As you consider a career in accounting, you might come across specialized degree programs in the field of managerial accounting. If you tend to picture accountants as bookkeepers or tax preparers, then the work of a managerial accountant is somewhat different – and quite possibly, more interesting – than you would expect. Accountants working in this field use their financial reporting skills to advise managers of businesses and organizations, playing an important role in the big-picture decisions that guide a company’s operations strategy. When you choose to study managerial accounting, you will take plenty of courses in business subject of all kinds as well as general and specialized accounting classes.
What Is Managerial Accounting?
Managerial accountants go by many other names. When you hear titles such as corporate accountant, cost accountant, industrial accountant, management accountant or private accountant, the position involves the same basic set of job duties as a managerial accountant.
Both public and private accountants prepare financial documents, but the main distinction between these two types of accounting professionals is the purpose of their work. Public accountants, who usually work as part of public accounting firms or who run their own solo firms, compile financial reports that their clients – including individuals and corporations – are required by law to disclose, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. The work of a public accountant might include preparing tax forms, creating the balance sheet statements given to potential investors and filing annual and quarterly reports with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, a federal government agency.
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Managerial accountants, on the other hand, work within a single company or organization to create financial documents for internal use. They report on the company’s finances and interpret the data in ways that help managers make business decisions. A management accountant’s input can help company leadership with tasks such as planning for business expenses, setting budgets, evaluating financial performance and managing investments and other assets, the BLS reported.
A certification such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential can help you move your managerial accounting career forward. Some private accountants decide to earn their Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license.
A Business Background
A thorough foundation in business is necessary in all fields of accounting. Financial reporting isn’t done in a vacuum, away from the concepts, practices and demands of other fields of business. Accountants must understand all of the factors that influence business operations, which is why undergraduate degree programs in accounting typically include core coursework in a variety of business studies. As you pursue a bachelor’s degree in managerial accounting, you should expect to take classes such as business law, organizational behavior, principles of management, principles of marketing, financial management, international business, economics and business statistics.
Generally, graduate degree programs in accounting tend to be more specialized than undergraduate programs, and a master’s in accounting degree won’t necessarily require non-accounting business courses. However, given the nature of their job duties, managerial accountants need to know a great deal of concepts and practices in other fields of business. Students in a graduate program in management accounting might take courses in corporate financial management, managing through communication and advanced business law.
If you pursue a Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration or Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in managerial accounting, you can expect to take more courses in general business and management.
Accounting Coursework for a Management Accounting Degree
A management accounting degree program may be more specialized than a general accounting program, but students still need a solid background in each of the fields of accounting. In a bachelor’s degree program in management accounting, you will complete introductory through intermediate coursework in subjects such as financial accounting, auditing, business and individual income tax, financial statement analysis and accounting information systems.
Your specialized coursework as a management accounting major may start with an introductory class in management accounting or cost accounting. From there, you might take a blend of focused accounting and business classes that teach you about budgeting, forecasting, decision analysis, risk management, performance management, cost management and internal controls and strategic management. At the master’s degree level, your coursework would be more advanced. You might complete classes in controllership, advanced auditing, control and auditing of accounting information systems and advanced financial reporting.
Real-world work experience is valuable no matter what specialty of accounting you study. Often, accounting schools help their students find internship opportunities with accounting and business firms, the BLS reported.