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Project Accountant: Job Description & Career Info

Sep 10, 2019

Project accountants require significant formal education. Learn about the degree requirements, job duties and certifications to see if this is the right career for you.

Working directly with project managers, a project accountant's main duties include creating the budget, assessing costs and overseeing the bills being paid. A bachelor's degree and certification are usually all that's required to obtain a position in this field, though some companies do ask for candidates to demonstrate a proficiency in accounting computer programs.

Essential Information

A project accountant, also called a cost accountant, monitors and documents the financial status of a company's projects and portfolios. Because project accountants work on a project-by-project basis, their duties may be less consistent and may overlap with other aspects of the company's business. A bachelor's degree in accounting is usually expected for these professionals, although a master's degree will increase a candidate's chances of landing a job.

Required Education A bachelor's degree is typically required, although an employer may prefer a candidate with a master's degree
Other Requirements Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation may be required by an employer
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 6% growth (for accountants and auditors)*
Median Salary (2018) $70,500 (for accountants and auditors)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Project Accountant Job Description

Project accountants work closely with project managers to devise the budget, facilitate the billing process and perform cost assessments for a particular project or portfolio. They usually take part in the executive decision-making process, often providing financial analyses on which management may base decisions about product development and other matters.

Some companies indicated that project accountants may also be required to possess proficiency in accounting computer applications, such as spreadsheets or data-management software. They must also have an ability to effectively communicate with various technical and managerial professionals, and they must have flexible personalities particularly suited for working in a constantly changing work environment.

Project Accountant Education Requirements

Employers typically require project accountants to hold at least bachelor's degrees in accounting or a related field; however, some prefer candidates who hold master's degrees in accounting or a pertinent discipline. Bachelor's degree programs in accounting typically entail course loads heavy in courses like financial accounting, cost accounting, auditing and taxation.

Students who opt to pursue master's degrees in accounting may be required to have completed a minimum number of courses in accounting and similar fields during undergraduate school. Master's-degree students may take courses in business taxation, managerial accounting, risk management and assurance standards.

Certification

Although the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation is not necessary to become a project accountant, many employers prefer to hire CPAs. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which prepares the CPA qualifying examination, tests prospective accountants in four basic areas: financial accounting and reporting, auditing, business environment and regulation. Although the eligibility requirements can vary by state, most states require candidates to hold bachelor's degrees and at least two years of accounting experience in order to qualify.

Project accountants may also benefit from certification administered by other organizations. For instance, individuals may earn the Certified Management Accountant designation from the Institute of Management Accountants. This particular certification may be pertinent to project accountants who aspire to advance to executive-level positions.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for accountants and auditors are projected to increase 6% between 2018 and 2028. As regulations and laws pertaining to finance change, businesses will seek accountants to ensure compliance. CPAs who hold master's degrees may see the best job prospects. PayScale.com reports a median salary for project accountants of $56,931 as of August 2019.

Keep in mind that many companies prefer job candidates who have a master's degree in a relevant field. Earning your certification through the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants or the Institute of Management Accountants and having a full understanding of current company finance laws will help boost job prospects.

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