Becoming a Managerial Accountant: Salary & Job Description

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The median annual salary for accountants overall is around $66,000, but is it worth the educational requirements, licensing and student debt? Get the truth about the job's duties and employment outlook to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Managerial Accountant Career

A managerial accountant, also known as a management or cost accountant, prepares financial information for internal use in their organizations. Read about the pros and cons of this career to decide if it's right for you.

Pros of a Managerial Accountant Career
Can work in an office or, in some cases, telecommute, handling accounting activities from home*
Needed in a variety of industries because almost every type of business requires accounting*
Business often increases during tax season*
Increasing globalization will lead to the rise in the need for accountants able to navigate international finance*

Cons of a Managerial Accountant Career
Long work hours; in 2012, 20% of accountants worked more than a 40-hour workweek*
Most states require accountants to be licensed as CPAs*
Must keep up on changes in strict accounting laws*
Must hold a bachelor's degree, and in some cases a master's degree in accounting*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Info

Like other types of accountants, managerial accountants record and analyze an organization's finances and prepare financial statements. Managerial accountants' prepared statements are mostly for internal use, unlike other types of accountants' statements that might be for public or government use. As a managerial accountant, your work will help management evaluate performance, control costs and make organizational decisions.

Job Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of accountants would grow by 13% during the decade spanning 2012 to 2022. This job growth is just about as fast as the average for all careers. The need for businesses to comply with strict government accounting standards will keep demand for accountants steady. Competition will be stiff for accounting jobs at top companies.

As of 2014, accountants made a median annual income of roughly $66,000, according to the BLS. The bottom 10% of accountants made an annual salary of $41,000 or less in 2014, while the top 10% made an income of about $116,000 or more that year.

What Are the Requirements?

In most cases, accountants must have a bachelor's degree in accounting. A master's degree is desired by some employers. States usually requires accountants to be licensed as CPAs. CPA licensure may not be required for some managerial accountants because the certification is only required for accountants whose financial statements are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), according to the BLS. Since accountants handle financial information, an attention to detail is crucial as are organizational skills. You should have excellent math knowledge and the ability to communicate well through written and oral means. In handling any difficult accounting records, accountants should know how to solve complex problems within a timely manner.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers are looking for educated and experienced managerial accountants. You must have the ability to organize finances, and record and report on the company's economic status. Upper management positions need financial analysis experience to help find solutions to their business's economic issues. Here are some summaries of real job postings from the April 2012 job boards:

  • An Albuquerque accounting firm was seeking a cost accountant to help track expenses and allocate monthly costs for labor, equipment and other expenditures. A bachelor's in finance or accounting was required and a master's degree and/or CPA was preferred.
  • A publishing company in Boston advertised for a management accountant to help oversee the business's new digital division. Duties included preparing weekly sales reports, monthly financial statements and year-end accounting reports.
  • In New Jersey, an accounting and finance firm wanted an accountant to maintain client records and help reconcile expense discrepancies. Qualifications included one or more years experience and a bachelor's degree in accounting.
  • A logistics company in California was looking for a cost accountant to keep the monthly business ledgers and develop a finance system. The employer required applicants to have strong communication skills, a bachelor's in finance or accounting and at least four years experience.
  • A Houston manufacturing firm advertised for a cost accountant to maintain the company's financial systems. Qualifications included a strong knowledge of variable and standard cost.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Competition for jobs at top companies can be tough but you can make your skills stand out by gaining work experience. During your education you can participate in an accounting internship in the industry that you want to work in upon graduation. You can also take specialized accounting classes, such as bookkeeping and internal auditing. Additionally, you can stand out by increasing your computer knowledge. Employers are seeking accountants with technical skills such as knowing how to use a Mac and PC and being familiar with certain accounting software. You could take additional computer classes while in your degree program or complete a computerized accounting certificate program.

Get Certified

According to the BLS, certification can be advantageous for prospective accountants because it shows competence in the field. Certification as a CPA is a requirements for many accountant positions. Qualifications vary from state to state, but usually involve 4-5 years of college coursework and passing a 4-part licensing examination. Other types of certifications are also available from professional accounting organizations. Some examples include the Certified Management Accountant designation offered through the Institute of Management Accountants and the Institute of Internal Auditors' Certified Internal Auditor credential. Professional certifications are often contingent on a certain amount of experience in your specific accounting field.

Other Careers to Consider

Budget Analyst

If you'd like to still work in the financial field, but on a specialized duty, consider working as a budget analyst. Budget analysts help businesses and institutions organize their finances by supervising spending and creating budgets. Like the job of accountants, most employers require budget analysts to have a bachelor's or master's degree, but the major may vary, including business, politics and finance. The BLS predicted that employment of budget analysts would grow by ten percent from 2010-2020. This is about as fast as average growth for all jobs. In 2011, the BLS reported that budget analysts made a median annual income of $69,000.

Cost Estimator

If working outside of the office is appealing while still being an asset in the financial field, there are other options. Cost estimators study a number of factors to determine the overall cost of an industrial plan or project. Some of their work is done in an office, but much of their work is done on-site. A bachelor's degree is preferred, but isn't essential because many cost estimators obtain their positions after years of construction site management. Employment of cost estimators is expected to grow much faster than average, by 36% between 2010 and 2020 according to the BLS. The median annual income for cost estimators was $58,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Capella University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD: Accounting (ACBSP-accredited)
      • DBA in Accounting
      • DBA in Finance
      • PhD in Finance (ACBSP-accredited)
      • PhD in Business Management (ACBSP-accredited)
    Master's
      • MBA: Accounting (ACBSP-accredited)
      • MBA - Accounting CPA Pathway
      • MBA: Finance (ACBSP-accredited)
      • MBA in Business Admin
      • MBA MSN-to-MBA Business Administration
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting (ACBSP-accredited)
      • BS - Accounting CPA Pathway
      • Bachelor: Finance (ACBSP-accredited)
      • Bachelor: Business Admin (ACBSP-accredited)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Strayer University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. in Accounting: Public Accounting Concentration
      • M.S. in Accounting: Corporate Accounting
      • M.S. in Accounting: International Accounting
      • Master of Business Admin: Accounting Concentration
      • M.S. in Accounting: Taxation Concentration
      • Master of Business Admin: The Jack Welch MBA
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Accounting
      • B.S. in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Finance Concentration
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Management Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate in Arts in Accounting
      • Associate in Arts in Business Admin
    Certificate
      • Diploma in Acquisition and Contract Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Accounting
      • MS in Accounting- Tax Specialization
      • MS in Accounting - Audit Specialization
      • MS in Accounting - Government Specialization
      • MS in Accounting - Finance Specialization
      • MBA: Finance
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • BSBA - Investment
      • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
    Associate's
      • Associate: Accounting
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
    Certificate
      • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Southern New Hampshire University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA in Accounting
      • MS in Accounting
      • International MBA in Six Sigma Quality
      • MS in Accounting - Management Accounting
      • MS in Accounting - Taxation
      • MS in Accounting - Finance
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Accounting
      • BS in Business Studies - Accounting
      • BS in Business Studies - Org Leadership
      • BS Finance
      • BS in Finance - Financial Planning
      • BS in Business Studies - Business Finance
    Associate's
      • AS in Accounting
      • AS in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master of Finance
      • MS - Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Accounting
      • BS - Business Management
  • Campus and Online Programs
    6. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Internet Marketing
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Ashford University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MA-Accountancy
      • MA/Accountancy - Accounting
      • MBA - Finance
      • MBA - Media Management
      • MBA - Business Economics
      • MBA
    Bachelor's
      • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Finance
      • B.A. - Accounting
      • B.A. - Business Admin
      • B.A. - International Business
      • B.A. - Operations Management and Analysis
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Human Resources
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Project Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting & Healthcare Mgmt.
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • B.S. - Business Management: Business Admin Concentration
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Accounting
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
    Master's
      • MBA: Accounting
      • MS in Accounting
      • MBA: Finance
      • MBA
      • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)
      • MBA: Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Finance and Economics
      • BS in Business Admin.
  • Campus and Online Programs
    10. Everest

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate's - Accounting

Featured Schools

Capella University

  • PhD: Accounting (ACBSP-accredited)
  • MBA: Accounting (ACBSP-accredited)
  • Bachelor: Accounting (ACBSP-accredited)

What is your highest level of education completed?

Strayer University

  • M.S. in Accounting: Public Accounting Concentration
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Accounting
  • Associate in Arts in Accounting
  • Diploma in Acquisition and Contract Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • Master - Accounting
  • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
  • Associate: Accounting
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Southern New Hampshire University

  • MBA in Accounting
  • BS in Accounting
  • AS in Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master of Professional Accounting
  • Master of Finance
  • BS - Accounting
  • BS - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Internet Marketing

What is your highest level of education?

Ashford University

  • MA-Accountancy
  • MA/Accountancy - Accounting
  • BA/Sports and Recreation Management - Finance
  • B.A. - Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Human Resources
  • Bachelor: Accounting
  • Associate of Science - Accounting
  • Diploma: Bookkeeping and Payroll Accounting

What is your highest level of education?