Management accountant

Good at financial problem solving? You'll be ideally suited to a role in management accounting then!








So, what will I actually be doing?

Using current figures you'll be expected to look for ways of saving your company money and improving profitability and growth. This could involve small changes like switching suppliers or larger changes like bringing in new procedures.

Some organisations will have their own management accountants. You could also work for a private accountancy firm which offers accountancy services to fee-paying clients.

The kind of activities you'll oversee include:

  • Preparing financial statements
  • Making sure spending is in line with budgets
  • Analysing your company's financial performance and making longer term forecasts
  • Recommending ways of cutting costs
  • Providing information for audits 
  • Working with all departments and the management team to help make financial decisions

A big focus of your job will be to make sure the business is compliant with financial governance requirements.

You'll most likely manage a team who will help you with all your duties although the role does vary quite widely depending on the size of your business and what sector it is in.

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The finer details...

Most of the time you'll work 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. It can get pretty busy at month end and year end so you should expect to put in a few extra hours at these times.

It's an office based job but you'll not be chained to your desk as you'll attend lots of meetings.

Part time, flexi-time and job sharing are all quite common.

You may find that the projects you work on lead you in a certain direction and you become a specialist in a certain field, such as company secretary. Alternatively you could use your business experience to move into a more general management role.

If you fancy a complete change of direction, the skills you'll have learned on your CIMA course will open doors to many new careers, including management consulting, risk assessment, project management, business analysis or even setting up your own business. If you've got your sights set really high you'll be interested to know that around 20% of Chief Executives of FTSE 100 companies are qualified accountants.

Money, money, money

Recent salary data shows that trainees usually earn between £21,000 and £26,000 but that passing exams has a big impact on your earning power. As a newly qualified management accountant you could be on £30,000 to £45,000.

Looking ahead, the typical range of senior level salaries is £60,000 to £100,000 plus bonuses.

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The good points...

Once you are fully qualified the world is your oyster and you'll be in hot demand. Provided you can apply all your skills you should get rewarded with promotions and/or pay rises that reflect your experience.

...and the bad

You’ll need some serious multi-tasking skills with a passion for studying as you’re likely to be juggling exams with your career

Is there study involved?

To work as a management accountant you'll need professional qualifications, or at least be working towards them.

There are opportunities to work in large and small firms and often it's the balance of the training and benefits package that will help you decide where you'll best fit. It's worth knowing that if you want to work for one of the larger firms they tend to recruit once a year, in the autumn.

Firms of all sizes offer graduate schemes where you can learn as you earn. Most 2:1 degrees will count, although some employers prefer business or accountancy led subjects.

There are six professional accountancy bodies but the most popular in this line of work is the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). You don't need any qualifications to start studying for CIMA, but to get the best from it you'll need to be good at maths and English. Some other financial qualifications will mean you can skip some of the CIMA exams, for example if you've got your Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) or an accountancy or business degree you won't be expected to take the exams which subjects you've already learned.

If you don't follow the CIMA programme, then it's worth looking at what the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA) or the Institute of Financial Accountants (IFA) have to offer.

To become a fully-qualified management accountant you'll need to pass your CIMA exams and finish three years work experience.

In total you'll need to take 14 exams to get your CIMA accreditation (unless your existing qualifications exempt you from some of them). There's three main parts to the course covering management accounting, business management and financial management.

It's important to keep your skills up to date throughout your career, even once you are fully qualified. It's quite common for fully qualified accountants to take an MBA for example. All six of the professional bodies run ongoing professional development courses too and the industry runs lots of networking events for professionals to meet and chew the fat.

OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

Good analytical skills are a must to get ahead in management accountancy. When you're writing up your CV, these are the skills that employers will be looking for:

  • Good maths and computer skills
  • Analytical and logical problem solving skills
  • A good business understanding
  • Good attention to detail
  • Good communications and presentation skills
  • An ability to explain complex financial information in a clear way
  • Honesty and discretion
  • Team-working skills


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