Companies would operate a lot less efficiently without cost accountants, who study plant and department operations and help reduce costs. These professionals, who are also known as managerial or industrial accountants, analyze factors that affect prices and enhance the profitability of products. If you have analytical, communication and math skills and are highly detail oriented, a job as a cost accountant might be an appropriate career choice.
Cost accountants develop systems for tracking costs and expenses in manufacturing companies, government agencies and as independent consultants. In this field, you track the costs of raw materials and product inventory, and evaluate labor expenses for plants and departments. You then determine how best to improve operations by changing suppliers, improving manufacturing processes or, in some cases, cutting jobs. If you work in the service industry, you might evaluate and restructure budgets for companies. Cost accountants evaluate company assets and select financial investments: stocks, bonds and real estate.
Cost accountants perform administrative duties such as recording cost information, writing reports and presenting their findings to upper management. If you work as a supervisor, you hire, train and assign tasks and projects to assistants and clerical workers. You also help subordinates develop their skills and conduct semiannual or annual performance evaluations.
Cost accountants usually work days, Monday to Friday, in offices. You might need to work overtime occasionally to complete important projects. If you work for an accounting firm or are self-employed, some local and overnight travel may be necessary. The venues might also vary because cost accountants sometimes evaluate operations and costs in factories and retail establishments.
Education and Training
Most cost accountants need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting. In this field, however, you may be required to have a master's degree, depending on your employer's job specifications. There are two master's degrees that are generally acceptable for cost accountants -- accounting or business. If you get a master's in business, you would want to concentrate in accounting, which is what employers prefer. Another option is becoming a Certified Public Accountant, or CPA, which is 150 additional semester hours in most states, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You also need to pass the CPA exam.
Salary and Job Outlook
The average annual salaries for accountants, including cost accountants, was $70,130 as of May 2011, according to the BLS. In 2013, Robert Half reported that cost accountants in large companies -- with one to three years of experience -- earned between $50,500 and 66,000 per year. If you held a cost accountant management position in a large company, you would earn between $79,250 and $108,500 annually. Cost accountants in mid-sized companies with one to three years experience earned $46,750 to $62,250 per year, while those in management made between $70,500 and $93,500. The BLS reported that the number of jobs for all accountants, including cost accountants, is expected to increase 16 percent between 2010 and 2020, which compares to a predicted average increase of 14 percent for all U.S. jobs.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Accountants and Auditors
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics: Accountants and Auditors
- Inc.: Cost Accountant Job Description
- Society for Human Resource Management: Cost Accountant
- Robert Half: Salary Calculator for Accounting and Financial Professionals
- Lockheed Martin: Cost Accountant
- Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images