Accounting Director How to become, career path, income potential

What is an accounting director?

Accounting directors provide financial projections by coordinating budgets and forecast preparations, collecting, analyzing, and consolidating financial information, and using the data to advise departments based on the findings. They typically provide consultant-level services to an organization’s finance personnel. The main goal is to adhere to counting policies and fulfilling revenue. 

The work of an accounting director is to lead a client account, or set of accounts, within an organization to ensure they are profiting and growing. They address business problems and meet clients’ needs. This type of director essentially serves as a liaison between clients and a company to ensure projects meet client expectations, they’re delivered on time, and are within budget. The account director also pitches new ideas, develops strategies for increased profit, and coordinates events.

An account director must be well organized and understand the client’s wants and needs. They must also be a strong mathematician and have a good understanding of money to best be able to help the client profit. 

Common responsibilities of account directors are to oversee day-to-day responsibilities and requirements needed to complete tasks for advertising and public relations accounts. This position pitches new clients and drives sales as well as manages a team of people. The account director works both with internal employees and internal or external clients to meet goals. Some tasks an account director may need to perform are as follows; generate sales for client accounts, meet deadlines and project budgets, establish goals and objectives for internal teams to follow, maintain relationships, file tax and reports for a client, oversee budgets and business tax filings, and serve as a liaison for customers, as well as supervise staff and projects.

Qualifications and eligibility

Accounting directors must be personable and have strong communication skills and a passion for working with others. They must be comfortable working one-on-one as well in group settings to answer questions or mitigate any issues. They should be comfortable multi-tasking and be able to work as part of a team. It is also necessary for these directors to have technological skills and be comfortable using a computer as well as data entry. It is also very important to be able to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment. Lastly, these professionals must be accurate and precise. When working with finances, a single mistake could cost a client or company a lot of money and be extremely detrimental.

The requirements for this role are a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field and at least three to six years of relevant accounting experience. Listed are some of the top universities for an accounting degree:

It is recommended to pursue an accounting credential because this certification will help you be more competitive in the job market and make you stand out. It is also leverage to ask for a higher starting salary. The most common accounting is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license. Lastly, it is also recommended that you enroll in a master’s degree program because some employers prefer or even require a master’s degree in accounting or a related field.

Here are the best universities with the top master’s programs for accounting:

Work environment

Accounting directors often work in an office environment and it is generally a sedentary position, and rarely some light lifting and filing may be required. The position can be stressful due to the responsibility of ensuring that the company’s financial statements meet all regulatory requirements and are accurate.

Accounting directors may work closely with people all day, so it is essential to have strong interpersonal skills, as well as a good ability to work with others. Many directors work as team leaders and must coordinate with groups of people, so communication and leadership skills are essential. They are also responsible for overseeing the work of their department’s accountants, auditors, and other financial professionals. This means these individuals must provide strong and clear goals and expectations, be able to coach employees on how to improve their performance, and effectively resolve any conflicts between team members.

Accounting directors must also meet strict deadlines often for certain clients or their own company, so punctuality is key. In this director’s day-to-day, they often meet with several different clients and have new tasks every day. It is important for them to stay up to date on the latest admission trends and technology.

An accounting director’s position is becoming increasingly competitive so it is a good idea to earn a master’s degree or an accounting certification.

Typical work hours

Accounting directors typically work full-time. A lot of it depends on the company that they are working for, but commonly, accounting directors work about forty hours per week. However, many directors work overtime during busy seasons such as tax season. This can increase the number of work hours significantly. When applying to positions, be sure to ask about the expected hours of work and after-hours work that the employers would like you to perform.

Types of accounting directors

There are nine types of accounting and accountants can specialize in different areas depending on their career interests and goals. The following are the most common types of accounting:

Financial accounting

Primarily concerned with compiling information for financial reports for external reporting.

Managerial accounting

A type of accounting for documents and monitors and assists in the financial planning of an organization.

Cost accounting

Often referred to as a subcategory of managerial accounting, it is slightly different in that the activities of cost accountants will affect both financial and managerial accountants.

Auditing

The action of a company providing financial documents to a third party for financial feedback.

Tax accounting

Help businesses stay in compliance with the Internal Revenue Code when they file their tax documents.

Accounting information systems (AIS)

The system by which a company collects, stores, and processes its financial and accounting data.

Forensic accounting

Used to investigate the financial records of individuals or businesses.

Public accounting

Refers to businesses that provide accounting advice to clients based on their needs.

Governmental accounting

Managing the financial planning and allocation of resources to departments within a local, state, or federal government. 

As an accounting director, it might be necessary to know at least a baseline level about some or all of these accounting types due to overseeing and working with a team of various accountants.

Income potential

The earning potential for an accounting director can vary greatly depending on geographic location, industry, education, experience, and specialty. The following bullets contain important income information for these professionals:

  • According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for accounting directors was $77,250, about $37.14 an hour, in May 2021. The lowest 10% were paid an annual wage of $47,970 whereas the highest 10% earned more than $128,970 annually.
  • The top industries for accounting directors are:
    • Finance and insurance – $79,310
    • Management of companies and enterprises – $78,540
    • Government – $77,290
    • Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, and payroll services – $77,080
  • The top-paying states for accounting directors are:
    • New York – $105,790
    • California – $92,840
    • Texas – $85,860
    • Florida – $76,320
    • Pennsylvania – $79,200

Position trends

Position trends depend on the industry of the accounting director. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accounting director positions are projected to grow 6% from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. There are about 134,400 openings for accounting directors projected every year, on average.

Accountants will always be in demand due to companies and industries needing a way to track their finances. Due to a constant need for accountants, there will also be a need for accountant directors to organize and lead groups of accountants.

Career path

As an accounting director, you have a variety of specialty areas to work in, however, the career path is pretty straightforward. You will work for a company in your field of specialization.

There are also some similar career choices to consider if an accounting director wants to expand their earning potential. They include:

  • Accounting partner- The next level up from the accounting director is the accounting partner. An accounting partner oversees the directors.
  • Risk management- Reviews and assesses risk management policies and protocols and then makes recommendations and implements modifications and improvements for businesses and companies.
  • Investment research- Responsible for analyzing and interpreting investment data, working with a variety of financial instruments like stocks, bonds, commodities, and currencies.

Steps to becoming an accounting director

Becoming an accounting director can be daunting at first due to how long it may take to reach your goal of being an accountant director. These steps will break down what is needed to be truly successful. Here are the common steps:

1. Get a bachelor’s degree

Get a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or any field related to an accounting director. This will usually consist of a four-year program at an accredited college or university. Some top universities for a bachelor’s degree in accounting are as follows:

Some top universities for a bachelor’s degree in finance are as follows:

2. Gain experience

In order to be considered for an accounting director position, you must have at least three to six years of accounting experience under your belt. This is due to being in charge of a large number of accountants and ensuring you know the industry well.

3. Obtain a certification in accounting

It is not required for an accounting director to have a certification in accounting, however, it is highly recommended due to the competitive nature of the industry. It is now most commonly required to have an accounting certification by most employers. If a master’s degree is not for you, then a certification might be a great option. The most common certificate is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license

4. Earn a master’s degree in accounting or a similar field

A master’s degree is not required to be an accounting director, however, it is recommended. The hiring process is competitive and having a master’s degree, whether in accounting, finance, or another related field, will significantly better your chances of being hired. A master’s program will only take about two years to complete on a full-time school schedule and about three years on a part-time school schedule.

Some of the best business accounting master’s programs are at the following universities:

5. Apply for jobs

Start applying to jobs in areas of accounting that you are interested in. It is necessary to gain work experience to advance your career. You can apply for jobs online, like through Linkedin or Indeed, or even job board postings. Your university will often have job recommendations and may be able to help you find the perfect job.

6. Maintain the certification

If you opted to earn certifications, maintain them and do not let them expire. The certifications can expire at various points, one may be good for three years and one may only be good for one year. Be sure to keep track of these dates and renew the certifications if need be.

Tips for becoming an accounting director

If you are planning to become an accounting director, there are a few things you can do to put yourself ahead of the game. This is a highly competitive field and it always helps to have an edge. Here are some tips:

  • Develop strong interpersonal skills due to continually interacting with clients, potential clients, and associates.
  • Leadership skills are a necessity for accounting directors because they oversee a team of people. They must be able to give clear and concise direction, mitigate issues, and create confidence in their abilities as a leader.
  • Have good communication skills to build and maintain good relationships with your clients and associates. 
  • Be timely when it comes to scheduling and due dates because this is a huge part of the job.
  • A creative mindset and ability to think outside the box is often a great asset for an accountant director to have due to needing to constantly problem solve and think of ways to create more of a profit/ revenue stream.
  • Have a passion for what you do. Make sure you enjoy working with the public and helping people/ companies make big decisions about their finances.
  • Be comfortable with computers and technology in general. It is imperative to be able to use online databases and be familiar with data entry.
  • Go to a master’s program to be more competitive within the job market.
  • It is essential to be organized and clean due to the need to multitask and keep information organized.
  • Be precise. Precision is absolutely essential for this position due to working with finances. A mistake in finances can severely affect a company or institution and cost them money.
  • Determine your interests within the field of accounting. Are you passionate about finances? What areas of accounting most interest you? Would you prefer to work in a government setting? These are questions you must consider when applying to jobs and even if admission coordination is the right field for you.
  • Shadow an accounting director for a day to truly determine if that’s the career for you. They can also discuss their perspective as well as give you firsthand knowledge.
  • Join accounting associations. Here you’ll find career resources, job opportunities, and other helpful information. Some of the best associations for accountants and account directors are:

Accounting director interview questions to expect

  1. What types of accounting software programs are you familiar with?
  2. What is the top challenge facing those in the accounting field?
  3. Have you ever developed your own accounting process?
  4. Can you define and explain the three financial statements?
  5. Explain how you decreased operational costs in a previous role.
  6. How do you reduce the likelihood of human errors in the accounting department?
  7. When it comes to accounting software, what matters most – price or functionality?
  8. What is the difference between executive and public accounting?
  9. Give a suggestion to improve the company’s working capital flow.
  10. How do you maintain accounting accuracy as one of the top accounting officials in our company?

Accounting director FAQs