What Is Accounting?

Accountants record financial information, such as financial reports, tax returns, budgets, and financial transactions. They may work in several specialties, including public accounting, cost accounting, management accounting, and auditing. In some fields, accountants prepare financial documents for public disclosure, including tax returns, budget reports, and stockholder reports. In other fields, accountants may scan documents for errors and investigate potential fraud.

Accounting managers work in a variety of industries, overseeing the work performed by accountants, bookkeepers, auditors, and other accounting professionals. This page outlines important information about accounting management careers, including responsibilities, qualifications, and relevant professional organizations and certifications.

What Is an Accounting Manager?

Accounting managers supervise accountants. They create systems and processes for analyzing and reporting financial information, ensure organizations follow legal and regulatory requirements, and recommend improvements for business procedures. Depending on their business, accounting managers may also prepare annual budgets, track financial data, and make recommendations on financial decisions.

Most accounting manager positions require a mix of educational and professional experience. For instance, some employers prefer accounting managers with a master's degree. In addition, accounting managers must hold professional experience within the accounting specialty they plan to supervise. The following sections cover common accounting management responsibilities.

What Does an Accounting Manager Do?

Accounting managers oversee teams of accountants working toward an organization's financial goals, assigning projects and tasks to accountants within their division. Accounting managers also help shape their organization's accounting policies, priorities, and methods.

The accounting profession includes many specialties, such as public accounting, managerial accounting, forensic accounting, and auditing. Within these specialties, accountants prepare financial documents, review financial reports to uncover errors or fraud, and analyze financial information to recommend business decisions. Accountants in each of these specialties can move into management roles after gaining professional experience and training.

For instance, many organizations employ certified public accountants (CPAs) to prepare tax returns and other financial reports. Public accountants work with documents that must be disclosed to the public by law. Accounting managers with CPA experience and credentials can supervise other CPAs. These accounting managers may set accounting goals for their division, review the work performed by CPAs to ensure its accuracy, and evaluate CPAs to encourage professional development.

Earning a master's degree can also help prospective accounting managers gain the skills required for a management role.

Most accounting managers complete several years of professional experience within their specialty before moving into managerial roles. Earning a master's degree can also help prospective accounting managers gain the skills required for a management role.

In addition to accounting skills, accounting managers must possess strong leadership, management, and communication skills. Accounting managers work closely with other accountants, supervising their work and addressing any problems with their employees. They must communicate with accountants and other managers and executives to ensure efficient accounting operations.

Accounting managers must also plan for an organization's long-term goals, breaking down tasks into smaller steps to divide work responsibilities between accountants in their division. They draw on leadership and management training -- often gained while pursuing a master's degree -- to manage accountants.

Many accounting managers conduct regular reviews of their division's processes and systems to identify inefficiencies and improve procedures.

Accounting managers also establish methods and procedures to increase efficiency and improve operations at their organization. This process requires accounting managers to collect information; analyze workflow; and implement new procedures, including training accountants in new systems and methods. Many accounting managers conduct regular reviews of their division's processes and systems to identify inefficiencies and improve procedures.

Additionally, accounting managers work with managers and executives in other departments to coordinate their work. They talk to executives to determine the organization's priorities and ensure that accounting procedures meet those priorities. Accounting managers may also coordinate with financial managers to analyze an organization's financial position.

Accounting managers can work for any organization that hires multiple accountants. For example, accounting firms may hire accounting managers as mid-level or high-level managers within their organizations. Government agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO), employ accounting managers to oversee tax accountants and cost accountants.

What Are the Responsibilities of an Accounting Manager?

Analyze Financial Documents

Accounting managers prepare, analyze, and review financial documents. They may analyze tax returns, budget reports, business financial reports, or other documents. Accounting managers ensure financial documents meet legal and regulatory requirements, identify inefficiencies and suggest improvements, and assess financial practices.

Oversee an Accounting Team

Accounting managers oversee a team of accountants. They assess staff performance, provide feedback, and create goals and procedures for their division. Accounting managers may also play a role in recruiting, hiring, and terminating accountants within their division.

Manage Financial Information

Accounting managers oversee financial information for their organization, including tax information, budget and cost reports, and audits. They review financial documents created by staff accountants and suggest changes or improvements to these documents. Accounting managers must also meet confidentiality and public disclosure requirements.

Set Goals and Priorities

Accounting managers help set goals and priorities for their division. They work with executives to identify accounting priorities, create processes to meet those goals, and direct accountants to implement those processes. Accounting managers also evaluate the work of accountants and modify goals based on changing conditions.

Train Accounting Staff

Accounting managers play a role in hiring, training, and retaining accounting staff. After hiring new accountants, a manager trains new employees on the organization's procedures, reporting requirements, and other accounting methods. They also evaluate the progress of employees and recommend additional training if necessary.

Advise Organizations on Financial Decisions

Accounting managers report to executives within their organization, making recommendations on financial decisions. They evaluate financial documents for inefficiencies and suggest solutions to problems.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become an Accounting Manager?

Education

Bachelor's Degree Most management-level accounting positions require at least a bachelor's degree and several years of accounting experience.
Master's Degree Earning a master's in accounting helps accountants strengthen their leadership and management skills, which can help qualify candidates for management roles.
Certifications Accountants can increase their qualifications by pursuing additional certifications, such as the CPA, certified management accountant, or qualification in internal audit leadership credentials.

Skills

Leadership Accounting managers act as leaders within their organization, ensuring their accounting staff meets goals. Therefore, this position requires strong leadership skills.
Organizational Accounting managers create and update financial documents, design plans for their department, and work with direct reports and supervisors; all of these responsibilities require strong organizational skills.
Communication In addition to communicating with their team, accounting managers interact with executives in their organization to discuss priorities and report on their responsibilities. The ability to effectively communicate -- verbally and in writing -- helps accounting managers succeed.

Abilities

Managing People Overseeing an accounting staff requires strong people management skills. These managers must recruit, assess, and hire accountants.
Problem-solving Accounting managers address problems within their division, including underperformance by accountants, workflow inefficiencies, and financial management challenges.
Time Management Accounting managers oversee accounting staff, report to executives, and perform multiple accounting job functions, all of which requires strong time management skills.

Knowledge

Accounting Accounting managers typically hold several years of experience as accountants, which helps them set priorities for their division and monitor the work of their accounting staff.
Auditing These managers often have strong auditing abilities; many accounting jobs require accountants to assess and evaluate financial information for errors.
Preparing Financial Documents Accounting managers must know how to prepare, analyze, and review financial documents to effectively manage an accounting division.
Learn More About How to Become an Accounting Manager

How Are Accounting Managers Employed?

  • Accounting Firms

    Many accounting managers work for accounting firms because these firms often employ a large number of accountants. Management-level accountants oversee teams of accountants, creating goals for their division and coordinating with executive-level employees.

  • Government

    Multiple government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels employ accountants, including the IRS, GAO, and FBI. These organizations require accounting managers to oversee staff accountants and direct divisions.

  • Financial Services

    Accounting managers in financial services advise organizations on budget management, cost accounting, and management accounting. Financial services accounting managers ensure staff accountants contribute to the organization's goals.

  • Healthcare

    Accounting managers in the healthcare industry manage tax, budget, and financial information for healthcare organizations. They may perform risk management analyses, advise healthcare executives on financial decisions, and ensure the organization meets its financial obligations.

  • Nonprofit Organizations

    Within the nonprofit sector, accounting managers advise nonprofit executives on balancing expenses with revenue, oversee staff accountants, and manage the organization's taxes.

Learn More About Accounting Managers and Take the First Step Today!

Professional Organizations for Accounting Managers

  • Institute of Management Accountants IMA represents accounting and finance professionals in business. The institute offers the certified management accountant credential, which can help increase a worker's earning potential. IMA also provides a center for educational resources, including webinars and research.
  • American Institute of CPAs A professional organization for CPAs and accountants, AICPA offers career resources, continuing education opportunities, and the CPA exam. Prospective CPAs can apply for scholarships through AICPA.
  • American Accounting Association Academic and professional accountants rely on the AAA for research and educational resources. The association hosts meetings and events with networking opportunities and offers a career center with job postings.
  • National Society of Accountants Tax and accounting professionals can join NSA to gain access to webinars, seminars, and other professional development resources. The society also offers scholarships to accounting students.
  • Institute of Internal Auditors Internal auditors in management positions benefit from IIA resources, including the Internal Auditor magazine, online seminars, and conferences. The IIA also offers the internal audit leadership credential, which recognizes executive-level skills in the field.