What Is a Staff Accountant? - Salary, Job Description & Duties

Discover if being a staff accountant is the right job for you. Learn about the job duties, the potential salaries and the projected growth of the profession. Schools offering Accounting degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Staff accountants are hired by businesses to do bookkeeping, organize financial records and perform the calculations required to file taxes. A bachelor's degree in accounting is generally required to land a job in the business, and some employers prefer candidates who are working on becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Check out the table that follows for more facts about this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Accounting
Key Skills Math, detail-oriented, analytical
Licensure Preferred Working toward becoming a CPA
Job Growth (2016-2026) 10% (for all accountants and auditors)*
Median Salary (2017) $69,350 (for all accountants and auditors)*

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Do Staff Accountants Do?

Staff accountants perform a wide range of duties related to financial records and taxation. Some staff accountants work under a CPA, helping them with organizing financial documents, staying compliant with government regulations and preparing tax returns for clients. Others work for companies, usually under a senior accountant, doing things like payroll, receivables and financial statements.

How Do You Become a Staff Accountant?

Staff accountant is an entry-level position in the accounting profession, so many start out in this role. Most employers will look for candidates who hold at least a bachelor's degree in accounting, though sometimes bookkeepers and clerks can work their way up to a staff accountant position by showing they have the necessary skills. Other employers may be pickier, preferring applicants who are working toward becoming a CPA (more on this below).

Do You Need Any Certification?

Staff accountants don't necessarily need to be CPAs, though many choose to pursue certification because it enhances their knowledge and marketability in the industry. Some of the requirements to become a CPA vary from state to state, but every state requires accountants to complete 150 hours of coursework -- that's 30 hours more than a typical bachelor's degree. There are schools out there that offer a 5-year track that ends in a bachelor's and a master's degree (and satisfies the 150-hour requirement).

Accountants must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, a test overseen by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), to become certified. The test includes four different parts that can be completed one at a time.

What Kind of Salary Do Staff Accountants Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gives a median annual salary for all accountants and auditors of $69,350 in May 2017, but this figure includes more than just staff accountants, so it may be skewed a little higher. Payscale.com uses self-reported salaries from people who work in the business, and its estimates say that an entry-level staff accountant's median salary in 2019 was $48,479.

What's the Projected Employment Growth in the Field?

According to the BLS, employment for all accountants and auditors is expected to grow by 10% between 2016 and 2026 to 1,537,600. By comparison, the average growth for all occupations is 7%. Applicants who are CPAs or hold a master's degree in business administration (MBA) will have the best job prospects.

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