A career in accounting and finance can be a lucrative one with great growth potential. But where do you even start? And then where do you go from there? It may seem a little overwhelming, but when you consider a career path, think about where you would like to be in 5, 10 or 15 years. Believe it or not, 15 years will go by quickly, so seek out the job opportunities and experience that will help you achieve your career goals.
Let’s start simply by looking at the differences between accounting and finance. Accounting professionals obtain, collect and organize a company’s financial records, which finance professionals then analyze to determine the impacts of potential business decisions in order to maximize profits and reduce risk.
Basically, accounting deals with the past while finance determines the future.
Accounting or finance: which career path best suits you?
Think hard about where your interests lie. If you are a detail-oriented, self-professed math geek who loves crunching numbers and reporting accurate financial information, consider focusing your job search on the accounting sphere.
If you like the idea of managing money, calculating risk and have great verbal and communication skills, a career in finance might be the best fit for you.
Take a look at these two sample accounting and finance career paths and decide which one best fits your skills and personality:
Sample Accounting Career Path
While there are several specialties within the general field of accounting, including governmental accounting, public accounting and tax accounting, this career path follows the journey of a corporate finance accounting professional.
- Start off as a Staff Accountant.In this entry-level role, you will prepare and maintain financial and business transactions, applying accounting principles. This work is analytical, evaluative and advisory in nature and requires an understanding of both accounting theory and practice. You can expect a salary in the range of $41,851 – $54,821.
- Once you’ve gained 4-6 years experience as an Accountant, you are ready to move on to a Senior Accountant position. In this role, you will still ready and maintain financial records, but you may lead and direct the work of others. If you do not already hold one, now would be the time to pursue a bachelor’s degree in your area of specialty. You can expect a salary in the range of $52,117 – $68,164.
- The next step on this career path is to take on the role of Accounting Supervisor. In this role, you will supervise and train less complex day-to-day general accounting functions and accounting operations, which include coding invoices and compiling data for various accounting reports. You will lead most day-to-day operations of the group. Salary range for this role is $52,138 – $94,893.
- After working in accounting for about 7 years, you can expect to move on to a mid-level management position such as Accounting Manager. You will manage professional level accounting functions and the preparation of reports including earnings, profits/losses, cash balances, and cost accounting. A bachelor’s degree in your area of specialty is expected. You can expect a salary in the range of $69,969 – $118,630.
- With ten years of experience under your belt, you will be ready to take on the position of Accounting Director. As Accounting Director, you will direct, coordinate, and administer accounting operations, which may include general accounting, cost accounting, payroll, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. You can expect a salary in the range of $95,213 – $199,390.
Sample Finance Career Path
Finance professionals can find work in corporate finance, commercial banking, investment banking, financial planning or insurance. This career path follows the journey of a Financial Analysis professional:
- Start off as a Financial Analyst. Responsibilities of this entry-level role include analyzing past and present financial data to estimate future revenues and expenditures, applying principles of finance. It requires a bachelor’s degree and the salary range is $39,252 – $62,475.
- When you have achieved 4-7 years of experience in the field, you are ready to move into a Senior Financial Analyst role. You will continue to analyze financial data to estimate future revenues and expenditures, applying principles of finance, but you may also lead and direct the work of others. The salary range for a Senior Financial Analyst is $60,590 – $94,412.
- After working as a Senior Financial Analyst, you may move on the role of Financial Reporting Supervisor. Financial Reporting Supervisors manage all Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) external reporting requirements including preparation and filing of Form 10-K, 10-Q, Form 8-K, Proxy Statement and other periodic governmental reports. Salary range for this role is $76,502 – $139,108.
- After working in the field for about 7 years, you can expect to move on to the role of Finance Analysis Manager. Finance Analysis Managers manage conduct of statistical analyses of information affecting financial and accounting programs of public, industrial, and/or financial organizations through subordinate financial analysis staff. If you do not already hold one, now is the time to pursue an advanced degree in your field so you can continue to grow your career. Salary range is $82,172 – $138,469.
- Once you have gained 10 years of experience in the field and have an advanced degree, you will be ready to move into a Finance Director role. You will be responsible for directing and aiding financial analysis, evaluation and report generation of current and proposed financial plans. Salary range is $130,427 – $440, 514.
These are just two examples of the path your career could take, but there are countless variations and alternative routes. The important thing to remember is to set short- and long-term career goals and know exactly what you need to do to meet them.