How Do I Become a Staff Accountant?

With the wide range of jobs available, you may not know how you want to begin your career in accounting. A position as a staff accountant could be the perfect choice for gaining experience and discovering your niche in the field. You may be able to obtain such a position with little or no accounting work experience, but you will need a college degree and possibly a CPA license.

Entry-Level Experience

As the job title implies, a staff accountant is part of the regular staff of an organization, rather than a self-employed contractor. However, staff accountant jobs vary widely. Some staff accountant positions are in-house positions in which the accountant performs accounting tasks for one single business. Others exist in accounting firms. Still others are government jobs, in which staff accountants manage the financial records of a government agency.

Staff accountant positions are typically considered entry-level in that they don’t have management responsibilities. At accounting firms, candidates may be considered without having prior professional experience. In-house staff accountant positions may consider entry-level candidates, or they may look for those with a few years of experience under their belts. What many staff accountants do need, regardless of experience or desired employer, is a CPA license. The path starts with earning a degree.

Five Years of Study

When you earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting, expect to spend more time in school than your peers in other programs of study. Certified Public Accountants, or CPAs, must complete 150 semester hours of study rather than the 120 semester hours necessary to complete most four-year bachelor’s degree programs. Because of this requirement, many accounting degree programs are five-year programs that combine undergraduate and graduate studies so that students earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

To improve your job prospects upon graduation, take advantage of any internship opportunities that allow you to gain first-hand work experience in the field of accounting. Working as an accounting clerk or a bookkeeper may also help you make business connections that could lead to job opportunities once you complete your education.

Becoming a CPA

Not all CPAs are staff accountants. Some are self-employed, while others hold various job titles. Not every staff accountant job will require that candidates hold a CPA license, either, but becoming a CPA can expand career opportunities for aspiring staff accountants. If you decide to pursue a CPA license, your five years of college education will be followed by a four-part exam, called the Uniform CPA Examination.

A position as a staff accountant is excellent for entry-level accounting professionals or those with a little bit of experience. With experience, staff accountants can advance to more prestigious and well-paying positions with a greater amount of responsibility. The position of senior staff accountant, for example, is among the highest paying accounting jobs. A job as a staff accountant allows plenty of room for new accountants to learn and grow professionally.

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