The Modern Management Accountant: Salary and Responsibilities

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A management accountant reviews a report.

With professional accounting experience, in-depth business knowledge, and their ability to lead, management accountants have some of the most in-demand positions in the financial industry. For aspiring professionals seeking career paths with a combination of accounting and business administration, a management accounting role can present the ideal opportunity. Learn what defines the modern management accountant and discover these five key aspects of the role:

  • Salary expectations for management accountants
  • Industries that employ management accountants
  • How technology has changed this role
  • Essential certification for management accountants
  • How a Master of Science in Accounting (MSA) can prepare professionals for this role

The Role of Management Accountants

Unlike their public accountant counterparts, management accountants don’t typically handle the tax forms and financial statements that companies publicly disclose. Instead, management accountants usually serve as internal accounting specialists for organizations and agencies. There, they process financial records, manage assets, oversee budgets, and even assist with investments for companies of all sizes. These professionals also tend to excel at managing risk, planning for a company’s future and making well-informed decisions.

Since they have such in-depth insight into organizations’ inner workings and performance metrics, many management accountants adopt strategic roles. Taking on this type of responsibility enables experienced accountants to guide companies as they grow and expand. Modern management accountants with advanced degrees and several years of experience in the field may be candidates for high-level leadership positions.

Management Accountant Salary

Management accountant salaries may vary widely depending on the sector and the industry, but professionals in this role can typically expect to receive compensation commensurate with their experience. The median annual salary for accountants and auditors was $70,500 in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median annual salary was lower for accountants and auditors who work for government agencies ($67,420) and higher for those working in finance and insurance ($74,690).

The BLS projects employment for accountants and auditors to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028. Accountants are affected by globalization, taxes, and the economy, and they’re in demand in both the private and public sectors. As businesses become more global, there’s a higher demand for accountants with a global perspective and international trade expertise. Management accountants with advanced education and more experience are more likely to find themselves in jobs with greater responsibilities and higher salaries.

Industries That Hire Management Accountants

Management accountants perform tasks that are essential to every organization’s success. Thus, companies in virtually all industries depend on these professionals to manage growth. According to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, American industries that pay the highest average salaries for management accountants include health care; real estate; and oil, gas, and alternative energy. Industries that tend to pay the most lucrative bonuses include mining; agriculture and forestry; finance and insurance; and oil, gas, and alternative energy.

Aspiring management accountants may find the most exciting opportunities in organizations with global footprints or industries subject to high-level regulations. As the BLS suggests, industries dealing with increasingly complicated tax and regulatory landscapes are likely to have a greater need for experienced management accountants who can assist with managing tax liabilities while still leading growth initiatives. Similarly, companies that do business globally typically have a higher demand for management accountants who can develop effective strategies for guiding them through international mergers.

Technologies Changing the Role of Management Accountants

Although management accountants continue to oversee the same financial and strategic aspects that have long defined this role, many professionals in this position are likely to find that technology has changed the manner and pace of their work. As data develops a more substantial presence in the accounting industry, management accountants must improve their understanding of both data governance and analysis.

As Raef Lawson writes in Accounting Today, modern management accountants need high-level knowledge of data integrity and security to maximize their use of sensitive information while still protecting their organizations. Because management accountants often have access to financial records, profit projections, and other sensitive data, they must understand how to manage this information effectively while maintaining privacy.

An understanding of data management may not be enough to enable ambitious management accountants to move ahead. Professionals in this field should also work to advance their comprehension of analytics, as drawing conclusions from automatically generated information is likely to become a more substantial component of this role. The Association of Certified Professional Accountants echoes this sentiment in its white paper “Changing Competencies and Mindsets.” As the professional organization states, management accountants of the future must welcome automation to the industry while adding value through analytical questioning, solving expert-level problems, and deploying effective solutions through negotiation and change management. By adopting a growth mindset, management accountants may continue to excel in their roles while ensuring that their organizations move past obstacles and progress into the future.

Essential Certifications for Modern Management Accountants

While accountants don’t necessarily require a professional certification to take on a management accountant role, many find that they do need an industry credential to pursue high-level positions. Most management accountants choose from one of two available certifications to increase their chances of advancing in their fields: certified management accountant (CMA) or chartered global management accountant (CGMA).

The CMA certification, which the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers, requires candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, have at least two continuous years of relevant professional experience, pass a two-part exam, and have an active IMA membership. CMAs must also adhere to the IMA’s Statement of Ethical Professional Practice, which aims to maintain a high standard for the management accounting industry. According to the IMA, professionals around the world who have the CMA certification earn 55% higher median total compensation than those without the certification.

Ambitious management accountants may also opt for the CGMA designation, which the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) offers. To earn this credential, candidates must have a degree from a CIMA-accredited institution and complete a series of professional exams. Management accountants seeking to work internationally or aiming to advance in multinational organizations may find that this professional qualification helps them to pursue managerial roles with higher salaries.

How a Master of Science in Accounting Prepares Aspiring Management Accountants

Lon Searle, former chief financial officer of YESCO Franchising LLC, explains in Investopedia that management accountants may climb the career ladder in various ways, depending on their education, relevant experience, and professional goals. He said that “a person who can solve problems, think creatively, and persuade others will have a promising career in management accounting.”

Before pursuing a professional credential, many aspiring management accountants earn an advanced degree, such as an MSA. Those who choose to complete a master’s degree in accounting can expect to acquire advanced knowledge in financial reporting, cost accounting, strategic thinking, and many other relevant topics. Graduate students can also prepare for the CMA certification as they earn their online Master of Science in Accounting from Regis College.

Students in the Regis College online MSA program develop their accounting knowledge and the skills they need to be assets to organizations and companies. Aspiring management accountants should consider pursuing an advanced degree as well as professional certification to achieve the greatest growth trajectory throughout their careers. According to the BLS, management accountants with a master’s degree may have an advantage in this competitive, fast-growing field.

Explore the Benefits of a Master of Science in Accounting

Students in the online graduate program at Regis College work alongside faculty with real-world experience to develop a global perspective and social entrepreneurship. With a curriculum revolving around social justice, students develop business management skills with a managerial perspective, becoming equipped for management roles as accountants. During their degree program, students will be prepared to sit for the CPA or CMA exams, making Regis College graduates more competitive in the field. Learn more about how an online Master of Science in Accounting from Regis College can help you pursue a rewarding career as a management accountant.


Accounting Today, “Management Accounting’s Future Starts Today” 

Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, Changing Competencies and Mindsets 

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Your Career 

Institute of Management Accountants, CMA Certification 

Institute of Management Accountants, “Management Accounting Competencies: Fit for Purpose in a Digital Age?”

Institute of Management Accountants, Salary Information 

Investopedia, “What Management Accountants Do” 

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Accountants and Auditors