What does a Cost Accountant do?

A cost accountant often works in the accounting department of a company to prepare financial records, such as cost analyzes and monthly budget reports. A successful cost accountant has the excellent analytical skills necessary to manage vast amounts of numerical data to calculate profit margins and recommend ways for an organization to minimize their costs. They also need a keen eye for details to update information regularly into accounting software programs and spot inaccuracies.

In general, cost accountants study in the fields of accounting or finance to achieve a minimum of a Bachelor of Science degree. Some will work in a public accounting firm or may manage multiple clients by means of their own independent practice. To excel, a cost accountant should be proficient in computer skills, creating databases, and be able to help an organization to establish a stable budget within their specifications.

  • Collect and organize cost information into a database of expenses
  • Construct systems to accumulate and monitor data
  • Determine and calculate formulas for fixed and variable costs, such as rent, insurance, and monthly purchases
  • Plan budgets and prepare reports for multiple departments within a company
  • Review receipts and compare with actual charges to detect inaccuracies
  • Project profit margins for upcoming quarters and analyze trends of highs and lows
  • Prepare cost forecasts for monthly, quarterly, or annual operating schedules
  • Analyze month-end and year-end reports to identify and recommend cost-effective improvements
  • Demonstrated understanding of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
  • 2+ years of work experience as a cost accountant, analyst, or other relevant role
  • In-depth knowledge of accounting principles and best practices
  • Familiarity with accounting software programs, such as FreshBooks and QuickBooks
  • Computer literacy skills, especially with MS Excel and basic data entry and computation
  • Analytical skills with a keen sense of organization and detail
  • Proven time management skills and ability to work under strict deadlines
  • Respect for confidentiality of information laws and local ethics
  • Expertise in activity-based costing for fixed and variable costs in relation to the overall direct cost of a line of products

Average Years of Experience

0 - 1
2 - 4
5 - 7

Common Skill Sets

Microsoft EXCEL
General Ledger
Microsoft Office Suite
Written Communication
MS Windows
Pivot Tables

Cost Accountant Seniority Levels

Management Accountant
10% made the transition
100% made the transition
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Cost Accountant Salaries

Average Base Pay

$68,383 /yr
Same as national average
Not including cash compensation
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Not enough salaries reported to show distribution
Median: $68K
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Glassdoor Estimated Salary

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