Learn About Being a Staff Accountant

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

What does a staff accountant do?

Staff accountants handle basic accounting tasks like financial reporting, budget preparation and general bookkeeping for an organization. Many professionals in this position prepare tax returns and some also manage accounts payable and receivable. Staff accountants typically work under experienced professionals like controllers or certified public accountants. As a staff accountant, you can expect to fulfill the following responsibilities:

Maintain records

Staff accountants are primarily responsible for creating accounting entries for the organization’s journals and registers. In many cases, you will create general ledger entries and reconcile accounts, too.

Prepare financial statements

At the end of each month, staff accountants typically settle accounts and reconcile balance sheets. In this position, you may also gather data from the general ledger to produce financial statements.

Support accounts payable and receivable

 In many cases, staff accountants assist accounts payable and receivable colleagues. This responsibility might involve providing transaction details or creating invoices.

Analyze internal procedures

Staff accountants are responsible for following internal processes, but they may also recommend improvements to reduce costs or labor. In this role, you might review existing workflows, test new methods and analyze the results before making a recommendation.

Assist with audits

If the company undergoes reorganization, staff accountants often provide accounting support. In this position, you might review financial details, translate data to fit new ledger formats or generate information for reports.

Average salary

Staff accountants generally work full-time and receive annual salaries. Their salary range depends on their level of education and experience as well as the company’s industry and location. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $55,046 per year

  • Some salaries range from $21,000 to $94,000 per year.

Staff accountant requirements

Staff accountants need a bachelor’s degree, on-the-job training, several technical and soft skills, and optional certification.

Education

To pursue a staff accountant job, you need a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. When you complete this four-year degree, you can expect to master the principles of accounting and financial fundamentals. You can also anticipate learning concepts like managerial accounting, cost accounting, auditing and international financial reporting standards.

Training

Staff accountants also need the training to do their jobs effectively. Staff accountants usually gain essential experience they need from entry-level positions. Consider seeking one of these jobs to cultivate your accounting skills and get on-the-job training:

  • Accounting intern: These aspiring professionals typically assist with accounting projects and provide departmental support. During this type of internship, you might perform data entry or proofread financial statements.

  • Accounting assistant: These entry-level professionals usually handle basic accounting tasks and provide administrative support. In this role, you might create invoices, process receipts or reconcile statements.

  • Financial clerk: Like accounting assistants, financial clerks provide administrative support and manage basic finance duties. In this position, you might generate bills, maintain financial records or process financial transactions.

Certifications

While not all staff accounting jobs require a professional certification, acquiring one of these credentials can improve your skills and show your commitment to the industry. Many staff accountants earn a Certified Public Accountant license, which requires a bachelor’s degree, 150 semester hours that include accounting coursework and at least two years of professional accounting experience. After completing these requirements, candidates must pass four exams administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to earn their CPA license.

Skills

To become a successful staff accountant, you should strive to master both technical capabilities and soft skills. The following skills are essential for staff accountants:

Computer skills

Staff accountants use computer programs for document creation, spreadsheets, presentations and email. For example, you can expect to use word-processing software to type memos, spreadsheet applications to create formulas and presentation programs to produce diagrams to share with colleagues.

Accounting software

While many companies use common accounting applications like QuickBooks, others use proprietary software or enterprise suites such as Microsoft Dynamics GP. To become familiar with these programs, consider signing up for a training program at work or taking an online course created by the software maker. You can expect your company to provide on-the-job training if it uses proprietary software.

Database management

As a staff accountant, you may need to create or update database records. To understand the fundamentals of database maintenance, think about taking a basic university-level course. You may also be able to learn by doing or getting hands-on experience with a test database.

Math skills

When you work in accounting, basic math skills are essential. In this role, you typically need to be able to compare figures, analyze numerical data and identify accounting errors. Most aspiring accountants develop math skills during their undergraduate study, but you can sign up for a university-level course to improve your capabilities.

Analytical abilities

As an accounting professional, you may need to review ledgers, analyze balance sheets and examine monthly reports. To improve your analytical skills, practice observing situations, gathering supporting information and increasing your understanding. Try challenging yourself to develop solutions and apply the results.

Attention to detail

Staff accountants are responsible for maintaining accurate records and catching mathematical and clerical errors. To enhance your detail orientation, try isolating smaller sections to confirm accuracy before reviewing entire documents. Make proofreading a regular practice, and review your work at least once before considering it complete.

Multitasking capabilities

As a staff accountant, you may have to work on numerous tasks simultaneously or handle multiple projects at once. To improve your multitasking capabilities, separate tasks that require complete concentration from those that you can easily stop and start. Try dedicating your full attention to complex projects, and assign yourself short time windows to devote to simpler tasks. Allow additional time as you strive to master multitasking, and aim to complete tasks increasingly quickly as you improve.

Staff accountant work environment

Staff accountants work for organizations in every industry, from education and hospitality to marketing and retail. Most staff accountants work at desks in office settings.

How to become a staff accountant

To pursue a career as a staff accountant, follow these four steps:

1. Earn a degree.

Begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. When you have completed this four-year program, you will understand the basics of accounting and the fundamentals of finance.

2. Gain work experience.

Look for an internship or an entry-level accounting position to get experience with analyzing financial statements and producing reports. Most staff accountant positions require at least two years of experience in finance or accounting, so plan to work in an entry-level role for at least this long before advancing.

3. Develop relevant skills.

As you work in accounting or finance, look for opportunities to improve your technical and soft skills. For example, you can sign up for a training program to master database management or ask your supervisor for a project that can enhance your analytical skills.

4. Network in your industry.

Strive to connect with colleagues in your industry and build a network. For example, you can join networking groups in your area or participate in volunteer events that your company organizes.

Staff accountant job description example

ABC Business is seeking a self-motivated and detail-oriented staff accountant to support our growing finance department. The successful candidate will handle financial reports, assist with department budgets and produce cost reports in addition to supporting third-party audits as needed. If you are an experienced professional who has worked in accounting for at least two years, we would like to talk with you.

Related careers

If you have an interest in accounting and finance, consider pursuing one of these related jobs:

  • Financial advisor: These experts help people plan and manage their finances. Financial advisors research investments, develop plans for savings goals and recommend techniques for improving financial performance.

  • Financial analyst: These financial experts advise individuals, corporations and government entities about investment opportunities. Financial analysts review financial statements, review trends and data and provide informed recommendations.

  • Public accountant: These professionals handle accounting, auditing and tax responsibilities. As public accountants, they produce documents that individuals, businesses and government agencies must disclose.

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