Aspiring accounting and financial professionals face a bewildering array of degree, concentration, and career options. Individuals seeking high-paying financial analysis or management careers may do well to consider a management accounting concentration.
Featuring versatile curricula that integrate business acumen with quantitative and communication skills, managerial accounting concentrations train students to use financial data to inform organizational decision-making. With professional certifications and experience, this concentration can support students pursuing high-paying financial manager jobs, which boast a median annual salary of $129,890, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The following overview explores degree options, career paths, curricula, and professional resources related to management accounting concentrations.
What Is a Management Accounting Concentration?
The field of management accounting employs financial information and skills to guide internal management and planning. Management accounting concentrations cultivate students' skills in financial planning, control, decision-making, and problem-solving. Students train to become strategic partners by using business sense, accounting principles, and financial data to help executives make sound decisions. Graduates of management accounting programs often work as accounting managers, cost accountants, or CPAs.
General accounting degrees cover a wider breadth of topics and often focus heavily on financial reporting principles and practices, while management accounting concentration coursework focuses on forecasting, planning, and financial decision-making. Management accounting students often gain deeper understanding of the contexts and dynamics informing financial data.
Students can study management accounting at the associate, bachelor's, master's, and Ph.D. level. Many accounting positions require a bachelor's degree, but a master's degree or professional certification program can help candidates meet requirements for certified management accountant (CMA) or certified public accountant (CPA) credentials. Students interested in accounting research or education often earn doctoral degrees in management accounting.
General accounting bachelor's programs cover various business and accounting topics, while management accounting concentrations focus more heavily on cost accounting, management accounting, and budgeting. Graduates often work as financial planners or cost accountants. Bachelor's in management accounting programs may appear under the following degree types and titles:
Bachelor of Accountancy (BAcc), Cost and Management Accounting
Bachelor of Science (BS/BSc), Accounting and Management
Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Cost and Management Accounting
Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA), Accounting and Management
Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Accounting and Management
Managerial accounting master's degrees feature a blend of core accounting courses and advanced managerial accounting courses. Most accounting master's programs feature core courses in accounting theory, internet technology, accounting analytics, and financial statement analysis. Management accounting concentrations include additional courses in controllership, internal and operational auditing, accounting and reporting issues, and advanced management accounting.
Master's degrees in management accounting may appear under titles such as:
Master of Accounting (MAcc), Cost and Management Accounting
Master of Management (MMgt/MM), Accounting and Finance
Master of Management (MMgt/MM), Accounting
Master of Business Administration (MBA), Cost and Management Accounting
Master of Business Administration (MBA), Accounting and Management
Pursuing a management accounting concentration bears many personal and professional benefits. This versatile concentration prepares students for lucrative accounting and financial management careers and/or continuing education in related fields. Major advantages of management accounting concentrations include the following:
Varied Job Opportunities
Management accountants can find work in government, nonprofit organizations, and private corporations in many industries. Graduates with a management accountant degree also sometimes become educators or consultants.
Positive Career Outlook
Stricter financial and legal regulations may raise the demand for accounting professionals. Pursuing a management accountant specialization can qualify candidates for financial manager positions, a job which the BLS projects will grow 16% in 2018-2028.
Earning a management accounting degree can help graduates qualify for promotions and/or higher salaries. Management accounting bachelor's degree graduates average $84,000 annually, according to PayScale.
Preparation for Additional Degrees
Some bachelor's degree graduates use their degree to meet prerequisites for a master's degree in a related field. Graduates interested in academic careers also may pursue doctoral degrees in accounting or business fields.
Preparation for CMA/CPA Certification
Many master's programs in management accounting meet educational requirements for CPA and/or CMA certification, credentials which usually improve job prospects.
When Is a Management Accounting Concentration Better Than a General Accounting Degree?
Management accounting's emphasis on using accounting for business decision-making prepares students for high-paying financial management roles within organizations. By examining business strategy and analytics, management accounting concentrations also position graduates for consulting careers.
According to BLS job outlook data for accountants and auditors, management accountants often advance into high-level executive positions and controller roles. A management accounting concentration can help position accountants for such advancements.
When Might a General Accounting Degree Be Better Than a Management Accounting Concentration?
General accounting degrees expose students to a wider variety of accounting fields, areas, and topics. General degrees may therefore give students a wider breadth of career options. This track usually best suits students who are unsure of their career plans.
Relatedly, students interested in pursuing more advanced degrees often use a general accounting degree as a foundation, then follow it with a specialized master's or doctoral degree.
What About Other Concentrations?
Most organizations require accounting services, so accounting programs often provide diverse concentration options focused on specific fields, roles, or skill sets. Popular accounting concentrations include auditing, cost accounting, financial accounting, and information systems. Some schools also offer specializations in fields such forensic accounting, environmental accounting, international taxation, or sports accounting.
Courses to Expect With a Management Accounting Concentration
Accounting curricula differ widely by school, degree level, program, and concentration. However, most accounting bachelor's programs feature core courses in accounting information systems, auditing, and intermediate and advanced accounting. Some bachelor's programs also require completion of a capstone project and/or internship at a real-world site.
Management accounting concentrations usually combine management accounting core courses, such as business law, accounting theory, and accounting analytics, with elective options such as business law, strategy, or controllership. Most master's programs culminate in a specialized management accounting internship, project, or thesis. Management accounting curricula often include the following courses:
Introduction to Management Accounting
This course introduces students to foundational accounting principles and practices. Students learn job order and process costing, activity-based costing, managerial accounting statement preparation, and overhead cost allocation.
Students learn how to improve profits through capital budgeting, target costing, price setting, and constraint analysis. Cost accounting courses also teach job costing, inventory valuation, and cost collection system creation. The course discusses how each of these essential tools supports sound business decision-making.
Business law courses help students understand ethical and legal issues that shape the business world. This course covers contracts, torts, negotiable instruments, and the law of sales. Students also learn about business crimes, constitutional law, the court system, and the Uniform Commercial Code.
Focused on central ideas and useful tools for creating and implementing business strategy, strategic management courses cultivate skills in competitive analysis, competitive advantage creation, and long-term resource allocation. This interdisciplinary course often draws on knowledge provided by prerequisites in economics, organizational behavior, statistics, and accounting.
Accounting Information Systems
AIS courses familiarize students with information software and technologies involved in financial reporting and transactions control. This course emphasizes the power of AIS analysis, design, and improvement to protect and enhance business outcomes.
Careers for Management Accounting Degree Graduates
Management accounting concentrations help qualify graduates for various career paths across multiple sectors and industries. At the bachelor's level, this concentration's focus on cost management and financial projection prepares students for careers such as cost accountant, budget analyst, or financial analyst.
By synthesizing traditional accounting with advanced business strategy and analysis, management accounting also serves as an excellent foundation for financial management careers such as accounting manager or financial controller. Many management positions require a master's degree, professional certifications, and/or experience in the field. Financial controller salaries average about $83,000 annually, according to PayScale salary data.
Doctoral degrees in management accounting can qualify graduates for careers as accounting researchers, professors, or consultants. See below for sample management accounting career descriptions.
These professionals oversee accounting departments and supervise accounting staff. Accounting managers design and implement financial reporting and analysis systems. Other responsibilities include budgeting, advising executives, and ensuring regulatory and legal compliance.
Also known as investment analysts or securities analysts, these professionals monitor investment performance, evaluate investment opportunities, and help clients make investment decisions. They analyze financial data, economic trends, and investment opportunities. Financial analysts often work in financial firms or insurance companies, preparing reports and advising company executives.
Sometimes called a comptroller, financial controllers oversee financial departments. These professionals produce financial reports, prospectuses, and forecasts that influence company decisions. Controllers require strong skills in finance, math, communication, and problem-solving. Most controller positions require a master's degree and 7-10 years of experience in related fields and roles.
These accountants analyze company operations and make recommendations for increasing cost-effectiveness. Cost accountants may create costing systems to help companies understand the value of products, inventory, labor, and operations. Skilled in research, observation, and analysis, these professionals often advise executives on company decisions, employee salaries, and product pricing.
Tax consultants assist clients with tax compliance and filing by collecting, analyzing, organizing, and preparing relevant data. Usually CPAs, these professionals possess advanced knowledge of accounting and taxation. Tax consultants also need skills in organization, communication, and research.
Selecting an Accounting Program With a Management Accounting Concentration
Choosing the right school and program for your management accounting education often requires consideration of many factors, including accreditation status, size, cost, and location. Important considerations include the following:
Accreditation standards matter for credit transfers, access to federal financial aid, and hireability. Regionally accredited schools meet more rigorous academic standards and usually only accept credits from other regionally accredited schools. Top programs often earn additional programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs or the International Accreditation Council for Business Education.
Larger schools often provide more student resources, but small schools often provide more individualized attention.
Tuition costs vary widely, with in-state and online programs often charging lower tuition. However, more expensive schools sometimes offer better opportunities, more prestige, and hefty financial aid packages. Check return on investment and student outcome measures when assessing the value of prospective programs.
Some students prefer attending local on-campus or online programs to enhance networking opportunities in their area. Self-directed, busy professionals often benefit from the flexible attendance options of online programs. Even those who choose distance learning may decide to attend a nearby college to participate in in-person meetings and events.
Number of Other Concentrations/Specializations
Well-established accounting departments and programs often provide more options for curriculum concentrations or specializations.
Intensive, accelerated programs can cut degree timelines in half. Busy professionals often choose self-paced programs that allow for part-time attendance; however, this typically lengthens completion time.
Some programs offer data about post-graduation salaries. Compare this data to identify programs that can lead to lucrative careers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a management accountant do?
Management accountants guide business decision-making by identifying cost-cutting or profit-increasing opportunities. They monitor organizational company costs, budgets, operations, and sales.
What skills does a management accountant need?
These professionals require skills in budget planning and strategizing, data analysis, and risk management. Communication skills also prove important when presenting reports to executives.
Is managerial accounting hard?
Management accounting involves considerable analysis and synthesis of large amounts of information. These professionals must understand the larger contexts and dynamics behind financial data.
How do I become a management accountant?
Management accountants usually need a bachelor's degree and professional certifications in related fields. Graduates seeking high-level management careers or academic positions often need advanced degrees.
What can you do with a managerial accounting degree?
Managing accounting degrees can lead to various careers in accounting or financial management. Graduates often work as financial analysts, budget analysts, and cost accountants.
Can you get a management accounting degree online?
Aspiring management accounting students can choose from many online degree program options. Many online degrees allow working professionals to advance their career from the comfort of their home.
Professional Organizations and Resources
Management accounting professionals and students often benefit from the continuing education, networking, and career resources provided by accounting professional organizations. Many of these organizations also support accounting research and advocate for accountants and the accounting profession. Common benefits include conferences, publications, certification programs, and job boards. See below for descriptions of some of the many accounting professional organizations available.
Institute of Management Accountants Founded in 1919, this global professional organization focuses on advancing management accounting as a profession. IMA also offers CMA certification. Serving members across 150 countries and 300 chapters, IMA provides professional development events, conferences, accounting advocacy, and continuing education.
Chartered Institute of Management Accountants Founded in 1919, CIMA leads the field of management accounting. By providing management accounting training and qualifications, CIMA supports individuals and businesses with advancing their professional success. In collaboration with AICPA, CIMA also offers chartered global management accountant (CGMA) certification.
American Accounting Association Originally founded as the American Association of University Instructors in Accounting, this academic-focused professional organization is dedicated to advancing accounting education and research. The AAA hosts academic conferences, publishes accounting research, and provides continuing education opportunities.
American Institute of Certified Public Accountants Since 1887, AICPA has served the public interest by setting standards and advocating for the accounting profession. AICPA boasts over 430,000 members across various sectors and industries in 130 countries and territories. Members benefit from diverse resources, including career guidance, continuing education, and professional certification opportunities.