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How to Be a Staff Accountant

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A staff accountant generally reports to an accounting manager or controller, depending on the size of the organization. Responsibilities may involve financial and budgeting analysis, preparation of reports, account reconciliations and many other tasks. According to the most recent statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of an accountant ranges anywhere from $54,070 to $73,920, depending on the type of accounting position and industry of the organization.

Earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. In today’s world, you have the choice of attending college on a campus or obtaining an accounting degree online. Your location and financial situation will be considerations when choosing a college to get your degree and the approach that best fits your situation.

Consider taking an accounting internship position while earning your degree. This provides an opportunity to apply the accounting skills you are learning and experience what it would be like to work as a staff accountant.

Find a job as an entry-level accountant after you earn your degree. A typical job requirement for a staff accountant is two to five years of accounting experience so you will need to find an entry level job to begin your career. Many individuals choose to go into public accounting as a financial auditor. This is a common first step in the career path of many accountants. There are extremely large international firms with offices in every major city and there are also smaller public accounting firms. Inside Public Accounting provides a list of the top 100 firms in the U.S. (see Resources).

Pass the Certified Public Accounting exam. This is typically done after you have received your accounting degree and can often take more than one attempt. If you take a job at a public accounting firm, they will encourage you to take the test, which is typically offered twice a year in most states. Every state is different in their requirements so do the particular research for your state. A good reference by state is provided by Becker Professional Education (see Resources).

Join a professional accounting association like The American Accounting Association. There are many associations throughout the U.S. and there are likely a few in your state (see Resources).

Become very proficient in Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. This means going above and beyond knowing how to make a spreadsheet or type a document. It means having skills like creating pivot tables in Excel and creating a table of contents in Word documents. It would also be attractive as a staff accountant to learn Microsoft Access and Microsoft Visio.

Apply for jobs as a staff accountant once you feel you are ready. It is possible you may choose to remain at the organization where you took your entry-level job, depending on how your experience has been and what opportunities exist for advancement. There are plenty of opportunities for staff accountants, and you can look for them by using online job board or by visiting industry recruiting events.