Financial Accountant Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

About this article
What are the pros and cons of a financial accounting career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a financial accountant is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Financial Accountant

Financial accountants maintain accurate financial records for businesses and individuals. Find out about the pros and cons of financial accounting to decide if it's a career you want to pursue.

Pros of a Financial Accounting Career
Above-average earnings (median income of approximately $65,000)*
High career mobility (training for this career can transfer to other finance positions)*
Opportunities for self-employment*
May work in an office or from home*

Cons of a Financial Accounting Career
Most positions require a 4-year degree or higher*
May need certification for some financial reporting tasks*
Some positions require travel to clients' offices*
Keen competition for prestigious positions*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Info

Job Description

Financial accountants are responsible for creating and maintaining financial records. They typically use software to create spreadsheets and graphs, prepare tax returns, balance accounts and generate financial statements. Most financial accountants work in an employer's office, but some are self-employed, work from home or travel to clients' places of business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most accountants and auditors worked 40 hours a week, but one in five worked longer hours, especially during tax season.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

In 2014, the BLS reported that accountants and auditors earned a median salary of about $65,000. The top 10% earned about $115,000 or more per year, while the bottom 10% earned around $40,000 or less per year. The BLS predicted that job opportunities for accountants and auditors would grow by 13% from 2012-2022. Demand for these professionals is projected to increase as the need for financial responsibility among companies continues to grow as an effect of recent fiscal crises, new regulations and business globalization. Competition, however, will still be keen for positions in prominent firms.

What Are the Requirements?

Education

Most employers require financial accountants to hold at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field, such as a degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting or finance. A bachelor's degree in accounting often includes courses in accountancy information systems, business law, strategic management and business communication. Most employers also require financial accountants to have some level of experience in the field, so many college programs help students obtain internships with accounting firms or companies.

Essential Skills for Financial Accountants

Financial accounts usually spend a lot of time working with numbers and software, so they must have strong math and computer skills. Good communication skills are essential for financial accountants who work with teams and conduct presentations. Since you'll be working with large amounts of data, you'll also need strong analytical and organizational skills as well as an eye for detail.

What Employers Are Looking for

Most employers are looking for financial accountants with education and previous experience in the field. The ability to work with a variety of people and use data management software is also important. Below are some examples of real job postings found in March 2012:

  • A California-based financial company advertised for a financial accountant with a bachelor's degree or equivalent experience to maintain financial records, balance accounts, participate in group projects and resolve account issues. The employer preferred applicants with experience in financial statement preparation.
  • A Michigan company was looking for a financial accountant with 2-5 years of public or corporate accounting experience and knowledge of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). The ideal candidate has the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential and experience in services or real estate.
  • A California company placed an ad for a financial accountant with a bachelor's degree in accounting and 2-5 years of experience to assist the director of finance with detail accounting duties. The ideal candidate has strong analytical, math and communication skills as well as familiarity with cost analysis.

How to Make Your Skills Stand out

Get Certified

Many accountants obtain the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) credential from their state board of accountancy to prove professional competence to potential clients and employers and increase job prospects. In fact, this credential is required in order to file reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission. To earn the CPA credential, you generally must have completed 150 college hours, which is 30 hours beyond most bachelor's programs. You must also acquire at least 2 years of public accounting experience and pass the 14-hour CPA exam.

Earn a Graduate Degree

While a bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement to enter this career, some employers will only hire applicants who hold master's degrees. The BLS even reports that financial accountants who hold master's degrees were expected to have the best job prospects. Additionally, earning this degree can supply you with the extra 30 credit hours needed to obtain CPA certification. You might, for example, earn a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in finance or accounting. Some schools offer programs that allow you to earn both your bachelor's and master's degrees in 5 years.

Other Careers to Consider

Financial Examiner

If an accounting career doesn't appeal to you, consider working as a financial examiner. These workers assess financial institutions, agencies and other organizations for risk, management issues and compliance to federal regulations. Most positions require a bachelor's degree or higher in accounting or a related field. The BLS predicted that the number of jobs in this field would grow by 27% from 2010-2020 as the need for financial oversight increases. According to the BLS, the median salary for financial examiners was about $75,000 as of May 2011.

Financial Analyst

If you'd rather work in the investment field, consider a career as a financial analyst. These workers analyze data and trends to help businesses and individuals make smart investment decisions. You must have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, but some positions require a master's degree. According to the BLS, employment for financial analysts was expected to grow by 23% from 2010-2020, and the median salary for these workers was around $76,000 as of 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Accounting - Finance Specialization
      • Master - Accounting
      • MS in Accounting- Tax Specialization
      • MS in Accounting - Audit Specialization
      • MS in Accounting - Government Specialization
      • MBA: Finance
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Managerial Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • BSBA - Investment
    Associate's
      • Associate: Accounting
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • Associate: Business Admin. - Office Mgmt
    Certificate
      • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BA: Accounting
      • BA: Business Administration - Management
      • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
      • BA: Business Administration - Marketing
    Associate's
      • AA: Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
    Master's
      • MBA: Accounting
      • MBA: Finance
      • MBA
      • MBA and MS in Leadership (Dual Degree)
      • MBA: Leadership
      • MS in Leadership
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Finance
  • Campus and Online Programs
    5. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. - Entertainment Business
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Music Business
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Finance and Accounting
      • MS in Financial Crime and Compliance Management
      • MS in Data Science: Financial Crime
      • MBA - General
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation
      • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Fraud Prevention and Detection
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Professional Accounting
      • Master of Finance
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Accounting
    Certificate
      • Graduate Specialization - Accounting
  • Campus and Online Programs
    8. South College

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Business Administration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Accounting
      • Associate of Science in Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Regent University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Accounting
      • Master of Arts in Law - Business
      • Master of Arts in Law - Wealth Management/Financial Planning
      • Master of Business Administration - Finance and Investing
      • Master of Business Administration
      • Master of Business Administration - Kindom Business
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business - Accounting
      • Bachelor of Science in Business
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Business
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Accounting
      • Master of Business Administration: Taxation
      • Master of Science in Taxation
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • MS in Accounting - Finance Specialization
  • Bachelor: Public-General Accountancy
  • Associate: Accounting
  • Executive Leader Graduate Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Accounting
  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • AA: Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA: Accounting
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Master of Science in Finance

What is your highest level of education completed?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • B.S. - Music Business

What is your highest level of education?

Utica College

  • MBA - Finance and Accounting
  • MS in Financial Crime and Compliance Management
  • Bachelor of Science in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation
  • BS in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation - Financial Investigation

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master of Professional Accounting
  • BS - Accounting
  • Graduate Specialization - Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Associate of Science in Accounting
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?