So You Want to Become an Accounting Manager?

By Robert Half October 5, 2016 at 5:00pm

Maybe you’re a staff accountant looking to advance your career. Or an experienced senior accountant interested in taking on a leadership role in your organization’s accounting department. Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’ll find a job as an accounting manager to be highly rewarding — and the salary equally so.

Visit the Salary Center, where you'll be able to adjust salaries for accounting manager jobs in your city with the Salary Calculator, and get your own copy of the Salary Guide.

What does it take to become an accounting manager, in terms of duties, expectations, experience and skills, and what salary you can expect to earn? 

Accounting manager salary benchmarks

Accounting managers are on the Robert Half Salary Guide's list of hot positions in 2017. Their salary ranges are on the rise, too, indicating that employers are invested in hiring highly skilled finance and accounting experts.

The research shows accounting managers at midsize companies are projected to earn a national average of between $81,750 and $106,250 annually, an increase of 4.0 percent from the year before. The projected salaries reflect starting pay only. Bonuses, incentives and other forms of compensation are not taken into account.

Accounting managers starting at small companies will earn between $73,000 and $97,000, a 3.8 percent increase, the Salary Guide shows. Those at large companies can expect $92,750 to $128,250, which is a 3.9 percent increase from 2016.  

Duties and expectations

As an accounting manager, you’ll be responsible for a team of accountants, the number of which will depend on the size of your organization. You’ll report to senior-level members, such as your company’s CFO or controller. Duties include: 

  • Preparing and/or reviewing ledger entries and reconciliations
  • Maintaining the general ledger system
  • Coordinating financial reporting
  • Managing monthly, quarterly and year-end closings
  • Analyzing activities and developing more efficient procedures when necessary
  • Recruiting and training new accountants
  • Managing staff 

Experience and skills

Accounting managers are highly educated. While specific requirements will vary depending on the organization, you will need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or business, and in some cases a master’s degree. Employers will also ask for at least five years of experience, and many require a CPA or other accreditation. You should be comfortable with common financial software such as Intuit QuickBooks, and experience with cloud-based systems may be necessary.

The best accounting managers have leadership abilities. You’ll regularly be called on to motivate your team and encourage collaboration so that staff feel valued and realize they play an integral part of the organization’s overall success.

Technical skills are important, but outstanding soft skills — including communication and analytical abilities — are also a must. Communication skills are crucial because accounting managers often serve as a liaison between their staff and the CFO or controller. Because you’ll constantly be evaluating and refining your organization’s accounting procedures, strong analytical skills are also vital.

Ready to take the next step?

Editor's note: This post was originally published in August 2014 and was updated recently to include new Salary Guide data.

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