Management accountants, also known as cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, assist in strategic planning or new-product development as members of executive teams. They record and analyze financial data, in order that their employers might make informed financial decisions. They prepare financial reports for nonmanagement groups such as stockholders, creditors, regulatory agencies, and tax authorities. They may also be responsible for budgeting, performance evaluation, cost management, and asset management. Management accountants work in different areas within an accounting department, including financial analysis, planning and budgeting, and cost accounting.
Due to the importance of their work being true and accurate, management accountants should have a high degree of personal integrity. They must also be good written and verbal communicators because they are constantly required to explain and interpret their work to clients. They need to be able to work with computer systems, including accounting software packages, and they need to be good at working with people. They also should have strong mathematics skills, and an ability to quickly analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures.
In 2002, management accountants earned a median annual salary of $47,000. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $30,320, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $82,730. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of management accountants:
- Accounting, tax prep, bookkeeping, payroll services - $49,520
- Management of companies and enterprises - 49,110
Training and Education
Most candidates for management accountant positions need to have at least a bachelor's degree to qualify. Some employers require a master's degree in business administration with an emphasis in accounting. Experience in the accounting field, such as through a college internship program can be very advantageous for applicants. Another advantage is knowledge of computer accounting applications. Job seekers can gain a unique advantage in the job market by becoming certified as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Most States require CPA candidates to have at least 150 college semester hours of accounting, but a few do not.
Candidates should carefully research the licensing requirements of the State in which they wish to be certified. However, all States use the same Uniform CPA Examination. The exam is rigorous, consisting of four parts spread over two days of testing. Candidates must usually pass at least two parts, and then pass the remaining parts over a specific period of time. CPAs can specialize even further by obtaining Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. Management accountants can become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) by passing a four-part exam from the Institute of Certified Management Accountants, and by having at least 2 years of working experience. Entry-level management accountants usually begin as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for various other accounting jobs, and may advance all the way to financial vice-presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents. Management accountants have a high degree of occupational mobility and may switch to public accounting or internal auditing.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of management accountants is expected to increase about as fast as the average. Growth will be due to factors such as an overall increase in the number of businesses, evolving financial laws, the growth of international businesses, and rising scrutiny of company finances. In the wake of recent accounting scandals and an increased awareness of financial crimes, the demand for forensic accountants is expected to rise. Job openings will also result from the need to replace workers who retire, transfer occupations, or leave the labor force for some other reason. The best job prospects will go to those who pursue and obtain CPA status. Those with a master's degree, or who specialize in areas such as international business, specific industries, or current legislation, will also have a large advantage.