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Cost Accountant Job Descriptions

Cost accounting is an internal accounting system that measures and allocates costs of products and services produced by a company. Because cost accounting is more of an internal operation, the requirements for the position are usually different from those of a regular staff accountant. While public accounting experience may be helpful, companies generally focus on the detailed cost analysis skills of potential candidates.

The Facts

Cost accounting is a unique method or tracing all costs related to products or services so retail prices accurately reflect the cost of goods in the product. Most cost accounting functions are found in manufacturers of products ranging from large durable goods to homogenous goods produced in batches. Because manufacturing methods differ widely based on the products produced, several cost accounting methods are used, depending on the manufacturing process.

Types of Cost Accounting

Cost accounting consists of two main parts: fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs do not depend on the manufacturing activity while variable costs depend on the number of units produced. There are two main types of cost accounting: job order costing, where each item produced is broken down as a single job and all costs are tracked per job, and process costing, where items produced are broken down by process and each job has costs allocated by process.

Job Description

Job descriptions for cost accountants can be very specific based on the manufacturing process of the hiring company. Here is a sample of cost accounting duties: creating and reviewing the controls needed for data accumulation and reporting systems; updating bill of material standard costs; reporting on break-even points by products, work centers and factories; reporting on margins by product and division; reporting on periodic variances and their causes; analyzing capital budgeting requests; performing cost accumulation tasks as a member of the target costing group; and accumulating and applying overhead costs as required by generally accepted accounting principles

Key Requirements

Cost accounting positions will usually require a four-year accounting degree with courses in cost accounting or management accounting. Some companies also prefer an MBA with a finance concentration to help round out an applicant's general management skills. Most companies also prefer three to five years of solid cost accounting experience because of the technical nature of cost accounting. Some companies may also require specific experience such as engineering or project management.

CMA License

Because cost accounting is an internal business function, having a certified public accountant license is generally not an important requirement. Some manufacturing industries prefer the certified management accountant license because of its focus on finance and accounting management principles. The CMA is issued by the Institute of Management Accountants, whose mission is to advance accounting, finance and strategic planning in the internal accounting department.



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