How to Become a Staff Accountant

Updated October 13, 2022

The education and experience you need to become a staff accountant equips you with skills to succeed in the accounting profession.

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A staff accountant takes on budget, bookkeeping, and payroll responsibilities for a business or organization. The staff accountant career path is varied; many accountants start their careers as staff accountants, but the position can also function as a mid-level role.

Staff accountants possess financial, technological, and mathematical abilities. Detail-oriented and analytical, staff accountants have the communication skills to relay information to their organizations.

Find out more about how to become a staff accountant below.

Steps to a Staff Accountant Career

  • Earn a degree: Staff accountants need a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field. A bachelor's degree lasts four or five years.
  • Complete an internship: As part of a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related discipline, you might take an internship at an accounting firm or financial institution. Internships often last a semester, although you may have options to complete one over the summer.
  • Hone your accounting skills: Through coursework and experience, you develop analytical skills and foster problem-solving abilities.
  • Get to know the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP): The GAAP is the established principles, standards, and procedures of accounting professionals in the United States.
  • Complete applicable licensure requirements: Staff accountant education requirements might involve state licensure to further your career. A staff accountant may not need certified public accountant (CPA) credentials, but becoming a CPA can benefit you on the job market.
  • Network: If you complete an internship, you may make connections in the accounting industry. Relationships with colleagues and peers also provide valuable resources for finding employment.
  • Consider other positions: Finding a staff accountant position right away may not happen. Taking an entry-level position as an accounting assistant, payroll specialist, bookkeeper, or auditing clerk can still put you on the staff accountant career path.

Staff Accountant Education Requirements

To become a staff accountant, you need a bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, economics, or a related field. Coursework in topics like private and public accounting, financial reporting, and auditing prepares you for staff accountant duties.

Earning a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts in accounting is another option. The former focuses on the technical side of accounting, while the latter has a more flexible curriculum. Both provide the knowledge and skills you need to become a staff accountant.

Holding a bachelor's degree helps get you a job as a staff accountant, but a master's degree gives you opportunities to move into senior and managerial roles. With a master's degree in accounting, finance, or comparable area, you increase your job prospects and earning potential.

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Required Credentials for Staff Accountants

There are no specific credentials for staff accountants, but practicing accountants may need a license in their state of residence. The National Association of State Boards of Accountancy lists each state accounting board.

Many staff accountants pursue CPA credentials, although this requires coursework beyond a bachelor's degree. CPA licensure also requires a set amount of practicing hours before you can sit for the exam.

The CPA exam consists of four parts and covers auditing and attestation, business, financial accounting and reporting, and accounting regulations.

Additional accounting certifications that benefit staff accountants include certified tax preparer, certified management accountant (CMA), and certified bookkeeper. Each accounting certification attests to expertise in an aspect of accounting.

Some employers may encourage you to earn an accounting certificate as part of your staff accountant qualifications. Accounting certifications include continuing education requirements for renewal and keep you current in the field.

Optional Staff Accountant Qualifications

Earning an optional accounting qualification gives you an advantage when looking for a staff accounting job. Additional qualifications also help you advance your accounting career.

For one of the most common qualification options, becoming a CPA, you must meet the education, examination, and experience requirements established by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). To maintain CPA credentials, you must meet continuing education requirements and pay the renewal fee every three years.

Accounting specialty certifications include topics like tax preparation, bookkeeping, and management. Earning certifications in tax preparation and bookkeeping demonstrates your grasp of accounting fundamentals. Becoming a CMA may be an alternative to CPA licensure.

Offered by the Institute of Management Accountants, CMA credentials focus on executive managerial and financial accounting. You need a bachelor's degree and two years of experience to sit for the CMA exam.

Staff Accountant Requirements in Experience

Many bachelor's programs require you to complete an internship. Colleges and universities may partner with accounting firms and financial institutions for this, but you may need to find your own internship.

During an internship, you may handle accounts payable, manage books, prepare tax documents, or research pricing, all potential duties that fall under the scope of a staff accountant.

An internship may not be enough to get a job as a staff accountant, but it can open the door to positions as accounting assistants, bookkeepers, and payroll specialists. Experience in one of these roles can help you land a staff accounting job.

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Should I Become a Staff Accountant?

The experience gained as a staff accountant prepares you for other accounting, finance, and business roles. Staff accountants have opportunities to advance to managerial roles, especially with continued education and experience.

Staff accountants work across industries, taking on a variety of duties. As a staff accountant, you are part of a larger organizational team.

Staff accountants may experience heavy workloads and stress, especially at tax time or during quarterly transitions. A job as a staff accountant rarely involves travel and requires a lot of patience.

The Job Hunt

Finding a job as a staff accountant can seem daunting, but the following resources can help. Job fairs, career services, and internship connections all offer avenues to find a job. Participation at accounting conferences and events, membership to professional organizations, and online job boards all offer job leads, too.

LinkedIn: Part job website, part networking forum, LinkedIn lets you post your resume so employers find you. You can join LinkedIn for free or pay to take advantage of its advanced features.

Glassdoor: Glassdoor lists millions of accounting and accounting-related jobs from around the world. You can find salary information, company reviews, and narrow your search by job type, place, and salary.

AICPA Global Career Hub: The Career Hub unites accounting professionals with employers worldwide. You can simply browse the latest listings or search by location, salary range, sector, and level.

Read more tips on job searching:

Upward Mobility

As a staff accountant, you take on numerous accounting duties including budget oversight, financial statements preparation and review, bookkeeping, and account reconciliation. The variety of responsibilities can prepare you to move into positions as accounting managers and senior accountants.

  • Senior accountants earned an average base salary over $70,000, according to June 2022 Payscale data. Senior accountants manage accounts and handle financial documents alongside staff accountants, but supervise junior accounting professionals.

Senior accountants have extensive accounting experience, provide guidance to colleagues, and report accounting information to managers and executives. Senior accountants may need a master's degree but can advance into the position with a bachelor's degree.

  • Accounting managers oversee financial information and accounting practices.They implement and maintain accounting systems, supervise accounting operations, and handle any accounting concerns or problems that arise.

Accounting managers need a bachelor's or master's degree in accounting, finance, or a related field and experience in an accounting role. Accounting managers earned an average base salary of almost $76,000, per June 2022 Payscale data.

Questions About the Staff Accountant Career Path


What degree do you need to become a staff accountant?

You need a bachelor's degree to become a staff accountant. A bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, economics, or a related field prepares you for a job as a staff accountant.

How long does it take to start a staff accountant career?

You can start a career in staff accounting in roughly five years. A four-year bachelor's degree and at least a year of experience likely precede a job as a staff accountant, although experience may not be required.

What certifications do you need along the staff accountant career path?

Staff accountants do not need certifications, but benefit by having credentials in the field. To advance your accounting career, you may consider becoming a CPA.

Are staff accountants in demand?

Yes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, accountants and auditors are projected to see the addition of nearly 100,000 positions by 2030. This includes opportunities for staff accountants.

What do staff accountants get promoted to?

With the proper education and experience, staff accountants get promoted to senior and managerial accountants. They also advance to specialized roles in areas such as cost, financial, or investment accounting.

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