Home / Career Guides / How to Become a Staff Accountant

How to Become a Staff Accountant

If you have good accounting skills, are an analytical thinker, and have excellent verbal and written communication skills, you might find that a career as a staff accountant is a great opportunity for you.

Staff accountants work as part of a team in an accounting department or firm where they perform a wide range of accounting activities. These typically include preparing financial reports, maintaining the general ledger, reconciling accounts, and assisting with audits and budgets. They need to be detail-oriented and excellent with numbers as they must accurately record and prepare accounting information. 

Staff accountants must be problem solvers as they often come across balancing and other issues that need to be resolved. Verbal and written communication skills are vital for maintaining documentation, financial records, preparing reports, reconciling accounts, performing internal audits, and presenting information to management. A solid understanding of generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) is needed as is a high level of organization and time management.

Sample job description

Staff accountants do the important work of keeping financial records for a business. They reconcile bank statements, balance financial records, make sure the company is complying with IRS rules, and present financial information in a clear, organized way to assess the fiscal health of a company. They often work as a team, reporting to a senior accountant or the chief financial officer. If you have excellent mathematical and analytical skills, a bachelor’s in accounting, and the ability to handle multiple projects at once, [Your Company Name] might be the perfect fit for you. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Perform monthly, quarterly and annual accounting activities including reconciliations of bank and credit card accounts
  • Coordinate and complete annual audits
  • Review financial reports
  • Develop, maintain, and analyze budgets; prepare periodic reports that compare budgeted costs to actual costs
  • Improve systems and procedures and initiate corrective actions
  • Adjust journal entries when necessary
  • Oversee taxes and abide by federal regulations

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, as well as CPA certification.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Extensive knowledge of S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
  • Proficient skills in Microsoft Office Suite, accounting software, and databases
  • Excellent organizational, problem-solving, and project management skills
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Master’s degree in accounting, finance, or related field
  • 2+ years working as a bookkeeper
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills
  • Strong interpersonal skills

Typical work environment

Staff accountants typically work in an office from a computer. They must be proficient with Word and Excel as well as other accounting software, and work full-time hours. Some times of the year, such as tax season, may require overtime hours. Some staff accountants work from home, while others may travel from client to client.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a staff accountant can be from 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, in an office setting. However, longer or different hours can be necessary. For example, overtime hours may be needed at certain times of the year, like at the end of a company’s budget year or during tax season.

Available certifications

Accountants play a crucial role in any successful business, so a few different options exist for getting certified to work as a staff accountant. Here are a couple to consider:

  • Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Before getting certified as a CPA, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in accounting and one or two years of work experience. The CPA exam has four sections, all of which must be passed within an 18-month time frame. Although the exam is challenging, earning a CPA will help further your career. 
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA). In order to get certified as a CMA, you must first have a bachelor’s degree as well as two years of work experience. The certification exam is taken in two parts, the first of which centers around financial planning and reporting, and the second of which is focused on financial decision making. The exam is difficult, with a pass rate of less than 50%, but the applicant has a window of three years to pass each portion. Getting the CMA credential can help you advance your career and earn a higher wage.

Career path

The career path for a staff accountant starts with obtaining a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, as well as Certified Public Accountant (CPA) certification. CPA certification involves passing the Uniform CPA Exam set by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 13-2011

2020 Employment1,392,200
Projected Employment in 20301,488,200
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 7% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift96,000 increase

Demand for accountants should increase as global business grows, and with that comes more scrutiny. As standards become more common as companies grow — and sometimes merge — there should be a need for qualified accountants in these situations. Not just global businesses have this need. National, regional, and local businesses, and even some individuals, require good accounting work.