What Does a Staff Accountant Do?
| Margi Williams Modified on June 27, 2022
Are you ready to find a school that's aligned with your interests?
Staff accountants typically pursue a degree in accounting. Upon completion of an accredited accounting program, graduates gain competencies and skills in accounting theory, generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), financial statement preparation and analysis, and the professional accounting code of conduct.
Staff accountants create and maintain financial records and financial statements. Business leaders employ these skilled professionals in settings like public accounting firms, corporate accounting departments, and nonprofit organizations.
While they may work part time or under contract, many staff accountants work full time, supporting clients, managers, and other employees. With experience, these professionals can move into leadership roles. Senior-level staff accountants supervise accounting staff, prepare tax returns, or even manage entire departments.
This article explores staff accountant responsibilities, skills, specialties, and career outlook.
Staff Accountant Duties
Staff accountants record financial transactions by following GAAP. Properly recorded financial transactions yield GAAP-compliant financial statements. These documents include income statements, balance sheets, cash flow statements, and statements of shareholders' equity.
Staff accountants with accredited degrees are educated about GAAP compliance standards to ensure transparency and consistency in their work. These principles apply across different organizations and industries.
Professionals like staff accountants perform various accounting, bookkeeping, and financial duties, including recording financial transactions, reviewing financial statements, evaluating accounting systems, calculating tax liability, and recommending accounting best practices. Common staff accountant tasks include:
Key Hard Skills for Staff Accountants
Regulatory Compliance: Accounting professionals routinely lead or supervise initiatives designed to implement regulatory changes or safeguard existing accounting practices. Knowledgeable accountants must develop policies and procedures aligned with financial standards and regulations. Skilled staff accountants quickly initiate corrective action when warranted. Applying GAAP: Staff accountants must consistently apply GAAP when preparing financial statements. GAAP standards include revenue recognition policies like the accrual basis accounting requirement, which recognizes revenue and expenses when earned or incurred, rather than after received or paid. Technology Proficiency: Staff accountants need proficiency with accounting software. These programs, including QuickBooks and spreadsheet software, help record and track companies' financial transactions. As companies continue digitizing their operations, maintaining digital records through accounting software is a crucial component of keeping a business organized.
Key Soft Skills for Staff Accountants
Analytical Skills: Reviewing financial statements, preparing tax returns, and auditing financial records all require keen analytical skills. For instance, to meet financial reporting deadlines, staff accountants analyze transactions while creating journal entries. Attention to Detail: Staff accountants must be detail-oriented to detect errors in financial documents and accounting transactions. They identify discrepancies and make corrections to ensure companies' financial reporting is accurate. Time Management: Because staff accountants often juggle multiple tasks and deadlines, time management is crucial. Many staff accountants complete work for several projects at once, liaising with managers, clients, and other members of the accounting staff.
What Is a Staff Accountant's Expertise?
Many staff accountants work in accounting firms, where they specialize in auditing, tax, or consulting services. In corporate accounting departments, they often prepare financial statements, manage budgets, or perform cost analysis.
Staff accountants may also guide accounts payable and receivable functions or coordinate budgeting and forecasting responsibilities. They may even advise business leaders about financial planning and auditing. Specialty jobs can include:
A budget analyst evaluates organizations' budgets for accuracy and compliance with relevant laws and regulations. Budget analysts also develop and improve budgeting methods, prepare cost-benefit analyses, and evaluate proposed changes to the budget.
Budget analysts need strong analytical, mathematical, and communication skills. They typically work in office environments alongside financial and nonfinancial staff.
Entry-level budget analysts work as part of a team to develop the budget or support senior staff in building and implementing annual plans. Senior positions may manage a team of budget analysts or work with senior management to develop and implement the initial budget draft. These professionals typically report to the head of the budgeting department or the chief financial officer.
Common Job Titles
A tax accountant prepares and files tax returns and tracks tax records. They utilize tax software and have strong math skills. Tax accountants prepare a variety of returns, including individual income tax returns, corporate tax returns, and estate tax returns. These professionals traditionally work in offices or as self-employed consultants.
Entry-level roles for tax accountants include tax preparer and administrative support. Senior roles include tax manager and tax director. Tax accountants typically report to a financial manager or a controller.
Common Job Titles
Forensic accountants investigate financial crimes. They use their accounting expertise to detect and investigate fraud and other financial infractions. These accounting professionals gather evidence, interview witnesses, and interpret findings.
Forensic accountants often work with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to build cases against suspects. These experts may also work for public accounting firms, law firms, or government agencies. Qualified candidates may work for private companies or organizations at risk of fraud and other financial crimes.
Entry-level roles for forensic accountants include working as research assistants or analysts. Senior examiners may lead investigations or testify in court as expert witnesses.
Common Job Titles
How to Become a Staff Accountant
To become a staff accountant, employers typically require at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. Bachelor's degrees usually take four years of full-time study to complete. Aspiring accountants take coursework covering accounting principles, auditing, taxation, and financial accounting.
Once hired, many employers encourage staff accountants to become certified public accountants (CPAs). To become a CPA, candidates must pass the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants-administered Uniform CPA Examination.
All states require prospective CPAs to complete 150 credit hours of higher education coursework. Because most bachelor's degrees only require 120 credit hours, some professionals pursue a master's degree in accounting to earn an additional credential while fulfilling the minimum education requirements for the CPA exam.
Besides passing the exam, most states require CPAs to have experience working in the accounting field.
Staff Accountant Salary and Career Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects employment for accountants and auditors will grow 7% from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants reports 74% of organizations who hired at least one accounting degree graduate in 2021 expected to hire the same number or higher numbers of graduates in 2022, a finding which demonstrates hiring at many organizations has remained consistent.
According to BLS data, the median annual wage for all accountants and auditors was $77,250 as of 2021. Payscale reports staff accountants specifically earn an average annual salary of $52,950 as of June 2022. Factors influencing income include experience, education, industry, and geographic location.
Tasha Averill, CPA, is a staff accountant at Concannon Miller, a CPA and business advisory firm headquartered in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She works on small business returns, reviews, and compilations, along with tax projections and employee benefit plan audits. She is a graduate of Binghamton University with both a bachelor's and master's in accounting.
Questions About the Staff Accountant Job Description
What are a staff accountant's duties?
Staff accountant prepare financial reports, work with management on financial planning, and coordinate accounts payable and receivable. Duties often vary by organization.
What skills should a staff accountant have?
Skills staff accountants must demonstrate include assessing problems to find solutions; effectively communicating with colleagues, clients, and upper management; and maintaining organization to keep track of deadlines, projects, and client information.
What specializations can staff accountants have?
Common specializations for accountants include auditing, tax, and forensic accounting. The auditing specialization examines and evaluates financial statements to ensure accuracy and consistency. Tax specialists prepare tax returns with the goal of reducing tax liability. Forensic accountants uncover fraud and other financial crimes.
Where does a staff accountant work?
Staff accountants work in a variety of settings, such as public accounting firms, corporate accounting departments, and nonprofit organizations. They can work remotely or in a traditional office setting.
Is staff accountant a good career?
The BLS projects 7% growth for accounting and auditing careers from 2020 to 2030, demonstrating a continued need for these professionals in the coming years. BLS salary data also shows that accountants earn higher-than-average wages.
Featured Image: blackCAT / E+ / Getty Images
Search top-tier programs curated by your interests.
Let us know what type of degree you're looking into, and we'll find a list of the best programs to get you there.