what does a staff accountant do?

  • job profiles
  • August 25, 2020

Staff accountants are the in-house experts who make finance functions tick at organizations across the board. They also go by a lot of different names when you poke around on job boards today: "bookkeepers,” “accountants,” “junior accountants,” “senior accountants,” “accounting supervisors,” “certified public accountants” and more. Despite the multiple labels, however, there’s one unassailable fact about their role within the organization: The accounting function would absolutely grind to a halt without them.

Taking a 30,000-foot view, the responsibilities of modern staff accountants include:

  • coordinating key financial processes with internal and external stakeholders
  • overseeing critical financial record keeping and documentation
  • reporting on financial information related to business transactions
  • playing a hands-on role in support of audits
  • ensuring continual compliance with relevant local, state and federal regulations

Moving onto a somewhat more granular level, tasks that are commonly assigned to staff accountants include:

  • implementing and maintaining essential payroll processing systems
  • ensuring the timely processing of key transactions — salaries, benefits, taxes and more.
  • updating documentation to reflect the latest hiring decisions, role changes, terminations and any other factor influencing pay
  • implementing best practices for payroll, wage and other procedures
  • updating and improving payroll processing software, systems and procedures
  • mentoring and coaching fellow staff members, where applicable
  • coordinating payroll processes with accounts payable (AP) clerks and other members of the finance team

how do you become a staff accountant?

Interested in becoming a staff accountant? You’ve come to the right place. And the good news is that this role is highly in demand right now. Better yet, it’s a position that comes with plenty of opportunities for on-the-job training, mentorship and growth.

So if you’re eager to land your next job — and put your expertise to work — we advocate either one of the following two approaches for aspiring staff accountants:

  • browsing for opportunities on job search sites
  • signing up with a staffing firm that can proactively identify relevant positions based on your interests and experience — and if you want, these hiring pros will even email new opportunities directly to your inbox the minute they become available

what are the key skills of a staff accountant?

Success as a staff accountant depends a lot on the specific needs of the team or organization you’re joining. You might be the latest addition to a large team, for example, or you might find yourself a department of one! Obviously, differences like that are going to critically impact the way that your performance gets evaluated. So be sure to carefully parse the job description before you apply — because that’s the only way you can be certain you truly are a good fit for a given role.

Setting that aside, all of the following traits, skills and background experience are highly prized by employers when looking at potential new hires:

  • a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance
  • one or two years of experience in the finance function
  • working knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP)
  • proficiency using Microsoft Excel
  • teamwork and the ability to effectively partner with cross-functional stakeholders
  • attentiveness to detail
  • strong written and verbal communication skills
  • native math and analytical acumen
  • time management and organizational aptitudes

how much does a staff accountant make?

Salaries for these finance pros can be bucketed into three tiers — low range, mid range and high range — depending on a number of factors, including your location, market, responsibilities and relative level of expertise. Those tiers are as follows:

  • low range $59,103-$70,875
  • mid range $65,370-$78,390
  • high range $72,880-$87,395

Want even more detailed information about compensation in your location or market? Check out our free salary comparison tool. It’ll give you at-a-glance data about pay rates across roles and markets. Plus, it’s constantly getting updated with the latest salary figures — so you can rest assured that you're looking at the most timely and accurate information, too.

key takeaways

We've covered the ins and outs of daily work for your average staff accountant. At this point, in other words, you should have a pretty clear idea of what to expect in the role, as well as next steps to pursue if you're looking to get started in a new career.

To recap, we've covered:

  • what staff accountants do
  • the training, experience and core requirements commonly associated with the role
  • essential skills for success
  • salary ranges for staff accountants
  • … and a whole lot more!

There are any number of career paths open to staff accountants, so you should feel empowered to take action today. If you’re ready to make the next step, why not start by searching for staff accountant jobs? Alternately, if you're seriously contemplating a career change — and eager for a salary upgrade — be sure to check out these in-depth breakdowns of highly in-demand jobs in the accounting and finance space. You’ll get actionable guidance on exactly what steps you need to take to make just such a move today.