Accounting Careers: Options, Job Titles, and Descriptions

Image shows a group of people all working on writing/typing/inspecting. Text reads: "Accounting job titles: accountant, controller, accounting clerk, chief financial officer"

Ashley Nicole DeLeon / The Balance

People who work in accounting record, analyze, and maintain financial accounts and statements. They might work for the government, a large company, or a small business.

Because accounting is an industry with a broad range of positions, there are many accounting-related job titles. Learn more about some of the most common accounting job titles and descriptions of those jobs.

Tip

If you already work in accounting, pay close attention to the job titles and descriptions. If your job title and description don't match what's listed, talk to your employer about changing your title appropriately. That could help you negotiate for pay increases. However, keep in mind that many accounting jobs require specific certifications and licenses, which often affect your job title.

Accounting Careers and Educational Requirements

Most accounting jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, business, or a related field. Some accountants pursue a master’s in business administration (MBA) after completing a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field.

Note

Certified public accountants (CPAs) must obtain the necessary licensing, which includes passing the Uniform CPA Exam and completing any additional requirements in your state.

However, many bookkeepers only possess a high-school diploma and excellent math skills. Sometimes, those who are attending college to become an accountant can make a decent income by doing bookkeeping part-time.

Accounting Job Titles

When it comes to the accounting field, there are many types of jobs available. Learn about some of the most common job titles you may find.

Accountant

Accountants prepare, analyze, and maintain financial records. They typically work for a company, managing that company’s finances, or they own and operate their own independent practice. They might perform a variety of tasks, including managing a company’s payroll, taxes, and various other payments. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants earn a median annual salary of $73,560. The BLS projects that jobs in this field will grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029.

There are many different types of accountants, from general accountants to tax accountants. Each role has slightly different duties. Here are some of the common job titles for those who are accountants:

  • Accounting manager
  • Accounting officer
  • Business analyst
  • General accountant
  • CPA
  • Accounting supervisor
  • Project accountant
  • Staff accountant
  • Cost accountant

Accounting Clerk

An accounting clerk produces and maintains financial records for a company but answers to the accountant or to the business owner. They are tasked with data entry specific to financial records and receipts. They might enter financial information into computer software, check data for accuracy, and/or produce reports on that information. Also known as "bookkeeping clerks" or "auditing clerks," they work in almost all industries.

Accounting clerks earn a median annual salary of $42,410, per the BLS. This occupation is projected to decline by 6% from 2019 to 2029. Some common accounting clerk positions include:

  • Bookkeeper
  • Finance clerk
  • Administrative assistant
  • Accounting secretary

Auditor

An auditor’s duties are similar to an accountant’s duties described above. Like an accountant, an auditor prepares, analyzes, and manages financial records. However, auditors typically work for an accounting or payroll service rather than working for one particular company. Generally, auditors check the work performed by a company’s accountant. They often help multiple companies with their finances.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that auditors earn a median annual salary of $73,560. The BLS projects that jobs in this field will grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029. Auditor job titles include:

  • Revenue tax specialist
  • Audit partner
  • Financial auditor
  • Internal auditor
  • Assurance senior
  • Assurance manager
  • Internal audit director
  • Audit manager
  • Auditor-in-charge

Chief Financial Officer

A chief financial officer (CFO) is the executive responsible for managing the finances of an organization. They are in charge of financial planning, maintaining financial records, and analyzing these records to inform executive decisions. They manage the accounting department, and typically report to the chief executive officer (CEO) and/or company shareholders.

Of all the accounting job titles listed here, the CFO is the most senior position an accountant can attain apart from assuming a position as a CEO. The median salary for chief executives is $185,950 with the top 25% making over $208,000 a year, according to the BLS.

Controller

A controller is responsible for accounting activities for a particular company. They might prepare financial statements and budgets, process data, and/or prepare taxes. The controller typically reports to the chief financial officer (CFO) or may even be the CFO.

The BLS reports that financial managers (including controllers) earn a median annual salary of $134,180. These jobs are projected to grow 15% from 2019–2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Some of the jobs in the controller field include:

  • Comptroller
  • Treasurer
  • Finance vice president
  • Director of finance
  • School treasurer
  • Finance manager

Financial Analyst

A financial analyst evaluates businesses and projects to see if an entity is a good candidate for investment. Financial analysts might make recommendations to a particular bank, company, or to various investors about whether to invest in a particular company.

Rather than examining financial statements for tax and compliance purposes, financial analysts are concerned with cash flow trends, company valuations, and the viability of purchasing/issuing stock.

According to the BLS, financial analysts earn a median annual salary of $83,660. Jobs in this field are projected to grow 5% from 2019–2029. Financial analyst job titles include:

  • Trust officer
  • Equity research analyst
  • Planning analyst
  • Real estate analyst
  • Credit products officer
  • Investment analyst
  • Portfolio manager
  • Securities analyst

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do You Research Accounting Careers?

When researching accounting careers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to start. The BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook includes information about job titles, job descriptions, pay, and requirements of your desired position.

What Career Options Include Creativity and Accounting?

Large corporations aren't the only types of businesses that need accountants. Arts organizations, for example, also employ accountants to help maintain their finances. If you want to be creative in your accounting career, consider working with a business in a creative industry you're passionate about.

How Do You Switch Careers Into Accounting?

Regardless of what career you started in, you can still become an accountant as long as you fulfill all licensing requirements. These include passing the Uniform CPA Exam and completing any additional requirements in your state.

What Are Entry-Level Accounting Jobs?

There are several types of entry-level accounting jobs available. These positions include bookkeeper, accounts payable specialist, accounts receivable clerk, auditing clerk, payroll administrator, and assistant controller.

Article Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Business and Financial Occupations.” Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  2. National Association of State Boards of Accountancy. "Getting a License." Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Accountants and Auditors.” Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Bookkeeping, Accounting, and Auditing Clerks.” Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2020: Chief Executives.” Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Financial Managers.” Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Financial Analysts.” Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.

  8. Accounting.com. "Top Entry Level Jobs in Accounting." Accessed Aug. 27, 2021.