How to Become a Management Accountant

If you have excellent numeracy skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills, you could enjoy a fulfilling career as a management accountant. This role involves working in a company’s finance department and making key financial decisions about the company’s operations. You’ll have to be good with people, have excellent commercial awareness and be able to work well under pressure.

Find out if you have what it takes to become a management accountant by reading the following informative guide. You’ll discover what management accountants actually do, what key skills they need to possess, how much they can earn, what qualifications they need to obtain and much more.

What is a management accountant?

As a management accountant, you’ll typically work in a single company’s finance department. You will look after the company’s accounts and give advice about the company’s financial business decisions with the aim of increasing the company’s growth and profits. You will assist with managerial planning and commercial decisions by analysing relevant financial information and offering solutions. 

In the position of management accountant, you could work for a financial institution or any public or private sector organisation that has an accounting or financial department. You’ll work in an office environment during normal business hours: approximately forty hours a week from Monday to Friday. However, you’ll need to be prepared to put in overtime when required. If there are tight deadlines to meet, you could find yourself working extra hours in evenings and at weekends. Additionally, if you work for a company that deals in international business, you may have the opportunity to work overseas at certain times.

What do management accountants actually do?

Your main daily tasks as a management consultant will be preparing accounts and reports. This will give managers the financial information required to make decisions about areas like investments, production and operation. A large part of this task involves tracking internal costs and budgeting. Your aim is to efficiently drive value for money throughout the company you work for.

Management Accountant Job Description

Preparing financial statements and planning budgets for an organisation are at the heart of a management accountant’s job description. Other key duties and responsibilities typically include:

  • Performing risk management tasks.
  • Analysing and evaluating the organisation’s performance.
  • Overseeing the organisation’s credit control, bookkeeping systems and payroll.
  • Business planning and forecasting.
  • Managing prepayments and accruals.
  • Reviewing and completing balance sheets.
  • Monitoring budgets and spending.
  • Recommending improvements to the organisation’s accounting processes and systems.
  • Recommending ways for the organisation to reduce costs and increase its profits.
  • Negotiating deals to obtain finance for major projects.
  • Creating business strategies for generating shareholder value.
  • Managing a team of assistant accountants.
  • Liaising with employees and managerial staff.
  • Auditing departments within the organisation.
  • Adhering to accounting policies.

Key Skills for a Management Accountant

In this role, you will be working with people across the organisation. You’ll also often have to attend meetings and give presentations. It’s therefore essential you have strong communication skills and excellent people skills. A big part of your job will involve problem solving, so you must have the aptitude to do this successfully. You’ll have to think creatively in order to come up with solutions to the issues you’re presented with. Commercial awareness is another key skill you need to have. You need to constantly be thinking about what is best for the organisation you work for, as the aim of your job is to help the business reduce costs and maximise its revenue. 

There’s no room for mistakes in this profession, so you’ll also need to have great attention to detail and be thorough in every aspect of your work. In addition, you must have excellent numeracy skills, analytical thinking skills and administration skills. Other key skills you need to possess to work as a management accountant include:

  • A thorough knowledge of computer systems and applications.
  • An excellent knowledge of accounting and economics.
  • The ability to manage projects.
  • The ability to work well in a team.
  • The ability to use your own initiative.
  • The motivation and ambition to succeed.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.

Useful Work Experience

It’s always useful to do voluntary work placements with accounting or financial departments of companies to see if you’re suited to the work environment and daily tasks of account management. When it comes to applying for jobs later down the line, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’re serious about a career in management accountancy. However, you do need qualifications to become a management accountant, and this is a job where qualifications are more important than experience.

There is another option available. You could enrol with an apprenticeship, which involves getting hands-on training and an apprentice wage while you study for a qualification. By enrolling with a level seven accountancy and taxation professional degree apprenticeship, you’ll earn a qualification that’s equivalent to a Master’s degree. To be accepted on to this apprenticeship scheme, you will typically need four or five GCSEs at grades A* to C or nine to four and some A Levels; or qualifications that are the equivalent of GCSEs and A Levels.

Average Salaries for a Management Accountant

If you go down the route of an apprenticeship, you can expect to earn an annual salary of between £16,000 and £18,000 while you train. If you apply for a position in an organisation directly, you will begin on a decent initial salary of between £25,000 and £28,000 per year. Once you pass the qualifying examinations, your salary will rise to around £33,000 per year. As you gain more experience, you could see your salary rise even higher. Senior management accountant positions can pay as much as £65,000 per year.

Qualifications for a Management Accountant

Although you don’t have to have a degree to begin a career in management accountancy, most employers require you to undergo training to earn a qualification in business from a recognised professional industry body. Most popularly, would-be management accountants qualify through a programme provided by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.

There are two stages to CIMA training. You would first complete a training programme in which you need to successfully pass five examinations to earn a CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting. With the second stage, the programme requires you to pass ten examinations to earn a CIMA Professional Qualification. Although you don’t need any specific qualifications to study for the former qualification, it’s desirable you have at least GCSEs, or equivalent qualifications, in English and maths.

You can study for the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting part-time, full-time or through distance learning. You’ll usually need to gain the CIMA Certificate in Business Accounting before you can proceed to the CIMA Professional Qualification course of study. However, you could be accepted onto the CIMA Professional Qualification programme if you already possess a relevant qualification that is recognised by the CIMA. These include a degree or postgraduate qualification in accountancy or business studies and an Association of Accounting Technicians – Technician Level qualification. 

 You could also get a relevant qualification through the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants. With this course, you would take business management modules in the final part of the training programme, instead of taxation and audit modules that are taken in a CIMA course. Another option to get a recognised qualification that allows you to become a management accountant is to train in financial management through an Institute of Financial Accountants course. You can train to technician, associate and fellow levels, but not to chartered level with this course.

Career Progression

After you have at least five years’ experience in the role of management accountant, you could progress to a senior role such as a senior manager, a financial controller, a finance director, or even a chief executive of a company. Alternatively, you could become a self-employed management consultant, if you register with the CIMA. By becoming self-employed, you can work in a variety of new environments, meet new people and work hours that suit you.

In Conclusion

If you’re interested in working in an accountancy position, the role of management accountant could be the job for you. As well as preparing accounts and reports, you would be engaged with a wide variety of other tasks and responsibilities. You would analyse an organisation’s performance and come up with solutions on how to make the organisation more financially efficient. You would create business strategies, recommend improvements and make important decisions regarding areas like investments, production and operation. To succeed in this role, you will need to have strong people skills, communication skills and problem-solving skills. Of course, to be a management accountant, you also need to have strong numeracy and business skills.

Whether you apply for a job directly or go down the route of an apprenticeship, you’ll need to complete training courses to earn a recognised qualification through a professional industry body like the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. Once you become a fully-fledged management accountant, you can earn around £33,000 per year. There are also opportunities to progress in your career, in which you can earn an even higher salary.