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Accountant Career Path vs. Finance Career Path

accounting career path vs finance career path

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 finance or accounting 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 vs. Finance Career Path – which suits you best?

Think hard about where your interests lie. While some personality traits will suit a career in either accounting or finance, other specific traits and interests may indicate that you are a better fit for a certain career path.

Accounting Career Personality Traits

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.

Finance Career Personality Traits

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.

Accountant Career Path

While there are several specialties within the general field of accounting, including governmental accounting, public accounting and tax accounting, this accounting career path follows the journey of a corporate finance accounting professional.

Staff Accountant

In this entry-level role, you will prepare and maintain financial and business transac­tions, applying accounting principles. Staff Accountant duties include work that is analytical, evaluative and advisory in nature and requires an understanding of both accounting theory and practice. You can expect a Staff Accountant salary in the range of $41,851 – $54,821.

Senior Accountant

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. A Senior Accountant salary is in the range of $52,117 – $68,164.

Accounting Supervisor

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. As part of your Accounting Supervisor duties, you will lead most day-to-day operations of the group. The Accounting Supervisor salary ranges from $52,138 – $94,893.

Accounting Manager

After working in accounting for approximately 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. An Accounting Manager salary is in the range of $69,969 – $118,630.

Director of Accounting

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. A Director of Accounting salary is in the range of $95,213 – $199,390.

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:

Financial Analyst

This is an entry-level role. The Financial Analyst job description includes analyzing past and present financial data to estimate future revenues and expenditures, applying principles of finance. It requires a bachelor’s degree and the Financial Analyst salary range is $39,252 – $62,475.

Senior Financial Analyst

When you have achieved 4-7 years of experience in the field, you are ready to move into a Senior Financial Analyst role. The Senior Financial Analyst job description involves continuing 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.

Financial Reporting Supervisor

After working as a Senior Financial Analyst, you may move on the role of Financial Reporting Supervisor. The financial Reporting Supervisor job description involves managing 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. The Financial Reporting Supervisor salary range is $76,502 – $139,108.

Finance Analysis Manager

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.

Finance Director

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. As part of the Finance Director job description, you will be responsible for directing and aiding financial analysis, evaluation and report generation of current and proposed financial plans. The Finance Director salary range is $130,427 – $440, 514.

Finance and Accountant Career Path Final Thoughts

These are just two examples of the path your career could take, but there are countless variations and alternative accounting careers. 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. For even more insights into the accounting and finance industry, view our up to date accounting and finance salary guide.

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