master's degree. As with many fields, a graduate degree is not a requirement for practice, but can only help the accounting practitioner who wishes to specialize.

Bachelor's Degree in Accounting

Baccalaureate degree programs in accounting may take any of several forms; two more common ones are a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) or a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. While the degree titles may differ, the program fundamentals are similar. Students will simultaneously study business, accounting and economics. The first two years of these 4-year programs will be spent primarily on general education, and junior- and senior-year students will focus heavily on business administration and specialized accounting courses. Check out Study.com's managerial accounting course if you would like a sample of the coursework involved in an accounting degree.

Master of Accounting

According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), Master of Accounting (MAcc) degrees comprised 81% of all graduate degrees awarded within the field in 2012. These 2-year programs are often tailored to a specialized area of accounting. An aspiring managerial accountant might expect to take graduate courses such as:

  • Financial reporting in the corporate arena
  • Optimum business performance management
  • Data mining and analysis
  • Ethics and the legal environment
  • Management and negotiation

Certification

Legally, any professional who files reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) must have passed the Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) exam. Accordingly, this designation is a must for managerial accountants. In addition, a professional managerial accounting designation is also available, which some employers will require.

Certified Professional Accountant

The CPA exam is renowned for its difficulty. According to the AICPA, less than half of applicants pass the entire exam on their first attempt. The CPA Candidate Bulletin is offered to applicants by the AICPA and contains valuable information on topical issues, exam structure and test metrics.

Administered by individual states and governed by the AICPA, the required minimum classroom hours are higher than baccalaureate degree requirements in many, but not all, states. Some states require professional experience prior to sitting for this exam as well.

CMA Certification

According to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) Annual Salary Survey in 2015, practitioners who completed the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation stood to earn over 31% more lifetime earnings than peers who didn't hold any certification. This 4-part exam requires two years of management accounting experience and covers risk management, capital and working-capital issues, valuation and advanced financial statement analysis.

While managerial accountants are expected to see an average job growth through 2028 and a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, candidates can further improve their credibility by earning a master's degree in accounting or a related field. While the CPA designation is required, obtaining the CMA designation is not; however, doing so can increase job opportunities and overall earning potential.

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