What Is Staff Accounting?

Most staff accountants work under supervisors in corporate settings where they maintain budgets and ledgers and serve as bookkeepers. Typically, they perform their duties in offices, at their desks. Staff accountants must be organized, detail-oriented, and excellent with numbers. Some specialize in fields like taxation or auditing, while others perform general accounting work.

Staff accountants draw an annual average salary of about $50,000, although their earning potential depends largely on their industry, geographic location, and professional experience level.

Read on to learn what staff accountants do, where they work, and how they can secure specialized positions in the financial industry. This guide also explores the educational and industry qualifications needed to become a staff accountant, along with some professional organizations that can help prospective staff accountants get started in a new career.

What Is a Staff Accountant?

Staff accountants keep records, maintain financial reports and ledgers, prepare budgets, file billing, and complete general bookkeeping. Most staff accountants work under the supervision of a controller, director, or certified public accountant. In some cases, these accountants might also perform basic auditing tasks and ensure compliance with relevant local, state, and/or federal financial laws.

In the following section, aspiring staff accountants can find more specific information about the necessary duties, skills, and career expectations for this profession. Details include different job titles, specialties, and required tools and data for staff accounting work.

What Does a Staff Accountant Do?

A staff accountant's individual job duties depend on the office, department, or firm they work for. Typically, they analyze financial data, present reports on industry trends, manage billing and budgeting, and maintain bookkeeping records.

Staff accountants must demonstrate an aptitude for data analysis, strong tech skills, and tax and budgeting know-how. They should excel at critical and analytical thinking, mathematics, and written and oral communication. A typical accounting program covers topics such as research and analysis techniques; local, state, and federal tax laws; bookkeeping and budget management; and basic finance skills. Most prospective accountants also study economics, financial analysis, and computing.

The following section lists some additional field-specific skills for successful staff accountants, such as:

  • Compiling billing, accounts, and/or budget data
  • Tracking industry trends with analytical software
  • Keeping organized, detailed ledgers
  • Filing taxes for individuals or businesses
  • Writing comprehensive reports
  • Managing invoice and billing software

Staff accountants usually work in an accounting department within a corporation or firm. While most find work in the financial industry, many pursue roles in other areas. Most large organizations, including education, medical, and legal entities, require budgeting and bookkeeping experts.

Staff accountants must demonstrate an aptitude for data analysis, strong tech skills, and tax and budgeting know-how.

Professionals looking for work often apply to large accounting firms, such as the Big Four: Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, many smaller accounting firms also hire staff accountants. Corporations and nonprofit organizations rely on in-house accountants to handle industry research and analysis. These workers may also manage finances, budgets, and tax returns.

Staff accountants use technology to perform their day-to-day responsibilities. In addition to the Microsoft Office suite, many firms use specialized software for financial analysis, data collection, and database management.

Some common accounting programs include:

Analytical and Scientific Software Palisade StatTools, MathWorks MATLAB, Ward Systems Group NeuralShell Predictor
Business Intelligence and Data Analysis Software IBM Cognos Impromptu, MicroStrategy, QlikTech QlikView, Tableau
Database User Interface and Query Software Microsoft Dynamics, NetSuite ERP, Oracle Fusion Applications, SAP
Financial Analysis Software Delphi Technology, Longview Performance Management Platform, Oracle E-Business Suite Financials, TechHackers Financial @nalyst

Staff accountants' duties and job titles often vary according to their specific functions and company roles. Some alternate job titles include:

  • Analyst
  • Credit products officer
  • Financial analyst
  • Investment analyst
  • Planning analyst
  • Portfolio manager
  • Real estate analyst
  • Trust officer

While general accounting principles and competencies tend to overlap between positions, some professionals may need to complete specialized training or learn specific skills to fulfil their job requirements. Some common specialized accounting roles include:

Business Accounting

Business staff accountants work with corporations and companies of all sizes and dispositions. They must understand accounting principles and fundamental business practices.

Tax Accounting

These tax law experts file taxes for individuals or corporations. They gather the data and paperwork necessary for compiling complete and accurate tax returns.

International Accounting

International accounting professionals help companies understand and uphold global financial laws and regulations.

Bookkeeping

Staff accountants who specialize in bookkeeping manage payroll and billing. They also perform other administrative tasks as needed. Skilled and qualified bookkeepers are in high demand in almost every industry.

Check out O*NET OnLine for more information about accounting skills, specialties, and duties.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Staff Accountant?

While a staff accountant's daily duties depend largely on their workplace, industry, and specialization, most perform one or more of the following job responsibilities on a regular basis.

Budgeting

Most staff accountants are in charge of either operational budgeting or capital budgeting. Operational budgets require financial projections for the following year, such as potential sales, production, and expenses. Capital budgets are used to guide future investments and project financing.

Industry Analysis

Accountants track their employer's profits, losses, and spending, allowing management to evaluate company performance. Staff accountants may also research and compare financial data from other businesses in the industry to evaluate their company's overall financial health.

Bookkeeping

Bookkeepers track a company's financial transactions. Using bookkeeping software, they continuously update invoices, sales, and other financial information. Bookkeepers organize data so that it can be easily identified, sorted, and stored for later use in financial statements and reports.

Tax Filing

Most staff accountants are charged with filing taxes for individuals or companies. Professionals must prepare tax returns, look into any potential tax issues, maintain accurate financial records, and research cost reduction strategies. Accounting professionals are expected to be familiar with tax laws and regulations.

Financial Reports

Staff accountants should keep three factors in mind as they compose financial reports: usefulness to investors and lenders; helpfulness to determining cash flow; and accurately recorded assets, liabilities, and equity. Financial reports must be clear, concise, and detail oriented. Accountants should be prepared to deliver reports in written or verbal form.

Billing

Staff accountants in charge of billing manage account balances, monitor potential debts, collect data for bills payable, and ensure billing accuracy from start to finish. These professionals use invoicing systems and billing software on a regular basis, and they must be competent at data collection and organization.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Staff Accountant?

Educational Requirements

Bachelor's Degree Staff accountants with a bachelor's degree in accounting qualify for a variety of entry-level positions at accounting firms and large companies.
Master's Degree Many staff accountants seeking career advancement choose to earn a master's degree in accounting. While graduate-level accounting degrees are relatively rare, master's degree-holders enjoy a competitive edge in the job market.

Skill Requirements

Critical Thinking Professionals must use logic and reasoning to identify financial problems and develop viable, situationally appropriate solutions.
Analytical Thinking Staff accountants use analytical thinking strategies to break down complex issues, gather information, and analyze solutions.
Mathematics All accountants should demonstrate a strong knowledge base in arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics.

Ability Requirements

Deductive Reasoning Also known as top-down logic, deductive reasoning is the ability to view a series of premises and hypothesize an answer. Deductive reasoning allows staff accountants to draw conclusions based on data sets.
Oral Expression Staff accountants must express themselves clearly through speech and presentations as they give formal financial reports and disclose their findings.
Written Expression Accounting professionals frequently communicate through written reports. From budgeting to financial analysis to bookkeeping, staff accountants are required to keep accurate records and describe information in detail.

Knowledge Requirements

Computers and Technology Staff accountants use computer and accounting software on a daily basis. Accountants must be tech savvy and comfortable learning new computer programs and applications.
Communication While accountants work in a primarily math-dominant field, they must be able to communicate their findings in a clear, accurate manner. Staff accountants must keep precise records, write organized reports, and prepare concise presentations on budgeting and financial data.
Economics and Accounting Whether accountants specialize in budgeting, bookkeeping, or taxes, they must hold a thorough grasp of accounting principles and economic theory.
Learn More About How to Become a Staff Accountant

How Are Staff Accountants Employed?

  • Accounting Firms

    Accounting firms hire staff accountants to handle taxes, perform financial analysis, and keep records. Staff accountants may develop specializations related to their assigned department within a firm.

  • Banks

    Staff accountants also work as financial managers in banks. Their duties include writing and reviewing financial reports, advising and analyzing investments, and running employee billing systems.

  • Law Firms

    Law firms must manage their clients' fees, property, and awards correctly and with care. Accountants who work in law firms track expenses, oversee budgets, and take charge of billing.

  • Nonprofits

    Staff accountants at nonprofit agencies may oversee budgeting, billing, bookkeeping, and/or taxation. They maintain accurate financial records and help their organizations make investment decisions.

  • Corporations

    Many businesses maintain their own accounting departments, which manage everything from budgeting to filing tax returns.Corporate staff accountants can specialize in an area that suits their interests.

Learn More About Staff Accountants and Take the First Step Today!

Professional Organizations for Staff Accountants

  • American Accounting Association The AAA is the world's largest academic accounting organization. Dedicated to advancing accounting practice through research and publications, the association facilitates collaboration between accounting professionals.
  • National Society of Accountants While NSA focuses primarily on tax accounting, the organization extends membership to all accounting professionals and students. NSA offers continuing education resources and discounts, promotes involvement in IRS programs, and sponsors exclusive scholarship opportunities.
  • International Federation of Accountants This global organization strives to connect accountants and promote healthy economies around the world. Members benefit from a variety of online resources and continuing education programs.
  • Association of International Certified Professional Accountants AICPA provides resources, tools, and certifications to help professionals advance their careers and stay up to date on changing regulations.
  • Professional Association of Small Business Accountants PASBA recognizes three main goals: teach, share, and learn. This membership organization helps small business accountants build industry-wide networks, locate continuing education resources, and adhere to best practices.