What Are the Skills, Salary of a Good Cost Accountant?

By Robert Half September 21, 2016 at 10:30am

Attention to detail. Problem-solving and strong analytical abilities. Those are the skills of a good cost accountant. So how about the salary and job outlook? Good, too.

Organizations employ cost accountants to estimate the time, materials, cost and labor associated with products or services. Generally, a cost accountant specializes in a particular industry or type of product. They work closely with management in most companies to determine opportunities for the business to maximize profit and minimize waste.

As organizations in all industries become increasingly conscious of ways to control costs, reduce waste and increase cost efficiency, skilled cost accountant candidates are even more in demand. And their compensations are increasing as well, as you can see in the Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance.

Cost accountant salary benchmarks

The average starting salary for a cost accountant in 2017 at midsize companies ranges from $48,250 to $59,750 for the first year. These numbers represent a 3.8 percent increase from the year before.

Senior cost accountants can expect salary ranges from $68,750 to 87,750 at midsize companies and $75,750 to $99,000 at large companies.

Cost accountants in management positions at large companies can expect to earn as much as $94,250 to $126,000, an increase of 3.6 percent over 2016.

Duties and expectations

While roles may vary based on whether a cost accountant works in a manufacturing or service industry, typical cost accountant duties and expectations include the following:

Data collection: Cost accountants are expected to identify and quantify cost factors in the production or execution of a product or service.

Inventory: In product-based industries, cost accountants are often responsible for managing company inventory counts. They are also in charge of tracking the cost of goods sold and calculating overhead costs.

Analysis: Cost accountants must analyze data to recommend ways to make products and processes more efficient and cost effective. Depending on the industry, they may also work with sales teams to develop estimates and bids for clients.

Professional experience and skills

Many cost accountant positions require experience in the employer’s industry or sector. A bachelor's degree is required, as well as strong mathematical skills. Experience with cost-estimating software is a plus.

Employers also commonly seek professionals who have earned designations such as the CPA, chartered global management accountant (CGMA) or certified management accountant (CMA), and a master's degree in business (MBA) is highly valued for managerial roles. These credentials demonstrate a candidate's commitment to ongoing learning and expertise in specific skills relevant to cost accounting.

Additional preferred qualifications include:

  • Proficiency in Microsoft Excel
  • Solid communication skills
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Strong research capabilities
  • Interpersonal skills

Start your job search now

This specialized area of accounting requires attention to detail, problem-solving abilities and strong analytical skills. If this sounds like you, take a look at this:

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