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 cost accountant 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. To see what they are getting paid, you can find that in the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals.

Cost accountant salary benchmarks

The midpoint starting salary for a cost accountant in 2019 is $49,250 for up to one year of experience and $62,750 for one to three years.

Senior cost accountants can expect a midpoint salary of $78,750, and cost accountants in management positions can expect to earn $93,250 in 2019.

At the midpoint, candidates have average experience with the necessary skills to meet the job requirements, and the role may be in an industry where competition for talent is moderate. The salaries listed in the Salary Guide reflect starting pay only and are based on actual placements throughout the United States, as well as an analysis of the demand for the role, the supply of talent and other market conditions. Bonuses and benefits are not taken into account.

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 accounting certifications 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:

This post has been updated to reflect more current information.

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