Accounting manager career guide

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An introduction to a career in accounting management  

You started your accounting career quite a while ago, and since then, you have continuously climbed the organizational ladder towards more complex roles. One of the most logical job evolutions after spending several years in the field and broadening your accounting know-how is to become an accounting manager. 

Simply put, accounting managers act as supervisors for other accountants. They utilize systems and design processes for reporting and analyzing financial facts and figures. They also guarantee that the companies they work for are compliant with all the current laws and regulations and suggest business procedure updates to meet additional local or federal requirements. 

As opposed to financial managers who oversee the fiscal side of a business over an extended period of time and make cash-flow projections, accounting managers mainly focus on monetary records, taxes, and reports. Still, they have many executive duties and play a key role in depicting an accurate and clear picture of any given company’s past financial performance.  

What does an accounting manager do? 

Whether they work in a small company, a more notable firm, or even a multinational organization, accounting managers usually have a set of similar responsibilities. Besides tracking economic data, they typically develop the annual budget and come up with financial recommendations for the company’s leaders.  

Accounting managers have strong business acumen, knowing all the company’s ins and outs, and they are aware of the broader financial context. They can anticipate economic evolutions and always keep an eye on the essential macro-trends that may dramatically influence industries or verticals.  

As an accounting manager, your job description may differ depending on your work experience, education level, know-how, and employer. Keep in mind that the bigger the accounting organization you will lead, the more complex your role will be. The number and functions of your direct reports can also influence your primary responsibilities.  

What to look for in an accounting manager role?  

Before accepting a managerial position in accounting, employees usually accrue several years of substantial professional experience in their field. This know-how is generally doubled by earning an accounting degree such as a bachelor’s in accounting and completing other specialized training. A master’s degree can also help prepare future candidates for managerial roles, deepening their knowledge and encouraging them to develop strong delegation skills. 

Besides the numerous industry-related skills, accounting managers should acquire excellent leadership competences and develop strong communication abilities. Since they work closely with other accountants and bookkeepers on a day-to-day basis, accounting managers must oversee their activities and tackle any issues their employees might encounter. They must communicate effectively with their peers, their managers, and company executives to ensure that their organization’s accounting operations run smoothly. 

Accounting managers should also plan their organization’s long-term goals, breaking down tasks into smaller steps to divide work responsibilities between accountants in their division. Other current tasks may include: 

  • Project a company’s long-term financial goals 
  • Divide work responsibilities and delegate tasks 
  • Help with periodic financial and control audits 
  • Analyze and review financial statements to verify accuracy 
  • Develop employee’s skills by driving a performance culture, setting higher goals, and offering constant training and mentorship 
  • Collaborate with external or internal auditors to compile reports on an annual basis 

The median annual salary in 2020 in the U.S. for accounting manager roles was $72,779. 

Is an accounting manager role a good fit for you?

The accounting manager position is a mid-level management one, and you must meet numerous requirements before assuming such a role. You should have several competencies and skills that prove you are both an experienced accountant and a proficient people manager. 

Numerical abilities 

Excellent mathematical knowledge counts among the essential skills any accountant must have, and that’s also valid for accounting management roles. Although you won’t have to do computations and arithmetical operations on a daily basis, your analytical thinking and good numerical skills will help you verify the accuracy of the financial documents issued within your organization. 

Computer competency

Your direct reports may need to utilize different software systems and tools, and –although you don’t need to excel in all of them – it’s helpful to have at least some notions and necessary skills. It’s also imperative to know who the expert is for any digital platform that is used in your company. 

Excellent communication skills

Efficient written, verbal, and nonverbal communication is mandatory in managerial positions. To make sure that your team stays on track, works efficiently, and reaches its full potential, you must be able to transmit clear and simple messages and communicate adequately. 

Vigorous work ethics and standards 

Having a managerial position in accounting means that you are fully accountable for the company’s financial statements and have numerous responsibilities. Undoubtedly, you should always prove your absolute integrity and commit to your company’s code of business conduct.  

Compliance expertise

Accounting managers must verify that their organizations meet all compulsory regulations and comply with regional, nationwide, or global financial rules and laws. To check compliance, you should have comprehensive legal knowledge and always stay up to date with the latest legislation amendments. 

Strong people management skills 

People management skills are some of the essential soft skills any manager should have, including accounting managers. This can be the key differentiator that helps your team stay engaged, productive, and balanced. Be patient, hone your ability to motivate others, give credit or praise, and maintain a positive attitude within your team. 

Delegation abilities

Every manager or supervisor should be able to delegate. It’s both a way of showing you trust your employees and ensuring your team’s tasks are finished well and on time. Using your strong delegation skills will help you know what responsibilities should be assigned to which accountant to get the best results in a specific task. 

Responsibilities of an accounting manager 

You’ve climbed continuously through the hierarchy of your organization, assuming more and more complex accounting roles. You have an impeccable reputation, your accounting knowledge has increased over time, and you know how to collaborate effectively with other professionals. If you plan to apply for an accounting manager role and you are wondering what your primary responsibilities would be, here’s what you need to know. 

Evaluate financial records 

As an accounting manager, you will have to compile, review, and evaluate the financial records and documents issued by your company. These may include fiscal reports, tax statements, financial declarations, and other accounting documents. You will verify all the documents to check that they comply with applicable laws and regulations and suggest new ways to streamline operations and avoid bottlenecks or other types of challenges. 

Coordinate accounting teams

In this role, you will supervise teams of accountants and guide them to achieve optimal performance. For that, you must set individual and team goals, offer feedback, counsel your direct reports, and develop evaluation procedures. You may have a significant say in the recruitment of candidates who would like to join your team.  

Set priorities and train accounting specialists 

EdGoal setting and establishing strategic priorities are 2 of the main responsibilities of any accounting manager. These go hand in hand with constant training. You should always be ready to provide guidance for the accountants in your team so that they can meet the agreed goals and stick to the company’s financial priorities. You should also mentor new employees, train them on the job’s procedures and requirements, and evaluate their progress. 

Act as a financial counselor

You may be asked to compile reports for the executives of your organization regularly. Based on your input and recommendations, the decision-makers may choose to pursue various business opportunities, cancel operations, or even restructure the company’s departments. In this case, you would act as a financial counselor, anticipating problems and offering solutions to current challenges. 

What do I need to study to be an accounting manager? 

Most executive roles in the field require at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting and multiple years of experience in the field. Earning a master’s degree can help you develop leadership skills, learn management techniques, and prove to be an advantage compared to other candidates. Employers want to know they hire the most capable and skilled professionals, so the more advanced your studies are, the better.   

Accounting certifications for exceptional managers 

If you want to increase your knowledge and dive deeper into the accounting field, there are several accounting certifications you can earn. For instance, you can choose to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) once you successfully pass the exam held by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).  

The most significant credential you could earn in management accounting is the Certified Management Accountant (CMA). This professional certification confirms that you have extensive knowledge of financial control, analysis, and planning, and you can support decision-makers through strategic financial reports. 

Another useful credential for accounting managers is Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). After you earn this certification, you will constantly run internal audits to verify compliance and perform quality assurance checks.   

American Accounting Association (AAA)  

Established more than a century ago, the AAA gathers under one roof an extensive community of accountants from all walks of life, including the academic field.  

National Society of Accountants (NSA) 

With a core mission of helping tax and accounting professionals further their knowledge, NSA is a society that has been active for 75 years. 

American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)  

Established in 1887, AICPA is the official body that represents CPAs, developing and grading the CPA certification examination tests at state and national level. 

American Association of Finance and Accounting (AAFA) 

Founded in 1978, the AAFA connects accounting organizations, firms, and professionals throughout the United States. 

Association of Chartered Accountants in the United States (ACAUS)  

If you are an Associate Chartered Accountant or a Chartered Professional Accountant in the United States, this is the organization representing the interests of professionals like you.

Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) 

Also known as the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business, IMA is the body in charge of organizing and grading CMA and CSCA examination certifications. 

Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) 

Founded in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1973, FASB is an independent organization that sets the standards for public and private organizations following Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) in the field of financial accounting.