It takes years to obtain the education, skills and experience to reach the senior accountant level. And then what? What’s the best advice for a senior accountant interested in career development?

Let’s take a look at what opportunities are available that can help you progress up the career ladder — to roles such as accounting manager, controller and CFO.

Career development for moving up

Opportunities are growing for senior accountants, and if you’re one of those professionals who aspires to be promoted one day, you should know what it takes to move up. It takes you, taking responsibility for your own career development in several ways.

  • Get certified — Many senior accountants have CPA or Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designations, but that’s not always the case. These certifications are in high demand in today’s hiring market and can help you stand out among other candidates. The designation you choose will depend on whether you want to work in the public or private sector.
  • Be vocal — Your boss may not know you’re interested in exploring career options. Have a career path discussion with him or her to express your desire to move up and to learn what career development opportunities are available to improve your skills.
  • Work with a recruiter — Specialized staffing agencies typically have access to unlisted jobs you won’t find on your own. They’ll not only know which positions are open but can point you to a role within a company that dovetails with your career aspirations and personality.

Where do you go from here?

The role of senior accountant is a gateway to a variety of career opportunities. Below you’ll find a breakdown of three of the most common roles senior accountants can secure if they have the right qualifications.

  • Accounting manager — In addition to five years of accounting experience, candidates for accounting manager will need a bachelor’s in accounting, finance or business, along with stellar soft skills. Communication, leadership abilities and analytical expertise are must-haves in this role. In some cases, you’ll also need a master’s in business administration (MBA) and certifications like the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.
  • ControllerControllers are in high demand because many companies had to turn their thoughts away from succession planning during the recession and are unprepared for the increase in baby boomer retirements. If you have — among other qualifications — seven years’ experience, strong analytical skills and the ability to articulate the business significance of financial data, this could be the role for you.
  • Chief financial officer — Like controllers, CFOs are also highly sought due to succession planning being set aside during the recession. The role of CFO is traditionally filled by someone with experience working as a controller. However, many smaller organizations have either a CFO or a controller, so it is possible for senior accountants with incredibly strong tech skills to make a direct leap to this role.

Skilled accounting and finance professionals are in demand in cities across the United States. See our job openings in these hot cities (and check jobs in your own city):

They say good things come to those who wait. But that doesn’t typically pan out when it comes to your career. Be aggressive in your career development planning and in seeking career advice, and you could find yourself soon ordering new business cards.