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Working As A Cost Accountant

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Getting Information
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Repetitive

  • $59,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Cost Accountant Do

Accountants and auditors prepare and examine financial records. They ensure that financial records are accurate and that taxes are paid properly and on time. Accountants and auditors assess financial operations and work to help ensure that organizations run efficiently. 


Accountants and auditors typically do the following:

  • Examine financial statements to ensure that they are accurate and comply with laws and regulations
  • Compute taxes owed, prepare tax returns, and ensure that taxes are paid properly and on time
  • Inspect account books and accounting systems for efficiency and use of accepted accounting procedures
  • Organize and maintain financial records
  • Assess financial operations and make best-practices recommendations to management
  • Suggest ways to reduce costs, enhance revenues, and improve profits

In addition to examining and preparing financial documentation, accountants and auditors must explain their findings. This includes preparing written reports and meeting face-to-face with organization managers and individual clients.

Many accountants and auditors specialize, depending on the particular organization that they work for. Some work for organizations that specialize in assurance services (improving the quality or context of information for decisionmakers) or risk management (determining the probability of a misstatement on financial documentation). Other organizations specialize in specific industries, such as healthcare.

Some workers with a background in accounting and auditing teach in colleges and universities. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

The following are examples of types of accountants and auditors:

Public accountants perform a broad range of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting tasks. Their clients include corporations, governments, and individuals.

Public accountants work with financial documents that clients are required by law to disclose. These include tax forms and balance sheet statements that corporations must provide potential investors. For example, some public accountants concentrate on tax matters, advising corporations about the tax advantages of certain business decisions or preparing individual income tax returns.

Public accountants, many of whom are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), generally have their own businesses or work for public accounting firms. Publicly traded companies are required to have CPAs sign documents they submit to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), including annual and quarterly reports.

Some public accountants specialize in forensic accounting, investigating financial crimes such as securities fraud and embezzlement, bankruptcies and contract disputes, and other complex and possibly criminal financial transactions. Forensic accountants combine their knowledge of accounting and finance with law and investigative techniques to determine if an activity is illegal. Many forensic accountants work closely with law enforcement personnel and lawyers during investigations and often appear as expert witnesses during trials.

Management accountants, also called cost, managerial, industrial, corporate, or private accountants, record and analyze the financial information of the organizations for which they work. The information that management accountants prepare is intended for internal use by business managers, not by the general public.

Management accountants often work on budgeting and performance evaluation. They also may help organizations plan the cost of doing business. Some may work with financial managers on asset management, which involves planning and selecting financial investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Government accountants maintain and examine the records of government agencies and audit private businesses and individuals whose activities are subject to government regulations or taxation. Accountants employed by federal, state, and local governments ensure that revenues are received and spent in accordance with laws and regulations.

Internal auditors check for mismanagement of an organization’s funds. They identify ways to improve the processes for finding and eliminating waste and fraud. The practice of internal auditing is not regulated, but The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) provides generally accepted standards.

External auditors perform similar duties as internal auditors, but are employed by an outside organization, rather than the one they are auditing. They review clients’ financial statements and inform investors and authorities that the statements have been correctly prepared and reported.

Information technology auditors are internal auditors who review controls for their organization’s computer systems, to ensure that the financial data comes from a reliable source.

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How To Become A Cost Accountant

Most accountants and auditors need at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Certification within a specific field of accounting improves job prospects. For example, many accountants become Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).  


Most accountant and auditor positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Some employers prefer to hire applicants who have a master’s degree, either in accounting or in business administration with a concentration in accounting.

A few universities and colleges offer specialized programs, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing. In some cases, those with associate’s degrees, as well as bookkeepers and accounting clerks who meet the education and experience requirements set by their employers, get junior accounting positions and advance to accountant positions by showing their accounting skills on the job.

Many colleges help students gain practical experience through summer or part-time internships with public accounting or business firms.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Every accountant filing a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is required by law to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Many other accountants choose to become a CPA to enhance their job prospects or to gain clients. Many employers will often pay the costs associated with the CPA exam.

CPAs are licensed by their state’s Board of Accountancy. Becoming a CPA requires passing a national exam and meeting other state requirements. Almost all states require CPA candidates to complete 150 semester hours of college coursework to be certified, which is 30 hours more than the usual 4-year bachelor’s degree. Many schools offer a 5-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree to meet the 150-hour requirement, but a master’s degree is not required.

A few states allow a number of years of public accounting experience to substitute for a college degree.

All states use the four-part Uniform CPA Examination from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). Candidates do not have to pass all four parts at once, but most states require that they pass all four parts within 18 months of passing their first part.

Almost all states require CPAs to take continuing education to keep their license.

Certification provides an advantage in the job market because it shows professional competence in a specialized field of accounting and auditing. Accountants and auditors seek certifications from a variety of professional societies. Some of the most common certifications are listed below:

The Institute of Management Accountants offers the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) to applicants who complete a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have worked at least 2 years in management accounting, pass a two-part exam, agree to meet continuing education requirements, and comply with standards of professional conduct. The exam covers areas such as financial statement analysis, working-capital policy, capital structure, valuation issues, and risk management. 

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) to graduates from accredited colleges and universities who have worked for 2 years as internal auditors and have passed a four-part exam. The IIA also offers the Certified in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) to those who pass the exams and meet educational and experience requirements.

ISACA offers the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) to candidates who pass an exam and have 5 years of experience auditing information systems. Information systems experience, financial or operational auditing experience, or related college credit hours can be substituted for up to 3 years of experience in information systems auditing, control, or security.

For accountants with a CPA, the AICPA offers the option to receive any or all of the Accredited in Business Valuation (ABV), Certified Information Technology Professional (CITP), or Personal Financial Specialist (PFS) certifications. The ABV requires a written exam, completion of at least six business valuation projects, and 75 hours of continuing education. The CITP requires 1,000 hours of business technology experience and 75 hours of continuing education. Candidates for the PFS also must complete a certain amount of work experience and continuing education, and pass a written exam.


Some top executives and financial managers have a background in accounting, internal auditing, or finance.

Beginning public accountants often advance to positions with more responsibility in 1 or 2 years and to senior positions within another few years. Those who excel may become supervisors, managers, or partners; open their own public accounting firm; or transfer to executive positions in management accounting or internal auditing in private firms.

Management accountants often start as cost accountants, junior internal auditors, or trainees for other accounting positions. As they rise through the organization, they may advance to accounting manager, chief cost accountant, budget director, or manager of internal auditing. Some become controllers, treasurers, financial vice presidents, chief financial officers, or corporation presidents.

Public accountants, management accountants, and internal auditors can move from one aspect of accounting and auditing to another. Public accountants often move into management accounting or internal auditing. Management accountants may become internal auditors, and internal auditors may become management accountants. However, it is less common for management accountants or internal auditors to move into public accounting.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to identify issues in documentation and suggest solutions. For example, public accountants use analytical skills in their work to minimize tax liability, and internal auditors use these skills to detect fraudulent use of funds.  

Communication skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to listen carefully to facts and concerns from clients, managers, and others. They must also be able to discuss the results of their work in both meetings and written reports.

Detail oriented. Accountants and auditors must pay attention to detail when compiling and examining documentation.

Math skills. Accountants and auditors must be able to analyze, compare, and interpret facts and figures, although complex math skills are not necessary.

Organizational skills. Strong organizational skills are important for accountants and auditors who often work with a range of financial documents for a variety of clients.

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Cost Accountant Career Paths

Cost Accountant
Senior Accountant Accounting Manager Controller
Regional Controller
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Accountant Accounting Manager
Plant Controller
10 Yearsyrs
Senior Accountant Accounting Supervisor Accounting Manager
Senior Accounting Manager
10 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Senior Finance Analyst
Finance Planning Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Finance Manager Controller
Director Of Accounting & Finance
11 Yearsyrs
Finance Analyst Assistant Controller
Division Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Finance Analyst Finance Manager Controller
Group Controller
11 Yearsyrs
Cost Analyst Senior Finance Analyst
Cost Accounting Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Assistant Controller Finance Manager
Regional Finance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Senior Staff Accountant Accounting Supervisor
Corporate Accounting Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Accounting Supervisor Manager Human Resources Manager
Controller, Operations, And Human Resources Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Office Manager Assistant Controller
Divisional Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Tax Accountant Senior Tax Accountant Tax Manager
Senior Tax Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Cost Accounting Manager Plant Controller
Unit Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Consultant Senior Associate Senior Auditor
Assistant Corporate Controller
9 Yearsyrs
Analyst Underwriter Credit Manager
Treasury Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Budget Analyst Finance Systems Analyst
Manager-Finance Systems
8 Yearsyrs
General Ledger Accountant Senior Staff Accountant
Manager, Accounting Operations
7 Yearsyrs
Plant Controller Division Controller
Controller General Manager
8 Yearsyrs
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Average Length of Employment
Chief Accountant 4.7 years
Control Accountant 4.2 years
Cost Accountant 4.0 years
Senior Accountant 3.9 years
General Accountant 3.5 years
Cost Analyst 3.0 years
Project Accountant 3.0 years
Top Careers Before Cost Accountant
Accountant 16.3%
Controller 5.7%
Bookkeeper 2.5%
Top Careers After Cost Accountant
Controller 11.8%
Accountant 10.4%
Consultant 2.1%

Do you work as a Cost Accountant?

Average Yearly Salary
Show Salaries
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
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Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Highest Paying City
New York, NY
Highest Paying State
New York
Avg Experience Level
3.7 years
How much does a Cost Accountant make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Cost Accountant in the United States is $59,465 per year or $29 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $46,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $75,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

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Real Cost Accountant Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Cost Accountant (Manager) Aliphcom Jan 09, 2016 $115,000
Cost Accountant Ajulia LLC Oct 19, 2016 $101,000
Chief Cost Accountant Bright Star Academy Day Care Corp Nov 21, 2016 $97,053
Cost Accountant Bohong, Inc. May 01, 2015 $90,000
Cost Accountant Schumann/Steier, Inc. Sep 06, 2015 $86,000
Cost Accountant Bentley Laboratories LLC Sep 12, 2016 $85,000
Cost Accountant North American Spares Ltd. Jan 29, 2016 $82,805
Cost Accountant By Design LLC May 23, 2016 $76,066
Cost Accountant Johnson Controls, Inc. Jul 06, 2015 $75,774 -
Cost Accountant Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems Sep 17, 2016 $73,708
Cost Accountant (Non-Licensed) Home Market Foods, Inc. Aug 31, 2016 $70,000
Cost Accountant Lino International Inc. Sep 21, 2016 $55,932
Cost Accountant Luminus, Inc. Jul 01, 2015 $55,786
Cost Accountant Choudhry & Sons Corporation Apr 15, 2016 $55,660
Cost Accountant, Manufacturing Facility Olivet International Inc. Jan 29, 2016 $55,640
Cost Accountant Knack Ny Inc. Sep 25, 2016 $55,556
Cost Accountant Camellia Wang LLC Sep 22, 2016 $55,556
Cost Accountant New York Mart Group Inc. Aug 21, 2016 $55,556
Cost Accountant Lenwich HQ LLC Sep 15, 2016 $55,370
Cost Accountant Cummins Inc. Aug 23, 2016 $50,300 -
Cost Accountant MacHinery Solutions, Inc. May 01, 2015 $50,000
Cost Accountant Han Ah REUM Market, Inc. Oct 09, 2016 $49,900
Cost Accountant The Plasticoid Company Inc. Mar 08, 2016 $49,838
Cost Accountant Plasticoid Company Mar 08, 2016 $49,838
Cost Accountant Wholesale Club LLC Dec 08, 2015 $49,650

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Top Skills for A Cost Accountant

  1. Financial Statements
  2. General Ledger Accounts
  3. Variance Analysis
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Conduct meetings with operating departments to review and analyze financial statements in order to manage labor performance vs. budgeted labor performance.
  • Revised department overhead rate calculations by reviewing all variable and fixed general ledger accounts for mix and proper allocation.
  • Manage cost accounting function including quarterly standard cost updates, variance analysis, inventory reserve analysis, and inventory turns reporting.
  • Verified and validated Internal Information System generated reports, time sheet labor corrections and journal entries submitted by line organizations.
  • Contribute in administering the annual physical inventory; and present analysis and interpretation of fluctuations in inventory balances.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Cost Accountants

  1. District of Columbia
  2. Rhode Island
  3. New York
  4. Georgia
  5. New Jersey
  6. Connecticut
  7. Texas
  8. Virginia
  9. Washington
  10. Illinois
  • (290 jobs)
  • (93 jobs)
  • (1,251 jobs)
  • (861 jobs)
  • (736 jobs)
  • (368 jobs)
  • (2,070 jobs)
  • (917 jobs)
  • (559 jobs)
  • (1,171 jobs)

Cost Accountant Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 11,360 Cost Accountant resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Cost Accountant Resume

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Cost Accountant Demographics










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Cost Accountant Education


University of Houston


San Jose State University


Strayer University


Pennsylvania State University


Michigan State University


Southern New Hampshire University


Cleveland State University


Regis University


Sam Houston State University


Auburn University


Arizona State University


Texas A&M University


University of Central Florida


Webster University


Georgia State University


Kaplan University


Lakeland College


Ohio State University


University of Akron


University of Texas at Austin

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Accounting And Computer Science


Computer Science


Management Information Systems


Health Care Administration












Business Economics


Political Science




General Studies


Operations Management


Human Resources Management

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High School Diploma







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Updated May 18, 2020