There are many positions that fall under the umbrella of accounting, and those who hold a master’s degree in accounting can explore several options when it comes to choosing a career path. One particularly interesting role available to those with an education in accounting is the management accountant — a position that combines elements of leadership and accounting, and plays a vital function in modern companies and organizations. In this article, explore the various roles a management accountant plays in a company and what it takes to succeed at this position.
What Is a Management Accountant?
At the highest level, management accountants work directly beneath the CFO and are responsible for helping manage the financial side of a company. As with most positions in the field, there are various levels and the duties of the job will vary. Most often, management accountants are responsible for tasks such as:
– Producing and analyzing financial statements
– Managing the accounting staff
– Reporting back to the company’s CFO
– Helping oversee the company’s general ledger
– Helping create monthly budgets for company expense guidelines
– Completing and reviewing tax returns
– Assessing and providing input on the company’s internal controls and processes as they relate to the financial side of the company’s overall strategy
In performing all of these tasks, the position fills an irreplaceable role within the company and plays a large part in shaping its financial structure and strategy. As an added perk, landing the role could be one of the ways to fast-track your career all the way to the position of CFO. Though there’s certainly no guarantee that a management accountant will eventually be promoted to CFO, it’s one of the best positions to be in if you want to become the company’s Chief Financial Officer, as most management accountants learn the skills needed to be an effective CFO throughout the duration of their career.
How to Become a Management Accountant
Like most positions in the accounting field, landing a job as a management accountant starts with a great education. Though entry-level roles sometimes require a bachelor’s degree, many higher level functions require a master’s. Many management accountant opportunities may require a master’s in accounting.
Much like a CPA, one must also pass certification to become a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). To acquire a CMA designation, you need at least two years of experience in the management accounting field. If you would like to eventually pursue a job in the field and are working toward the experience necessary to become a CMA, make sure to check with your employer as you are applying for accounting jobs to see if the position qualifies as work experience toward your CMA requirements.
After you have two or more years of experience in the field, you can take the CMA exam — a standardized test required to become a CMA. Pass this test and you will officially be given the designation of Certified Management Accountant.
At this point, working toward a job as a CMA becomes much like finding other positions. You may have to start out at the entry level, working beneath senior accountants, before you are able to advance up the ladder into the management accountant role. However, with enough dedication, the position is certainly attainable and can be highly lucrative and rewarding career.
Skills of a Management Accountant
Once you’ve become a management accountant, there is a certain set of skills you may want to develop and nurture in order to excel at the position. To start, a deep-rooted interest in the mathematical and bookkeeping skills required to be an accountant can be helpful, as well as an equally deep interest in the business processes and employee management techniques that the management side of the position requires.
Along with all the fundamentals of accounting, you should also acquire an in-depth understanding of your company’s mission, vision and purpose. Since you may be making a number of decisions that will guide the direction of the company, it will be important for you to work alongside other executives in the company to the point that all of you are functioning as a single unit to drive the company forward.
Lastly, while some accountants have the luxury of operating semi-autonomously, a management accountant must function in a very transparent and integrated role. This requires you to develop outstanding communication skills, the ability to write reports and give presentations with ease, and the ability to be an effective and inspiring leader to the employees you are assigned to manage.
Salary of a Management Accountant
Having acquired the education, certifications and skills necessary to become a management accountant, you may fall into a higher compensation bracket. Fortunately, the position is one that is well paid. According to payscale.com, this position can earn between $47,000 and $136,000 a year. As previously mentioned, because of the many levels of management accounting, salaries can vary.
How a Master’s Degree Can Help You Pursue Management Accounting
Working as a management accountant is both a challenging and rewarding career. It plays a vital role within modern companies and organizations, and pursuing a career within the specialty requires you to be an exceptional problem solver, an adept decision maker, and an effective leader, along with being someone who is extremely capable and comfortable with all of the mathematical skills associated with accounting.
This position puts you in the center of the company’s decision making and strategy, and starts you on a career ladder that could ultimately lead all the way to the top of the company’s leadership structure. For all of these reasons and more, this is an excellent career to pursue if you find yourself drawn to aspects of both accounting and management.
If you are beginning the pursuit of a management role in accounting, consider taking the first step by earning your online Master of Science in Accounting from Maryville University. Our 100% online accounting program helps students to develop both a practical perspective and a business acumen that prepares them for the ever-changing world of advanced accounting.