Your Guide to Managerial Accounting: Types, Careers, and More

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn about managerial accounting the different types, careers, and how to enter this field.

[Featured image] A managerial accountant analyzes the organization's internal financial processes.

Managerial accounting is a specialized type of accounting with functions and tasks that differ from financial accounting. As a managerial accountant, you’ll analyze an organization’s internal financial processes to help company leaders make strategic decisions and plans. In this article, learn about managerial accounting, the different types, the education requirements, and how to enter this career field.   

What is managerial accounting?

Managerial accounting is the process of analyzing, interpreting, and measuring an organization’s financial processes. This type of accounting uses data to help provide leaders with insight for strategic financial planning that aligns with that organization's goals and business objectives. In managerial accounting, the main focus will be on financial decisions that affect the internal workings of a company. For example, managerial accountants may help leaders decide whether or not to raise the cost of goods and services. 

Managerial accounting vs. financial accounting

While managerial accounting focuses on providing data for internal use, financial accounting focuses on the decisions related to an organization’s financial relationship with external companies. 

Financial accountants are also subject to compliance with government rules and regulations, such as the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), whereas managerial accountants are not. 

Financial accounting deals with the long-term financial decisions an organization may make. This differs from managerial accounting, which works with short-term and sometimes long-term goals that involve an organization’s internal financial processes. Both financial professions work with financial information in similar ways, but for different purposes and uses. 

Careers in managerial accounting

Managerial accounting is a specified type of accounting that has different job titles based on the company, industry, education, location, and more. The job titles often differ in salary and responsibilities, though you’ll find some common tasks and skills in most jobs in managerial accounting. 

Typical tasks

Typical tasks that may be a part of a managerial accounting career may include:

  • Preparing financial data for budgeting and planning

  • Supervising members of a financial department

  • Choosing investments

  • Finding investment opportunities

  • Identifying financial trends

  • Managing risk

  • Assisting in internal financial decisions

  • Strategic planning and decision making

Key skills

If you pursue a career in managerial accounting, you’ll need key skills that blend finance and managerial skills. Since most jobs in this field oversee a group of people and require technical skills, it’s important to have the following competencies:

  • Communication skills

  • Leadership skills

  • Patience

  • Knowledge of financial data

  • Ability to apply financial analysis to an organization’s needs and processes 

  • Ability to use spreadsheets like Excel

  • Ability to analyze data

  • Be proficient with computer and financial management systems

  • Understand mathematical equations 

Common roles 

Depending on your education, experience, and certification, you may be eligible for several jobs in management accounting. Common roles in this field include: 

1. Controllers 

Average annual base salary (US):  $108,508 [1]

Controllers are commonly the head of a financial department. In a supervisory position, controllers oversee all aspects of the financial health of an organization, organizing reports, analyzing financial data, and creating strategic plans and goals. 

2. Accounting managers 

Average base annual salary (US): $79,765 [2]

Accounting managers work to ensure the timely delivery of financial reports to an organization’s decision-makers. This role ensures the accuracy of reports, manages the performance of other accountants, and allocates tasks among other accountants. 

3. Financial analysts 

Average base annual salary (US): $67,579 [3]

A financial analyst’s main duty is to examine data to determine outcomes and opportunities for business investments and decisions. Financial analysts will track and analyze financial processes for companies, support other departments, and use financial data to create budgets and forecasts. 

Read more: What Does a Financial Analyst Do?

4. Management accountants 

Average annual salary (US): $89,645[4]

Management accountants have a position of authority and responsibility. In this role, they analyze the internal financial processes of an organization and use that data to forecast, make suggestions, aid in decision-making, set budgets, and more. This role may handle everything from investment decisions to overhead costs. 

5. Cost accountant managers 

Average annual salary (US): $86,524 [5]

Cost accountant managers typically work for larger organizations. This role focuses on managing overall costs for an organization, which includes monitoring spending, calculating the costs associated with business operations, and finding opportunities to save money. 

How to get a job in managerial accounting

To get a job in managerial accounting, you’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree, gain professional experience, and consider certification. Graduate degrees are not always required but may be required for some senior-level managerial accounting positions. Each employer may have their requirements, so it’s important to research the desired qualifications before pursuing your degree and applying to entry-level positions. 

Earn a bachelor’s degree.

The majority of managerial accounting jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as finance, business, or accounting. If you enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, it’s helpful to take electives that can better prepare you for a career in managerial accounting. 

As part of your bachelor’s degree program, you may be required to complete an internship. Internships can provide invaluable experience that can enhance your resume and create professional connections. Even if not a requirement for your degree program, seek internship options if possible. 

Do I need a master’s degree?

In some cases, a master’s degree in accounting may be preferred. This is particularly true of upper-level management jobs or senior-level positions in a company like CFO or corporate controller. 

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Gain professional experience.

After earning your degree, consider applying to the following entry-level accounting positions:

  • Accounting assistant

  • Assistant controller

  • Payroll tax analyst

  • Budget specialist 

Your job title will likely vary by the organization and industry. Ideally, having at least five years of professional experience will help you advance into management positions in finance; however, you can get certified with a minimum of two years of experience.  

Read more: How to Get Your First Accounting Entry-Level Job

Consider a certification.

Having a certification can offer many benefits in the managerial accounting field. This includes increased job opportunities, higher annual earnings, and distinction within your industry. 

Many managerial accounting professionals earn the certified management accountant certification (CMA). This is an internationally recognized and reputable certification from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). To earn your CMA, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field

  • Have two years of consecutive professional experience that’s approved by the IMA

  • Become an IMA member

  • Enroll in the CMA program

Recertification requirements include 30 continuing education credits yearly, two of which must be in ethics. 

Another option for specialized management accountants is the certified government financial manager certification known as CGFM, offered by AGA. The CGFM certification is intended for financial professionals working for local, state, or federal government organizations. To get this certification, you’ll need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree in a related area

  • Have two consecutive years of professional experience in government financial management 

  • Pass three CGFM exams

Types of managerial accounting methods

Within managerial accounting, several methods may be used to manage an organization’s finances. Managerial accountants may use one or more of these types depending on the organization's size, industry, financial objectives, and financial status. In many cases, these types of accounting are used during certain times and may not always be used all the time. 

Product costing and valuation

Product costing involves measuring and analyzing both variable and fixed costs that are associated with the production of goods and services. Part of this process involves placing value on the true costs of operations compared to the budgeted cost set by the organization. Valuations help ensure the company is profitable and stays within budget based on the cost of manufacturing and delivering services. Management accountants determine how to make the production of goods and services more cost-effective by looking at fixed, variable, indirect, and direct costs. 

Budgeting, trend analysis, and forecasting

Management accounting professionals use an organization’s past financial history to help budget for future financial needs, purchases, and decision-making This type of managerial accounting uses metrics like performance reports to locate and note positive or negative deviations called budget-to-actual variances. This information helps organizations better understand how well they adhere to set budgets and make changes if needed. Another aspect of this methodology is examining an organization’s needs, choosing the correct purchase type, and finding the best way to finance that purchase. 

Accounts receivable management

Accounts receivable (AR) is the money owed to a company for a product or service bought on credit. These purchases are listed as entries on a balance sheet and are considered short-term assets to the organizations. 

Managerial accountant review past due AR, which may vary by company. Some organizations may move AR to an AR aging report after 30 days, while others give customers 90 days or more. Companies typically don’t hold past due AR because it can affect their bottom line and is a credit risk. 

Inventory turnover analysis

For businesses, it’s important to know the necessary amount of inventory. Inventory turnover analysis measures the inventory a company sells and replaces within a set period. 

Financial professionals calculate inventory turnover to determine how long it takes inventory to turn into revenue. This process helps companies manage inventory and keep the costs of goods and services set compared to incoming revenue. 

Constraint analysis

Constraint analysis helps companies run more smoothly and efficiently by identifying errors in the production of goods and services. Managerial accountants may use data like cash flow, revenue, and profits to identify problems in the flow and cost of production, which affects profitability. This analysis helps maintain a profitable enterprise. 

Cash flow analysis

Cash flow analysis studies the impact of a single financial decision or transaction to see the true impact of that purchase or decision. Financial professionals may look at several options and ways to finance a purchase based on that analysis. Cash flow analysis lets organizations make informed financial decisions and maintain sufficiently liquid assets in the short term. 

Financial leverage metrics

Borrowed capital is capital that is borrowed from investors or banks. Financial leverage metrics analyze and determine the amount of borrowed capital that should be used to purchase assets to provide the maximum return on investment. This method provides transparency to key stakeholders so that they can see where the money goes and why. Financial professionals typically use reports like balance sheets and debt-to-equity ratios to help companies determine borrowed capital amounts. 

Next steps

Start your managerial accounting career by enrolling in an online course that can provide important skills training and information on how to excel in this field. Courses like Managerial Accounting Fundamentals or Managerial Accounting: Tools for Facilitating and Guiding Business Decisions offered on Coursera can provide you with job-ready skills to enhance your resume.  

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course

Managerial Accounting Fundamentals

This course, developed at the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia and taught by top-ranked faculty, will teach you the fundamentals of ...

4.8

(641 ratings)

52,020 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

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course

Managerial Accounting: Tools for Facilitating and Guiding Business Decisions

In this course, you will explore how to use accounting to allocate resources and incentivize manager and employee behaviors with these resources. You will ...

4.7

(581 ratings)

24,377 already enrolled

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Accounting, Cost, Investment, Analysis Of Variance (ANOVA)

Article sources

1

Glassdoor. “Salary: Controller (September 2022), https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/controller-salary-SRCH_KO0,10.htm.” Accessed November 30, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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