Cost accounting, which is part of a company's internal accounting activities, focuses on allocating production costs to goods and services in order to accurately price products sold to consumers. Cost accountant jobs are positions specifically tasked with the allocation process, among other tasks requiring both the insight and expertise for managing financial information. Common positions include a cost accountant responsible for daily tasks, senior cost accountant who directs a small staff, plant accountant who oversees the division, and assistant controller, an upper-level management position.
A cost accountant is the most common position among cost accountant jobs. This position is the front line of the cost accounting department. Individuals will usually have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and one or two years experience in cost account. Tasks or activities will include cost analysis, monthly close tasks, financial modeling for production output, cost estimating and spending or expenditure analysis.
Senior cost accountant is the next most common position in this discipline. While these individuals may complete tasks similar to lower-level cost accountant jobs, the focus of the position is also on compliance with accounting standards, tax reporting, balance sheet presentation, and preparation of cost accounting reports. Senior cost accountant jobs may also supervise cost accountants or accounting clerks.
Plant cost accountant is a higher accounting position mixed with some management responsibilities. While the position will most often require an accounting degree, a management background or degree can also help satisfy the requirements for this position. A person in this position directs the activities of cost accountant jobs contained within a company or department. A large focus for plant cost accountants is the preparation of financial statements, cash flow modeling, standard cost analysis, budget creation (both flexible and standard), general ledger upkeep and other ad hoc projects for their division.
Other cost accountant jobs may exist within a company. One such position is the assistant controller, who works directly beneath a company’s controller, who is responsible for the entire organization’s accounting department. Assistant controllers provide analysis for the upper management of a company. This position also focuses on compliance with regulations — both accounting and government — to ensure no improprieties exist in the cost accounting operation.
While the majority of these positions require a four-year accounting degree, management or supervisory positions may require further education. Professional certification, such as the certified public accountant or certified management accountant license, is internationally renowned for the emphasis on financial and cost accounting practices, respectively.