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Forget the stereotypical green eye-shade and adding machine. Cost accounting jobs don't involve sitting in the company's basement and pouring over receipt tape. Cost accountants often work hand-in-hand with a firm's manufacturing and financial teams to determine the correct cost of producing a product. If this sounds like a career that is up your alley, then understanding some of the job descriptions of common cost accounting positions can help you find exactly where you fit in on this career track.
Staff Cost Accountant
If you're looking to start a career in cost accounting, you'll probably start out at the bottom of the heap as a staff cost accountant. While you might be at the bottom of the organization chart, this position usually requires a fair amount of skill and is compensated well relative to other entry-level positions. Staff cost accountants are often responsible for making initial calculations of the cost of new and proposed products, preparing monthly reconciliations of accounts related to cost information and other accounting duties as they are requested. The duties of this position can vary greatly depending on the size of the company and the product or service that they provide.
Budget accountants are often responsible for preparing budgets, tracking budgetary compliance and, at times, approving cost overruns. Depending on the company you work for, you may need to have tough skin for this position. Companies that have limited resources often have managers fighting for what resources are available and often you will be in the middle of the battle. For the trouble, budget accountants that are able to make everyone happy can be valued and often their compensation plans reflect this.
Senior Cost Accountant
A cost accountant's first supervisory position will often be as a senior cost accountant. This position, usually one step up from staff cost accountant, is responsible for reviewing the work of staff accountants, preparing more complicated product cost calculations and tending to special projects that are delegated by controllers or accounting managers. This is also one of the first positions where technical accounting knowledge might not be enough to be successful. Prized senior cost accountants don't just work hard themselves, they use their managerial skills to get work done through others.
The controller is usually one of the highest-ranking pure accounting jobs in the organization. If you're itching to lead a team of accountants to fiscal victory, this may be the job for you. Controllers are often responsible for both the cost and financial accounting of the organization on a day-to-day basis. This level of oversight usually requires at least 5, but as many as 10 years of experience in other accounting positions and strong managerial skills. However, controllers can be compensated quite well for their trouble and these compensation contracts can also include profit-sharing or stock awards.
John Freedman's articles specialize in management and financial responsibility. He is a certified public accountant, graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in business administration and has been writing since 1998. His career includes public company auditing and work with the campus recruiting team for his alma mater.