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 salary. 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 lead to a rewarding career with an accompanying escalation 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.
First, the staff accountant salary
Companies are hiring accountants at all levels, according to the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide, and the role of staff accountant is singled out as one of the hot positions
What about earning power? The salary midpoint for a staff accountant (or general accountant) with up to a year of experience is $45,000. That increases to $60,000 in starting salary for someone with one to three years of experience.
If you move up to a senior accountant position, you can earn a starting salary $75,000 at the midpoint level. For a management position, the midpoint starting salary is $90,000.
How is midpoint defined by the Salary Guide? When a manager establishes a starting salary, multiple factors come into play — candidate experience level, skills and expertise, and job complexity and duties. At the midpoint, candidates have average experience with the necessary skills to meet the job requirements, and the role may be in an industry where competition for talent is moderate.
Aside from company size and industry, an important factor that can influence your accountant salary 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.
Staff accountant responsibilities
The work of staff accountants during any given day or week encompasses 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 multitasker 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.
Job hunting? Check out our temporary and full-time staff accountant jobs now.
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect information from the 2018 Salary Guide.