If you have a four-year accounting degree and just a year of experience, you’re in a great position to land a staff accountant position. Why a staff accountant? Today, high-growth public accounting firms and corporations are competing to attract talent with general accounting skills.
Experience as a staff accountant can also lead to a rewarding career with an accompanying boost in salary. With the boomer generation increasingly moving toward retirement, companies are investing in career development and mentoring for less experienced candidates with potential who can be groomed for more responsible roles in the future. A staff accountant job is a great career stepping stone for recent grads who have a background in accounting, business, management and information technology.
What does a staff accountant do?
The responsibilities of staff accountants during any given day or week encompass many different activities — financial, as well as administrative. Although the position’s duties vary from organization to organization, staff accountants usually report to the controller, director of finance or a CPA. Staff accountants do everything from maintaining general ledgers to meeting with clients to discuss real estate tax liabilities. Typical tasks handled by staff accountants include:
- Accounts payable and receivable
- General bookkeeping, journal entries and general month-end accounting duties
- Financial reporting
- Budget preparation and analysis
- Tax preparation
- Client representation in an accounting firm environment
The skills you need to qualify
To become a staff accountant, you’ll need a four-year bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance and one year of accounting experience. Aside from knowledge of basic accounting principles and math, candidates should demonstrate excellent communication skills, project management abilities, a collaborative personality and proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and accounting software. Because there’s so much variety in a staff accountant’s day, it’s to your advantage to be a master multi-tasker and a stickler for details. Employers also value someone with strong ethics, especially because staff accountants are entrusted with highly confidential company and personal data.
Earning power for a staff accountant
The Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance shows the salary for an entry level staff accountant (or general accountant) is expected to increase in 2017 by up to 4 percent.
In general, at small companies of up to $25 million in revenue, a staff accountant with one to three years' experience can expect to earn a starting salary of $50,000 to $64,250, which is an increase of 4.1 percent from last year. Those numbers go up with company size. Starting salaries for staff accountants with the same experience at a large company, for instance, range from $58,750 to $75,750.
If you move up to a senior accountant position at a midsize company, you can earn between $66,500 and $87,500. For a management position at a midsize company, the salary level goes as high as $106,250 per year, and at companies in the $250 million and higher level, managers can command up to $129,250.
Aside from company size and type, another important factor that can influence your earning power as a staff accountant is your location. Your salary in a major metropolitan area like San Francisco or New York, for instance, will be higher than in other regions in the U.S.
Editor's note: This post was published in 2015 and was recently updated to reflect new Salary Guide data.