The Modern Management Accountant: 5 Things to Know About the Role

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With their leading-edge accounting experience, in-depth business knowledge, and ability to lead, management accountants have some of the most in-demand positions in the financial industry. For aspiring professionals seeking a career path with a combination of accounting and business administration, a management accounting role could present the ideal challenge. 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 profession
  • Essential certification for management accountants
  • How a Master of Science in Accounting degree can prepare professionals for this role

Why Management Accountants Have Such an Intriguing Role

Unlike their public accountant counterparts, management accountants do not typically handle the tax forms or financial statements that companies disclose publicly. 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 naturally adopt strategic roles. Taking on this type of responsibility allows experienced accountants to guide companies’ development as they grow and expand. Because modern management accountants often have ample room for growth, professionals who have completed advanced education, such as a master’s degree in accounting, and earned several years of experience in the field may also take on leadership roles in high-powered organizations.

Salary Expectations for Today’s Management Accountants

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 level. As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains, accountants who work for government agencies tend to earn the least, at an average of $67,100 per year, while those in executive leadership roles in the public or private sectors typically earn the most, at an average of $72,160 per year.

According to Robert Half, salaries for this role also vary significantly by location. For example, entry-level management accountants working in the Manchester, New Hampshire, area receive an average salary of $55,160. Professionals with one to three years of experience earn an average of $70,280 per year, while those at a senior level earn an average of $88,200 per year. Manchester-area management accountants in leadership roles make an average of $104,440 per year.

In the New York metro area, average salaries range from $69,196 per year for entry-level management accountants to $131,016 per year for executives. Management accountants in the Los Angeles metro area can expect a similar spread, with entry-level professionals earning an average of $65,010 and managers earning $123,090 per year.

Industries That Hire Management Accountants Today

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 salaries on average 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 either 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 on a global stage typically have a higher demand for management accountants who can develop effective strategies for guiding them through international mergers.

Key Technologies That Have Changed Management Accountants’ Roles

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 its privacy.

However, 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 via a combination of 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 and executive roles. Most management accountants choose from one of two available certifications to increase their chances of advancing in their field.

Many successful professionals opt to obtain the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) certification, which the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) offers. This certification 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 who earn the CMA certification earn almost 50 percent more money in the United States than they would without a professional certification. Across the globe, CMAs earn about two-thirds more than non-CMAs, and professionals in their 30s earn median salaries nearly three-quarters higher than their peers. Ultimately, a CMA could earn over $500,000 more throughout an entire career.

Ambitious management accountants may also opt to obtain the Chartered Global Management Accountant (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 a multinational organization may find that this professional qualification helps them pursue managerial roles with higher salaries.

How a Master of Science in Accounting Prepares Aspiring Management Accountants

Before pursuing a professional credential, many aspiring management accountants opt to earn an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Accounting. 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 Accounting degree at New England College.

Since the New England College graduate program in accounting is completely online, students can complete this degree from virtually anywhere. Because the program has no residency requirement and allows for a flexible schedule, graduate students may even opt to continue accumulating professional experience and furthering their careers as they complete their graduate degree.

  • Aspiring management accountants should strongly consider pursuing an advanced degree or a 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 and fast-growing field.
  • Lon Searle, former chief financial officer (CFO) of YESCO Franchising LLC, explains in Investopedia that management accountants may climb the career ladder in a variety of ways, depending on their education level, relevant experience, and professional goals. He states that ultimately, “a person who can solve problems, think creatively, and persuade others will have a promising career in management accounting.”

From the private sector to the public sector to the government sector, management accountants may have the opportunity to pursue exciting roles in a wide variety of industries. Visit the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at New England College to learn more about how an online Master of Science in Accounting degree could pave the way toward a dynamic and rewarding career as a management accountant.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Robert Half

Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Accounting Today

Institute of Management Accountants

Institute of Management Accountants

Institute of Management Accountants

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants