What Is a Staff Accountant vs. Accountant?

Every business needs a system to record and maintain financial transactions and report results. Further, these results can be measured, verified, analyzed, compared, and communicated. It is important to have these processes because businesses must comply with the existing financial regulations mandated by the government. This entire process comes under the umbrella of accounting. There are several different levels of competence and seniority in this field. Accountants, staff accountants, management, tax, cost and financial accountant, controllers, and chief financial officers are some designations given to professionals in the sector.



What Is Accounting?

This business language helps to monitor your organization’s development, health, and growth. If required, it helps to communicate these markers to investors, regulators, management, and the general public. Many assume this is a modern practice, but it has existed for thousands of years. Archaeologists have discovered ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Babylon. In the 19th century, it developed into an organized and recognized profession.  

There are different types of accounting:

  • Management/Managerial
  • Financial
  • Cost
  • Audit
  • Tax
  • Information system
  • Public
  • Government
  • Forensic

The work areas may differ, but they all follow certain standards and practices, primarily focusing on ethical processes. Those in the field must adhere to facts and be 100% accurate. 

What Does the Accounting Profession Involve?

Professionals in this field:

  • Help individuals and organizations to track income and expenses and maintain balance sheets
  • Assist in making financial decisions
  • Are responsible for timely financial audits, compliance with financial regulations, reconciliation of bank statements
  • Work involves ensuring that financial records are complete, accurate, up to date, and in order. 
  • Have to prepare budgets and forecasts, process returns and tax payments
  • Keep records of payments to creditors, suppliers, and employees
  • As they advance in the profession, their duties and responsibilities scale up

Accountants And Staff Accountants

Accountants:  At the entry level, candidates can get a job as Junior accountants. They may be appointed according to their educational qualifications and experience at different levels. They perform basic accounting tasks, track expenses, and document transactions. They may or may not have a college degree in accounting, but most companies require it, or the candidate would need a relevant certification. 

Their main areas of responsibility are reporting to higher levels in the accounting department, reconciliation of accounts, updating and maintaining logs, and preparing initial reports. As they gain experience, they will have to generate financial reports on specific areas, give presentations to the team or external clients, perform audits and spot mistakes in reports generated by junior staff, and more.

Based on their professional competence and the nature of the organization, junior accountants can get promoted to senior accountants and then to accounting managers. 

Between the junior and senior accounting positions, there is one more level in the hierarchy: the Staff Accountant. In some organizations, usually public accounting companies, the position of staff accountant is entry-level. 

Staff Accountant: People hired as staff accountants must have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting but may not require a CPA qualification. In their curriculum, they will have acquired competency in accounting theory, general accounting principles, financial analysis, and preparation of reports. 

They will get a firm grounding in the code of conduct for professional accounting. They prepare journal entries, conduct reconciliations, accounts receivable and payable, and more as the company demands. Their financial duties include:

  • Bookkeeping.
  • Documenting financial statements.
  • Evaluating accounting systems in the organization.
  • Recommending best practices.
  • Calculating the organization’s tax liability and more.

They usually report to a controller of accounts or a senior accounting manager. Given the right setting, staff accountants move into senior and leadership roles. 

They require a suite of skills that include both hard and soft competencies. Their hard skills are:

  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Applying general accounting practices across the company.
  • Keeping up with the latest technology as it continues to digitize its operations. 

Soft skills are an important quality for staff accountants to have. Many choose this profession because they already possess some of these qualities. They must develop their analytical skills, be detail-oriented, and have excellent time management capability. 

They often work in specialized areas, such as taxation or cost analysis, as they gain expertise. 

What Are The Main Areas of Difference?

Skill-Sets: Accountants at entry level may not require advanced skills in project management or dealing with customers. They will have to develop these skills when they become staff accountants. As they get into this role, they will have to interact with customers and provide inputs for project management. Accountants who specialize in certain areas of finance and accounting can further their basic education by taking Just In Time courses in taxation or business accounting when they are on a career path to becoming staff accountants. 

Educational Qualifications: Accountants generally require lower educational qualifications and certifications. They may be fresh graduates or interns pursuing a higher degree or certification. Staff accountants are mid-level employees with degrees and years of experience in this sector. They are better trained to address challenges and more complex tasks. They may also be called upon to share their evaluation in the areas of purchase, staffing, and budget expansion. 

Duties and Responsibilities: While accountants, by their place in the hierarchy, have lower responsibilities, staff accountants have a higher level of responsibility in the company. This may depend on the company’s size, nature, operations, and regulatory environment. 

Career Advancement: Staff accountants are already set on the trajectory to higher roles in the organization. They have successfully cleared many of the roles and responsibilities at junior levels. However, accountants will have to work their way up and gain experience and qualifications. They both can follow similar career paths, but they encounter different opportunities based on the organization they work for, their own career aspirations, and their credentials. 

Compensation: Due to their position in the higher echelons of the firm, staff accountants draw a higher salary than accountants. 

Final Word

Crunching numbers is the field of both accountants and staff accountants. This is crucial for any business’s survival, health and growth, whether it’s a mom-n-pop store or a multinational corporation. The financial profession offers several windows of opportunity at different levels to those passionate about accounting, finance, ethics, regulatory compliance, and attention to detail while keeping the big picture in view. Accountants at the entry level and staff accountants at the middle management level form the backbone of any organization. 

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