According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the field of accounting offers steady job potential over the next decade. With average growth and a decent salary, many people may find that a job in this field will be rewarding; however, some might not understand the specifics behind anÂ accountant job description. The following offers a basic overview of the job responsibilities and outlook of a staff accountant.
Staff accountants perform a variety of tasks depending on their level, the structure of the business for which they work as well as the size and scope of the company. Responsibilities include preparing tax returns, bookkeeping, maintaining financial records for personal clients and businesses, handling the overall accounting plan for companies and individuals, and reviewing financial documents for evaluation purposes. Because accountants deal with personal and confidential information, their day-to-day operation might include a number of personal meetings. Staff accountants, which normally hold supervisory status in larger companies, also oversee the direction of a company’s accounting department or bookkeeping and payroll department. Depending on a staff accountant’s particular training or specialization, he or she might also handle risk assessment and other financial matters.
Training and Education RequirementsÂ
A unique industry, accounting requires extensive education and training in order for a person to be successful on the job. “Extensive education” does not necessarily mean that someone will spend many years in school. While most companies require entry-level accountants to possess a bachelor’s degree in accounting or relevant field, staff accountants may also have extra-curricular training apart from school. Assistants to accountants, in the form of accounting clerks, may become accountants through a training process designed by the company for which they work. Other companies demand higher degrees, such as a master’s degree in business with a focus on accounting. Technical schools and other colleges offer certification programs that do not qualify someone to become a Certified Public Accountant or CPA, but they exist as a starting point for those interested in the field.
While education is a prerequisite for becoming an accountant, job experience matters more in this profession as time progresses. Staff accountants generally opt to become certified (discussed below) to make themselves more attractive to prospective employers and clients. Additional licensing may also be required, as CPAs hold a higher level of education and experience. In some states, CPAs must complete continuing education requirements. Since the world of finance constantly changes, CPAs and accountants must stay informed and continually educate themselves on current trends. For this reason, accounting requires constant education and on-the-job training.
Salary and Wages
Compensation varies based on level of accountant, area in which they work and other factors, but for 2010, the average salary for an accountant in the United States was $61,690. The low base range for an accountant in 2010 was $38,940, and top tier accountants earned over $100,000. Because accounting has a steady job growth, these numbers should stay steady with the rise in demand of the position.
Accountants may become certified in a number of ways. A Certified Management Accountant (CMA) analyzes the accounting practices of a business on an internal level rather than for public interest, often managing a company’s budget and other financial aspects on the inside. A Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) regulates company financial waste and identifies areas of improvement. While not a regulatory job, the CIA would advise companies according to a set of standards. A Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) analyzes a company’s electronic disbursement of accounting information to ensure that gaps stay closed and that information is secure. Each of these certifications is administered under different authorities, and each requires different levels of education and experience in order to qualify.
Several professional organizations exist for staff accountants. The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), American Institute of CPAs (AICPA)Â and Accounting & Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) represent some of the major organizations dedicated to providing resources for accountants around the world.
U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics