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How to Become a Management Accountant

By Ajoke Aminu


Are you considering a career as a management accountant but unsure of how to start? With the different qualifications, specializations, and requirements, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out the best route. You should simplify your journey with our guide – learn about the certifications, experience requirements, steps to take, and job duties within this field.

Career Summary

Management Accountant Salary

Management Accountant Salary

Here is an overview of the management accountant salary:

  • Entry Salary (US$90k)
  • Median Salary (US$108k)
  • Executive Salary (US$143k)

Let’s cut to the chase: considering the figures above, this wage is significantly higher than the national average income in the United States.

What does a Management Accountant do?

A management accountant is responsible for analyzing financial data, providing valuable insights, and supporting decision-making processes within an organization. They focus on internal financial operations and work closely with management to develop budgets, monitor costs, perform financial analysis, and provide strategic recommendations to enhance efficiency and profitability.

Management Accountant Career Progression

  • Junior/Entry-Level Management Accountant: Assists in financial data collection, performs basic analysis, and supports senior accountants in various tasks.
  • Staff/Senior Management Accountant: Responsible for financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, variance analysis, and providing recommendations for improving financial performance.
  • Cost Accountant: Focuses on analyzing and controlling costs within an organization, including cost allocation, inventory valuation, and cost optimization strategies.
  • Financial Analyst: Conducts in-depth financial analysis, interprets financial data, and prepares reports to guide decision-making processes.
  • Financial Manager: Oversees financial operations, manages budgets, leads financial planning and analysis, and collaborates with other departments to drive strategic initiatives.
  • Chief Financial Officer (CFO): The highest-ranking financial executive who oversees all financial activities, sets financial strategies, manages risks, and provides guidance to support the organization’s growth and profitability.
Management Accountant Career Progression


  • Ability to make a positive impact on business performance.
  • Exposure to various industries and business models.
  • Involvement in strategic decision-making processes.
  • Dynamic and challenging environment.
  • Opportunities for career growth and high-earning potential. 


  • High pressure, long hours, and tight deadlines during reporting periods.
  • Limited direct interaction with non-financial departments.
  • Dealing with complex ever-changing industry standards, financial data, and analytical challenges.

Key Skills Management Accountants Must Possess

  • Proficiency in accounting software and financial systems.
  • Attention to detail and high accuracy in financial analysis.
  • Strong financial and analytical skills.
  • Advanced Excel skills for data analysis and reporting.
  • Knowledge of financial planning and budgeting.

In-Demand Specializations for Management Accountants

  • Cost Accounting
  • Risk Management
  • Internal Auditing
  • Financial Planning and Analysis
  • Tax Accounting

How to become a Management Accountant

Management Accountant 5 Steps to Career

Management Accountant Qualifications: Education, Certifications & Experience

Management accountants seem to be masters of not only number-crunching, but also the art of juggling multiple tasks at once. If you’re interested in becoming a management accountant, it’s not rocket science—well, it’s more like math science. It takes a combination of education, certification, and experience to set yourself on this rewarding path. Delve deeper to understand the role of each element in becoming a management accountant.

A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, such as business management or finance, is the foundation for a solid understanding of accounting principles. Even better, any of the degrees combined with a professional management accountant certification, like the CMA certification, can significantly contribute to your success. Also networking and gaining experience in related roles, such as financial analysis, budgeting and forecasting, and strategic planning, will prove invaluable.

The Value of a Management Accounting Degree

Like most white-collar jobs, you need a degree to become a management accountant, yet many do not understand the value. When it comes to a career as a management accountant, having a degree can be highly beneficial, providing you with a solid foundation of knowledge in various accounting principles, financial management, and business practices. It equips you with the necessary skills and expertise to excel in this profession. Although some individuals may pursue alternative paths, such as professional certifications or practical experience, obtaining a degree remains a widely recognized route to becoming a successful management accountant.

Tuition & Timelines for a Management Accounting Degree in Related Fields

To embark on the journey of becoming a management accountant, a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is often preferred by employers. Such a degree program typically covers fundamental accounting concepts, cost accounting, financial analysis, taxation, and management principles. Through a comprehensive curriculum, students develop a strong understanding of financial management, budgeting, forecasting, and decision-making processes, which are essential skills for management accountants.

Furthermore, tuition fees can vary widely between universities and even between different programs within the same institution. In general, programs in management accounting fall within the range of undergraduate business degrees. Tuition fees for in-state or domestic students are US$10,039 compared to US$21,561 for international students, who typically pay higher tuition rates. It’s advisable to check the official websites of universities or contact their admissions offices to obtain accurate information on tuition fees.

Essentially, here is how long it takes to acquire a business/management degree at various levels:

  • Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field is a common starting point for aspiring management accountants. The duration of a bachelor’s degree program typically ranges from three to four years of full-time study. However, the exact length can vary among institutions and may be influenced by factors such as curriculum requirements and credit load per semester.

  • Accelerated Degree Programs

In some cases, educational institutions offer accelerated degree programs that allow students to complete their bachelor’s degree in management accounting in a shorter timeframe. These programs may involve more intense coursework, a higher credit load per semester, or summer sessions. Accelerated programs can typically be completed in two to three years, depending on the specific program and the student’s ability to handle an accelerated pace.

  • Part-Time and Online Study Options

For individuals who prefer a more flexible approach to their education, part-time and online study options are available. Part-time programs allow students to spread their coursework over a longer period, accommodating other commitments such as work or family responsibilities. The duration of a part-time program ranges from four to six years or more, depending on the student’s schedule and progress.

Online programs, on the other hand, offer the convenience of studying remotely and at your own pace. The advent of remote learning has many wondering if they can become management accountants through online education. Online education has evolved tremendously, and accredited institutions now offer a wide range of degree programs in accounting through virtual learning platforms.

The duration of an online accounting degree program can be similar to that of a traditional full-time program, typically lasting three to four years. However, online programs often provide more flexibility, allowing students to adjust their study timelines according to their personal circumstances.

  • Postgraduate Degrees

For individuals who wish to further specialize or advance their knowledge in management accounting, pursuing a postgraduate degree is an option. Postgraduate degrees, such as a Master’s in Accounting or an MBA with a focus on accounting, usually require an additional one to two years of full-time study. Part-time or online study options are also available for postgraduate programs, extending the duration accordingly.

Professional Management Accountant Certification

Acquiring professional certifications can significantly enhance your credentials as a management accountant. One prominent certification in this field is the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation. The CMA certification, offered by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), validates your proficiency in financial planning, analysis, control, decision support, and professional ethics. Earning the CMA designation demonstrates a commitment to excellence and can open doors to better career opportunities and higher management accountant salaries.

Below is a list of other certifications you should know:

  • Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA): This certification recognizes professionals who have demonstrated their proficiency in management accounting, finance, and business strategy. CGMAs possess advanced skills in financial planning, risk management, and performance management. To earn the CGMA designation, candidates must fulfill educational, experience, and exam requirements set by both organizations.
  • Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) – Strategic Management Accounting: Within the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation, there is a specialization in Strategic Management Accounting. This certification focuses on advanced management accounting skills, including strategic decision-making, performance measurement, and risk management. CPAs with this specialization possess expertise in cost analysis, budgeting, and financial modeling to support strategic business decisions. The requirements to obtain the CPA designation vary by jurisdiction but generally include completing the CPA program, passing the CPA exams, and fulfilling practical experience requirements.
  • Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis (CSCA): While not exclusively focused on management accounting, the CSCA certification emphasizes the strategic aspects of management accounting and provides professionals with skills in competitive analysis, market intelligence, and strategic planning. Candidates for the CSCA certification must pass an exam that covers topics such as strategic management, competitive intelligence, and financial analysis.
  • Certified Cost Professional (CCP): While primarily focusing on cost engineering and project management, the CCP certification covers various aspects of cost and management accounting. CCPs possess skills in cost estimation, budgeting, cost control, and performance measurement. To earn the CCP designation, candidates must meet educational and experience requirements and pass a comprehensive exam.

Suitable Practical Experience for Management Accountants

Not that getting a job without experience is impossible, but practical experience and on-the-job learning are also crucial for becoming a proficient management accountant. Internships, part-time jobs, or entry-level positions in accounting firms or corporate finance departments can provide valuable hands-on experience. Combined with a degree or professional certifications, practical experience further strengthens your profile as a management accountant. Here are some internship placements that are suitable for management accountants.

  • Corporate Finance Intern: Interning in the finance department of a corporate organization allows you to gain hands-on experience in management accounting. This experience provides insights into the day-to-day operations of a company and how management accountants contribute to financial decision-making.
  • Cost Accounting Intern: Cost accounting internships focus specifically on analyzing and managing costs within an organization. You may assist in gathering cost data, analyzing production costs, identifying cost-saving opportunities, and participating in inventory management.
  • Internal Audit Intern: Interning in the internal audit department exposes you to the process of evaluating an organization’s internal controls and risk management. You may participate in conducting audits, assessing financial processes, testing controls, and identifying areas for improvement.
  • Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) Intern: Interning in the financial planning and analysis department allows you to gain experience in budgeting, forecasting, and financial modeling. You may assist in analyzing financial data, preparing reports, supporting business planning processes, and evaluating the financial performance of the organization.
  • Government or Nonprofit Organization Intern: Interning in the finance or accounting departments of government agencies or nonprofit organizations can provide exposure to unique aspects of management accounting in these sectors. You may work on tasks such as grant management, fund accounting, and financial reporting for public or nonprofit entities. This experience helps develop an understanding of accounting practices in the public and nonprofit sectors and the specific challenges they face.
  • Public Accounting Intern: Interning at an accounting firm, particularly in the assurance or advisory services departments in the USA, can provide a broader perspective on management accounting. This internship exposes you to diverse clients and industries, allowing you to apply management accounting principles in different contexts.

Management Accountant Skills Development

Don’t forget to brush up on your skills– being able to effectively assist non-experts with financial information is key.

Thus, here is a current list of management accountant skills:

  • Financial Analysis: Management accountants are skilled in analyzing financial data and interpreting the results to provide insights into an organization’s performance. You will learn techniques for financial statement analysis, ratio analysis, trend analysis, and variance analysis to evaluate financial health, identify areas for improvement, and support decision-making.
  • Budgeting and Forecasting: Managing budgets and forecasting future financial performance are crucial aspects of management accounting. You will acquire skills in developing budgets, monitoring budgetary performance, conducting budget variance analysis, and using forecasting techniques to predict future financial outcomes.
  • Cost Accounting: Cost accounting skills are essential for management accountants. You will learn how to analyze and allocate costs, determine product or service costs, evaluate cost behavior, and perform cost-volume-profit analysis. These skills enable you to provide cost-related information for decision-making, cost control, and performance evaluation.
  • Financial Planning and Strategy: Management accountants play a vital role in strategic planning and decision support. You will develop skills in financial modeling, scenario analysis, and strategic planning techniques to support the organization’s long-term goals. These skills involve evaluating investment opportunities, assessing business risks, and providing financial insights for strategic decision-making.
  • Performance Measurement: Management accountants focus on measuring and evaluating organizational performance. You will learn how to develop key performance indicators (KPIs), establish performance benchmarks, track performance against targets, and provide performance reports to stakeholders. These skills help drive performance improvement and support effective resource allocation.
  • Cost Management and Control: Effective cost management is a core competency for management accountants. You will acquire skills in identifying cost-saving opportunities, implementing cost control measures, and evaluating cost efficiency across different areas of the organization. This involves monitoring cost trends, analyzing cost drivers, and implementing cost reduction initiatives.
  • Communication and Presentation: Management accountants must effectively communicate financial information to various stakeholders, including non-financial professionals. You will develop skills in presenting complex financial data in a clear and concise manner, using visual aids and effective communication techniques. Strong communication skills are essential for collaborating with colleagues, explaining financial concepts, and influencing decision-making processes.
  • Ethical Decision-Making: Management accountants adhere to professional ethics and maintain the highest standards of integrity. You will learn ethical decision-making frameworks, understand the ethical considerations in financial reporting and analysis, and navigate ethical dilemmas that may arise in your role as a management accountant.
  • Technology and Data Analysis: Management accountants utilize technology and data analysis tools to enhance their work efficiency and provide valuable insights. You will learn to work with financial software, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, data visualization tools, and spreadsheet applications. Additionally, skills in data analysis, data interpretation, and data-driven decision-making will become increasingly important.

Some Web Resources to Learn These Skills

  • Association for Financial Professionals (AFP): The AFP website provides resources, webinars, and educational materials focused on financial planning and analysis, treasury management, and risk management. They offer insights and best practices related to financial decision-making, forecasting, cash management, and capital structure.
  • Strategic Finance Magazine: Strategic Finance Magazine, published by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), offers articles and case studies on management accounting topics. It covers subjects such as cost management, performance measurement, decision support, and emerging trends in the field. The magazine provides insights from industry experts and real-world examples.
  • Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) Club: The FP&A Club is an online community and resource hub for professionals in financial planning and analysis. Their website offers articles, webinars, templates, and best practices related to budgeting, forecasting, financial modeling, and business analytics. It provides a platform for sharing knowledge and networking with other professionals.
  • Management Accounting Research Journal: The Management Accounting Research (MAR) journal is a scholarly publication that focuses on research and advancements in management accounting. Accessing the journal’s website provides access to academic papers, research findings, and theoretical developments in various areas of management accounting.
  • Corporate Finance Institute (CFI): CFI offers online courses and resources related to corporate finance and financial analysis. Their courses cover topics such as financial modeling, valuation, investment analysis, and financial statement analysis. While not specific to management accounting, these skills are highly relevant and valuable for management accountants.
  • Management Accounting Section of the American Accounting Association (MAAA): The MAAA website provides resources for management accountants, including publications, research papers, and access to relevant events and conferences. It offers a platform for knowledge sharing and staying updated on the latest developments in the field of management accounting.
  • Institute of Management Accountants (IMA): The IMA offers resources and learning opportunities for management accountants. Their website provides access to articles, research publications, webinars, and the IMA Learning Center, which offers courses and certificate programs focused on management accounting topics.
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA): CIMA provides resources and learning materials for individuals interested in management accounting. Their website offers access to articles, case studies, webinars, and events that cover a wide range of management accounting topics. CIMA also offers online courses and professional qualification programs.

Constant Learning and Professional Growth

In the dynamic field of management accounting, learning should be an ongoing process. It is essential to stay updated with the latest industry trends, regulations, and technological advancements. Pursuing continuing education programs, attending workshops, and participating in relevant seminars or conferences can help you enhance your knowledge and broaden your skill set. Additionally, staying connected with professional networks and engaging in industry-specific discussions can provide valuable insights and create opportunities for growth in your management accounting career.

Job Opportunities for a Management Accountant

The scope of opportunities in this field ranges from working for a small business to a multinational corporation to a government agency.

Some roles to consider include:

  • Management Accountant: The role of a management accountant involves providing financial analysis, planning, and decision support to the management team. Management accountants are responsible for budgeting, cost analysis, performance measurement, and financial reporting within an organization. They work closely with managers to help drive strategic decision-making and improve business performance.
  • Financial Analyst: Financial analysts perform in-depth financial analysis, including forecasting, budgeting, and financial modeling. They assess investment opportunities, evaluate financial performance, conduct market research, and provide recommendations for improving financial outcomes. Being one of the high-paying jobs, financial analysts often work in corporate finance departments, investment firms, or consulting companies.
  • Business Analyst: Also a high-paying job, business analysts bridge the gap between financial data and business operations. They analyze financial information, identify business trends, assess opportunities for improvement, and provide insights to support strategic decision-making. Business analysts collaborate with cross-functional teams to align financial goals with business objectives.
  • Cost Accountant: Cost accountants specialize in analyzing and managing costs within an organization. They determine product or service costs, conduct cost analyses, develop cost allocation methodologies, and monitor cost trends. Cost accountants play a crucial role in optimizing costs, improving profitability, and supporting decision-making related to pricing and cost control.
  • Budget Analyst: Budget analysts are responsible for developing and managing budgets within an organization. They work closely with various departments to create budgets, monitor spending, analyze budget variances, and provide recommendations for cost-saving measures. Budget analysts ensure that financial resources are allocated effectively and efficiently.
  • Internal Auditor: Internal auditors evaluate an organization’s internal controls, risk management processes, and compliance with financial regulations. They assess the effectiveness of internal controls, identify areas of improvement, and provide recommendations to enhance operational efficiency and mitigate risks. Internal auditors work closely with management to ensure compliance and improve financial processes.
  • Financial Controller: Financial controllers oversee the financial operations of an organization, ensuring accuracy, timeliness, and compliance with financial reporting standards. They manage financial accounting, internal controls, and financial reporting processes. Financial controllers play a critical role in financial decision-making, financial strategy development, and ensuring the integrity of financial information.
  • Financial Planner: Financial planners work with individuals and organizations to develop comprehensive financial plans. They assess financial goals, analyze income, expenses, and assets, and provide recommendations for financial management, investment strategies, and risk mitigation. Financial planners assist clients in achieving their financial objectives and plan for long-term financial stability.

Updated List of Companies That Hire Management Accountants

  • Large Corporations
  • Financial Institutions
  • Manufacturing and Retail Companies
  • Consulting Firms
  • Government and Public Sector Organizations
  • Healthcare Organizations
  • Technology and IT Companies
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • Accounting Firms
  • Energy and Utility Companies
  • Construction and Engineering Firms
  • Hospitality and Tourism Companies
  • Transportation and Logistics Companies
  • Telecommunications Companies
  • Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Companies.

What’s the Career Outlook for Management Accountant?

Management accountants are opportune to have a career that can fulfill their financial needs and also offer a sense of accomplishment. With the ever-growing complexity of financial regulations and the global nature of businesses, the demand for skilled management accountants is on the rise. Fortunately, with that demand comes a healthy salary and overall career outlook.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for accountants, in general, was over US$77,000 in 2021. But it’s not just the paycheck that makes this career enticing—the future is also bright! While there are no precise data for management accounts, there is a steady demand for accountants and auditors with an estimated 6% increase and around 136,400 job openings for accountants and auditors from 2021 to 2031.

To put into perspective, this data shows that jobs within the accounting and auditing industry have a potential to grow as fast as the average for all professions. Management accountants get to work closely with top executives and play a crucial role in helping businesses make informed financial decisions. So, if you have a knack for numbers and a desire for a rewarding career, management accounting might just be the perfect fit for you.

Management Accountant Popular Career Specialties

Balancing the Books and Life

It’s no secret that accounting can be a demanding job, and management accountants are no exception. As a management accountant, one must navigate the tricky territory of allocating time and energy between their professional responsibilities and their home life. Long hours spent crunching numbers, analyzing data, and meeting with clients can quickly blur the line between work and life. And let’s not forget the added stress of tax season!

Juggling meetings, deadlines, and spreadsheets with personal obligations and hobbies may seem like an impossible feat, but with effective time management and prioritization skills, it’s possible to find that sweet spot of balance. It also helps that accounting is one of the jobs that can be done remotely.

However, the key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a management accountant is finding the right balance between work and play. This may involve carving out time in your schedule for hobbies, exercise, or spending time with loved ones. It can also mean being proactive about minimizing stress and practicing self-care, whether that means taking a yoga class, meditating, or simply taking a long, hot bath after a long day. Whatever your approach, remember that finding a healthy work-life balance is crucial for staying productive, happy, and fulfilled in both your personal and professional life.

Should I become a Management Accountant?

After exploring the world of management accounting, you might be wondering if it’s the right career path for you. The decision to pursue this profession should not be taken lightly as it requires a certain set of skills and traits that not everyone possesses.

As an informed individual, it’s crucial to take into account the key points discussed in this article and consider your personal interests and long-term goals as well. Perhaps numbers have always been your cup of tea, and you love nothing more than strategizing and problem-solving. In that case, management accounting could be the perfect fit for you. Or, maybe you’re more drawn to a career that is creative and people-focused.

Whatever the case may be, it’s essential to make a decision based on what you know and what you see yourself doing in the future. So, do some research, reflect on your strengths, and make an informed decision that you’ll be happy with in the long run.

Careers Related to Management Accountant

Ajoke Aminu

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