What Does a Cost Accountant Do?

Cost accountants are responsible for collecting, adjusting, auditing, and scrutinizing financial information from all areas of a company. They must collate the facts and numbers, which may include data about personnel, planning systems, operating policies, wages, and bonuses into financial reports that can be thoroughly analyzed. Most cost accountants are graduates of bachelor's degree programs, such as the Bachelor of Science in Accounting, and are also certified management accountants (CMAs). Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Increases in competition and uncertainty in the economy require constant evaluation of operational costs, including raw materials, transportation, wages, rent, utilities, office supplies, furniture, and communication materials. Executives, directors, and managers rely on cost accountants to ensure that they are using their companies' resources in a manner that is efficient and adds to the organizations' bottom line. Cost accountants' reports reveal the actual cost of services that are provided, products that are manufactured, or items that are produced over a designated period. Cost accounting systems disclose the profitable or unprofitable projects, services, departments, and procedures.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 10% growth (accountants and auditors)*
Key Skills Math skills; analysis (for tax liability, fraud detection, and more); attention to detail; communication skills
Work Environment Fast-paced work in offices is most common; 20% of accountants work more than 40 hours weekly
Similar Occupations Bookkeeper; Tax Examiner; Financial Analyst; Personal Financial Advisor

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training and Education

Most people interested in becoming cost accountants enroll in four-year bachelor's degree programs. Many cost accountants earn a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting. Students should place a strong emphasis on developing a keen understanding of theories and concepts associated with other business-related fields, such as business organization, financial analysis, principles of economics, money and banking, business law, and information technology. Typically, most bachelor's degree programs in accounting include the following core courses:

  • Accounting Principles
  • Macroeconomics
  • Financial Accounting
  • Auditing
  • Business Communication
  • Statistics for Decision Making
  • Corporate Taxation
  • Ethical and Legal Topics in Business

Advanced Education

Earning a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for a career as a cost accountant. Today, many firms prefer to hire people who have obtained an advanced degree, like the Master of Science in Business Administration. In addition, career opportunities are enhanced for individuals who are Certified Management Accountants (CMAs).


According to PayScale.com in May 2019, the majority of cost accountants earn salaries ranging from $42,000 to $76,000 a year. The median annual salary earned by such accountants per PayScale.com was reported as $55,574 the same month. The website notes that most individuals titled as senior cost accountants earn between $57,000 and $90,000 annually, with a median salary reported as $73,178.

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