How to Become an Accounting Manager

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Updated October 3, 2022

Learn about the required education, credentials, and skills for an accounting manager career. Read our detailed explanation of how to become an accounting manager.

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Accounting managers oversee the work of other accounting professionals in various industries. They establish accounting procedures, create systems for recording financial information, and develop budgets. Accountants can advance, qualify for better opportunities, and earn higher salaries by becoming accounting managers.

Important skills for accounting managers include leadership, time management, communication, and problem-solving. This career requires at least a bachelor's degree and relevant professional experience, but some employers seek candidates with master's degrees and/or accounting certifications.

Keep reading to learn how to become an accounting manager, including accounting manager education requirements.

Steps to an Accounting Manager Career

Becoming an accounting manager takes time, education, professional experience, and hard work. This career requires previous work in the accounting field and is not an entry-level role.

We explain accounting manager education requirements and the typical amount of necessary professional experience. This guide also covers optional education and credentials that can lead to better career opportunities. Explore detailed steps explaining how to be an accounting manager below.

  1. Earn a bachelor's degree: Accounting managers need at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. A typical accounting bachelor's degree takes four years of full-time enrollment to complete.
  2. Complete an internship: Many undergraduate accounting programs offer opportunities to gain real-world experience while still in school. Completing an accounting internship can make it easier to get your first entry-level job after graduation.
  3. Get professional experience: Many accounting managers get professional experience working as accountants or auditors. Expect to spend about five years accumulating work experience before applying for accounting manager positions.
  4. Pursue an accounting credential (optional): Earning an accounting certification can help you stand out from other job applicants. It also gives you leverage to ask for a higher starting salary.
  5. Enroll in a master's program (optional): Some employers prefer or require accounting managers with master's degrees in accounting or related fields. A graduate degree can also help you qualify for higher-level jobs and better salaries.

Accounting Manager Education Requirements

Accounting manager education requirements vary by employer, industry, specialization, and position.

At a minimum, an accounting manager needs a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field. Undergraduate accounting programs cover fundamental accounting theory and practice. A bachelor of accountancy usually takes four full-time years to complete and prepares graduates for many roles in the field.

However, some employers prefer or require accounting managers with master's degrees. Accounting graduate programs provide a foundation in advanced accounting topics like accounting ethics, cost accounting, auditing, and fraud examination.

A typical accounting master's program takes 1-2 years to complete. Professionals with master's degrees in accounting hold specialized expertise and can find themselves in demand for leadership roles.

Required Credentials for Accounting Managers

There are no universally required credentials for accounting managers. However, some employers may prefer to hire accounting managers with relevant certifications. Earning a credential demonstrates your dedication to prospective employers and indicates that you hold the expected knowledge and skills.

Optional Certifications and Degrees

Accounting managers can voluntarily pursue various optional certifications and/or degrees to advance their careers. A master's degree in accounting is not required but can lead to career advancement opportunities. Becoming certified in a specialized area of accounting can open the door to niche positions that seek tailored expertise.

Certifications can indicate expertise in tax preparation, fraud examination, and internal auditing. However, management accountants most commonly pursue the certified management accountant (CMA) certification from the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA).

The CMA credential focuses on supervisory and high-level areas like financial planning, risk management, investment decisions, and strategic management. Earning a CMA can lead to career advancement and help professionals qualify for better salaries.

Each CMA candidate needs a bachelor's degree or professional accounting certification and two years of work experience to qualify. They must complete parts I and II of the CMA exam to earn the credential. The IMA suggests test-takers spend 300 hours studying for the exam.

CMAs must renew their credentials annually. Maintaining the CMA requires an annual fee and 30 hours of continuing professional education (including two hours on ethics) each year.

Required Experience and Skills for an Accounting Manager

Accounting managers need relevant, specialized professional experience. Many start in lower-level accounting roles as accountants, financial analysts, budget analysts, and auditors. To qualify for many positions, accounting managers typically need at least five years of relevant work experience in the accounting or financial fields.

Important skills for accounting managers include communication, leadership, problem-solving, and financial analysis. Some employers may accept education as a substitute for experience or vice versa. Many colleges let students acquire education and experience through accounting internships and practicums.

Should I Become an Accounting Manager?

Becoming an accounting manager can offer a stable, well-paying career path for individuals willing to spend the time earning degrees and gaining the necessary professional experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $77,250 as of May 2021. Accounting professionals in management positions can make some of the best salaries in the field.

Companies and organizations in almost every industry can benefit from the skills of an accounting manager, making this a stable field. However, accounting employment will likely mirror the economy as a whole, making them vulnerable amid recessions. Also, advancements in technology may lead to some accounting tasks becoming automated, reducing the need for some accounting professionals.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the BLS projects that accounting jobs will grow as fast as the average from 2020-2030.

The Job Hunt

Attend job fairs, annual conferences, and professional networking events to find accounting manager jobs. Let your professors, colleagues, and classmates know that you are looking for a role in the field. Ask for recommendations from previous managers and mentors.

Recent graduates and current students can often find professional help by contacting their schools' career development offices. Consult some of the job boards below for accounting manager job postings.

  • iHireAccounting: This accounting industry-focused job board lists more than 2,800 new accounting positions each day. Job-seekers can browse openings, explore its resource center, and get resume writing tips.
  • AccountantCrossing: As the self-described "largest collection of accounting jobs on Earth," AccountantCrossing allows members to browse and search thousands of accounting jobs. Other resources include accounting news, career tips, and job search advice.
  • LinkedIn: This professional networking and career development website includes millions of searchable job postings.
  • Indeed: Indeed gets more than 250 million visitors each month. Job-seekers receive free access to job postings and can research companies.

Read more tips on job searching:

Upward Mobility

Accounting managers already hold high-level jobs. However, they may be able to advance their careers even further after developing more experience.

Potential career opportunities for accounting managers include chief financial officer (CFO) and corporate controller. Both roles require greater responsibility than typical accounting manager jobs. A master's degree in accounting and professional certification are not required for either of those roles but can help candidates stand out from their competition.

CFO

A CFO is responsible for their organization's overall financial operations. They perform strategic planning, offer leadership, conduct audits, and ensure that accounting and finance departments comply with the law. Payscale reports an average CFO annual salary of $140,600 as of August 2022.

Corporate Controller

Similar to a CFO, a corporate controller handles various management tasks and oversees the accounting and financial aspects of their organization. Corporate controllers working at small companies often perform the same duties as CFOs. Corporate controllers made an annual average of $104,940 as of August 2022, according to Payscale.

Questions About the Accounting Manager Career Path

What degrees do you need to become an accounting manager?

Accounting manager education requirements vary by position, employer, and industry. However, an accounting manager needs a minimum of a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field. Some high-level positions require a master's degree in accounting.

How many years of experience does an accounting manager need?

The number of years of experience required for an accounting manager can vary significantly. Accounting manager is not an entry-level job, and most positions require at least five years of relevant professional experience.

Is an accounting manager a good job?

A career in accounting management can offer high pay and good job stability. This field may appeal to people who enjoy management/leadership and working with numbers. It can be a good way for accountants and auditors to advance professionally.

Are accounting managers in demand?

Yes. The BLS projects stable demand for accountants and auditors from 2020-2030. The agency projects faster-than-average job growth for financial managers in the same period.

What makes a good accounting manager?

A good accounting manager can effectively communicate with and supervise other accounting professionals. Other important skills for an accounting manager include organizational, problem-solving, and analytical abilities.

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