How to Become a Financial Accountant (Audit Your Ambitions)

how to become a financial accountant

If you’ve always aspired to manage financial records, analyze financial performance, or wondered what it takes to become a financial accountant, you’re in the right place.

In this guide, we’ll delve into the EXACT steps you need to take to kick-start your career as a financial accountant. We’ll discuss:

  • The skills you need.
  • The education that can facilitate your journey.
  • How to secure a job as a financial accountant.

So, whether you’re a beginner in the financial field or a seasoned individual looking to elevate your career, stay tuned.

We’re about to unravel the roadmap to become a financial accountant.

Let’s get started!

Contents show

Steps to Become a Financial Accountant


Step 1: Gain an Understanding of the Role

Before pursuing a career as a Financial Accountant, you should first get a clear understanding of what the role entails.

Financial Accountants are responsible for handling financial transactions of a company, preparing financial reports and statements, and ensuring compliance with financial regulations.

They analyze and monitor financial records, perform audits, advise on tax matters, and help businesses make informed financial decisions.

They also play a crucial role in strategic planning, budgeting, and risk management within a company.

Having a strong mathematical acumen, analytical skills, and proficiency in accounting software are important for this role.

Additionally, a good Financial Accountant should have a thorough understanding of accounting principles and laws, financial reporting standards, and taxation regulations.

You can gain insights about the role by researching online, reading relevant books and professional journals, or by speaking to professionals in the field.

It’s also beneficial to familiarize yourself with the industries you are interested in working in, as different sectors may have unique accounting practices and requirements.


Step 2: Pursue a Relevant Educational Degree

In order to become a financial accountant, you will need to obtain a relevant undergraduate degree.

The most common route is to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or Finance.

These programs offer courses in financial accounting, business taxation, cost accounting, auditing, and financial analysis, which provide you with the foundational knowledge necessary for a career in financial accounting.

While studying, consider taking additional courses in statistics, economics, business law and management to broaden your understanding of the business world.

This comprehensive approach will not only prepare you for your future role but also make you more attractive to potential employers.

Some universities also offer integrated programs that allow you to earn your bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting in five years.

A master’s degree is not mandatory for a career in financial accounting, but it may open up more opportunities and potentially lead to higher pay.


Step 5: Consider a Specialization

After gaining some experience in the field, you may decide to specialize in a certain area of financial accounting.

For example, you could become an expert in tax accounting, forensic accounting, auditing, or management accounting.

Choosing a specialization can make you more marketable to employers and may increase your earning potential.

In order to specialize, you may need to pursue further education or certification.

For instance, if you wish to specialize in tax accounting, you might consider pursuing a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.

Similarly, a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) designation could be beneficial if you are interested in management accounting.

Remember that the choice of specialization should align with your career goals and personal interests.

Your chosen specialty will guide your career path and can greatly influence your day-to-day work life.


Step 3: Acquire Basic Accounting Skills

As a Financial Accountant, you’ll need a solid understanding of basic accounting principles and practices.

This includes skills in areas such as bookkeeping, financial reporting, auditing, taxation, and understanding of accounting software.

Start by getting a handle on bookkeeping, which involves recording financial transactions, maintaining and balancing accounts and ledgers.

These are foundational skills that every accountant needs.

Next, learn about financial reporting, which involves preparing and presenting financial statements like balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements.

These reports provide a snapshot of a company’s financial health and performance, and are crucial for decision making within the business.

Understanding the basics of auditing and taxation is also essential for a Financial Accountant.

This includes knowledge about internal and external auditing procedures, compliance with financial regulations and standards, and understanding tax laws and regulations related to business operations.

Lastly, become proficient in accounting software.

Most businesses today use some form of accounting software to manage their financial transactions and reports.

Being proficient in popular accounting software like QuickBooks, Excel, and SAP can increase your marketability as a Financial Accountant.

Consider taking relevant courses or certifications to acquire these skills.

These could be part of your degree program, or you could take additional courses from professional accounting bodies or online platforms.

Remember, practice is key in mastering these skills.

Consider internships or part-time jobs that allow you to apply these skills in real-life scenarios.


Step 4: Gain Proficiency in Accounting Software

As a financial accountant, a critical skillset is proficiency in using accounting software.

These tools are extensively used to manage financial transactions, prepare tax returns, and generate financial reports.

The most common types of accounting software you should familiarize yourself with include QuickBooks, Microsoft Dynamics GP, and SAP.

You can gain this experience through hands-on experience in internships, part-time jobs, or even during your studies if these tools are integrated into your curriculum.

There are also numerous online resources and tutorials available that can help you understand and navigate these systems.

Gaining a solid understanding and practical experience of these tools can significantly enhance your efficiency and productivity as a financial accountant.

Remember that technology is continuously evolving, and so does the software used in accounting.

It would be beneficial to stay abreast with the latest updates and advancements in accounting software to remain competitive in the field.

You may also consider acquiring certifications for specific software to further boost your credibility and marketability.


Step 5: Develop an Understanding of Tax Laws and Regulations

As a financial accountant, a significant part of your job will be dealing with tax-related issues.

Therefore, having a solid understanding of tax laws and regulations is crucial.

This includes being familiar with income tax, sales tax, property tax, corporate tax, and other related tax codes.

These laws frequently change, so it’s crucial to stay updated on the latest tax reform legislation and regulations.

You can build your knowledge by attending tax law workshops, taking courses, reading financial newspapers and journals, or consulting with tax attorneys.

Understanding the tax laws will help you to advise businesses on their financial decisions, minimize their tax liabilities, and avoid possible tax penalties.

Another part of your work will be preparing tax returns and ensuring that they comply with the laws.

Therefore, you should also familiarize yourself with tax return preparation software and digital platforms which are often used in accounting firms.

Further, getting certified as a tax accountant or earning a master’s degree in taxation could also enhance your career prospects.

These qualifications can demonstrate your advanced knowledge in the field and potentially lead to more senior roles in financial accounting.


Step 6: Obtain Internships in Accounting or Finance

Internships provide valuable opportunities for hands-on experience in the world of financial accounting.

They can be a stepping stone to a successful career, offering you the chance to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom to a real-world setting.

Look for internships in accounting or finance departments of various organizations.

These might be in corporations, government agencies, non-profits, or accounting firms.

The role you take on during your internship could range from a financial analyst, assistant accountant, or even a junior auditor.

This will give you an overview of the job and help you understand the day-to-day tasks of a financial accountant.

During your internship, ensure you learn as much as possible about financial reporting, auditing, taxation, and other relevant topics.

Try to work with different accounting software and learn about the regulatory standards in the industry.

Networking is another critical aspect of internships.

Connect with professionals in your field and take their advice to heart.

They may provide guidance that can help you shape your future career in financial accounting.

Remember, the goal is to gain practical experience, learn new skills, and make professional connections.

Even if the internship is unpaid, the knowledge and experience you gain could be priceless.

After the internship, seek feedback from your supervisor.

This will help you understand your strengths and areas that need improvement, which can be extremely beneficial when you start your full-time job as a financial accountant.

Finally, some companies may offer full-time roles to their interns.

Hence, performing well in your internship not only adds to your resume but could also be your ticket to a full-time job in financial accounting.


Step 7: Become Certified

To further enhance your credentials and job prospects as a Financial Accountant, consider becoming a certified accountant.

The most popular certification is the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation.

To earn the CPA designation, you will need to pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

This exam consists of four sections: Auditing and Attestation (AUD), Business Environment and Concepts (BEC), Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR), and Regulation (REG).

Before you can sit for the CPA exam, you will need to meet certain education and work experience requirements.

These requirements vary by state, but they generally include a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field and a specific number of hours of work experience in public accounting.

Apart from the CPA, there are also other certifications that you could consider such as the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or the Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), depending on your career goals and specialization within the field of financial accounting.

Remember, gaining a certification not only increases your knowledge and expertise but also boosts your credibility and marketability in the job market.

Plus, many employers prefer or require their accountants to hold a certification.


Step 8: Gain Real-World Experience

After completing your formal education and securing a professional certification, the next crucial step to becoming a Financial Accountant is gaining real-world experience.

This can be achieved through entry-level positions, internships, or job shadowing opportunities.

Working in a real-life business environment will allow you to apply the theories and concepts you’ve learned in school to practical situations.

During this time, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of day-to-day financial operations and processes such as preparing financial statements, analyzing financial data, tax preparation, and cost accounting.

You’ll also learn to use accounting software and systems commonly used in the industry.

This hands-on experience is invaluable in helping you understand the intricacies and complexities of the financial accounting field.

It also provides you with the opportunity to develop your problem-solving skills, learn to work within a team, and understand the professional ethics and standards of the industry.

Remember, many employers prefer to hire accountants with some level of experience, so this step is critical in setting you apart from other candidates.

Plus, it is an excellent opportunity to build a professional network that can be beneficial for your career advancement in the future.


Step 9: Pursue Continuous Professional Education

As a financial accountant, it’s vital to stay updated with the latest trends, regulations, and advances in the industry.

Continuous professional education can help you in this regard.

Many professional bodies require their members to engage in a certain number of hours of continuous professional education per year to retain their certification.

You can pursue continuous professional education in a variety of ways.

Attending workshops, webinars, conferences or seminars on financial accounting and related topics can help you stay updated.

These are often provided by professional bodies, industry associations, and sometimes even by your employer.

You can also take online courses or earn additional certifications to enhance your knowledge and skills.

Continuous professional education not only helps you stay abreast of the latest happenings in the financial accounting field but can also help in career advancement.

It can make you more attractive to employers, increase your earning potential, and open up opportunities for leadership roles.

Therefore, as a financial accountant, you should view continuous professional education as an ongoing, career-long commitment.


Step 10: Apply for Financial Accountant Positions

After you have completed your education and certifications, and have gained some relevant experience, it’s time to start applying for positions as a Financial Accountant.

Start by customizing your resume to highlight your education, certifications, and relevant experience.

Be sure to include key skills such as analytical thinking, attention to detail, and expertise in financial software.

Job boards, company websites, and networking events are great places to look for job opportunities.

Tailor your cover letter to each application and emphasize how your specific skills and experiences make you a strong fit for each role.

Before the interview, research the company and the industry thoroughly.

Prepare to answer technical questions about accounting principles, financial modeling, and compliance regulations.

Also be prepared to demonstrate your interpersonal skills, as financial accountants often need to explain complex financial concepts to non-financial staff.

After the interview, follow up with a thank you note to show your continued interest in the position.

Remember, finding the right job can take time.

Be patient and persistent, and don’t be discouraged by rejections.

Keep refining your resume, expanding your network, and gaining more experience and skills.

This will increase your chances of landing your dream job as a Financial Accountant.


Step 11: Build a Professional Network

Building a robust professional network is a critical step for a Financial Accountant seeking to excel in their career.

Networking allows you to connect with other professionals in your field, gain insights into industry trends, and potentially discover new job opportunities.

You can start by networking with your classmates, professors, and professionals you meet during internships or job fairs.

Joining professional organizations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) or your local chapter of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) can provide networking opportunities as well.

Attending seminars, conferences, and workshops is another excellent way to meet industry professionals and learn about the latest advancements in the field of financial accounting.

Make sure to follow up with the contacts you meet at these events to foster your relationships.

In addition, use online platforms like LinkedIn to connect with former colleagues, classmates, and other industry professionals.

You can join relevant groups on these platforms to participate in discussions and stay informed about industry trends and job openings.

Remember, networking is a two-way street.

Always look for ways to help others in your network, such as sharing job leads or industry news.

Building a professional network takes time and effort, but the benefits to your career as a Financial Accountant can be significant.


Step 12: Stay Current with Financial Regulations and Standards

As a financial accountant, it is imperative to stay up-to-date with the latest financial regulations, accounting standards, and economic trends.

The world of finance is dynamic, and changes can occur rapidly, which can significantly impact the way businesses operate.

You need to understand the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), both of which establish guidelines for preparing financial reports.

When these regulations change, it could require substantial adjustments to the way you handle your accounting duties.

You can stay current by participating in professional development courses, attending seminars and workshops, subscribing to finance and accounting journals, and becoming a member of professional organizations.

These can provide you with valuable information and resources, as well as networking opportunities with other professionals in your field.

Additionally, you may consider earning additional certifications such as the Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), or Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) to further enhance your career.

These certifications require continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain, ensuring that you are always up-to-date with the latest in financial accounting.

Remember, in an industry that is constantly evolving, staying updated and knowledgeable is not just beneficial but necessary to ensure you perform your role effectively and ethically.


Financial Accountant Roles and Responsibilities

Financial Accountants are responsible for handling the financial transactions and reporting of a company.

They use their accounting skills to analyze financial data, generate reports, and ensure legal compliance.

They have the following roles and responsibilities:


Financial Reporting

  • Prepare and present financial reports such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements.
  • Analyze financial data and provide forecasts.
  • Work on budget planning and management.


Account Management

  • Manage all accounting operations including Billing, A/R, A/P, GL, Cost Accounting, Inventory Accounting and Revenue Recognition.
  • Handle monthly, quarterly and annual closings.
  • Reconcile accounts payable and receivable.


Legal Compliance

  • Ensure compliance with all financial regulations and standards.
  • Prepare and file tax returns and maintain records for audits.
  • Follow local, state, and federal government reporting requirements and tax filings.


Internal Controls

  • Develop and document business processes and accounting policies to maintain and strengthen internal controls.
  • Monitor the company’s financial status and performance to identify areas for potential improvement.


Financial Analysis

  • Provide financial analysis as needed, for capital investments, pricing decisions, and contract negotiations.
  • Conduct detailed financial analysis to provide insight on company operations and profitability.


Stakeholder Communication

  • Communicate effectively with stakeholders regarding financial performance and forecasts.
  • Work closely with management or executive teams to share reports and analysis findings.



  • Collaborate with auditing services to ensure proper compliance with all regulations.
  • Work with team members to understand revenue and cost drivers and define appropriate reports for tracking.


Continuous Learning

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest accounting standards and regulations.
  • Attend workshops, webinars and professional networking events.


Technical Skills

  • Use accounting software, spreadsheets, and databases.
  • Implement and maintain accounting and management systems as needed.



  • Coordinate the provision of information to external auditors for the annual audit.
  • Conduct internal audits to ensure compliance with financial laws and guidelines.


What Does a Financial Accountant Do?

Financial Accountants primarily work for corporations, small businesses, non-profit organizations or government agencies, but they can also work independently as consultants.

Their primary role is to collect, record, analyze, and present financial information for an organization.

They prepare financial statements such as balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements, ensuring that they comply with applicable standards and regulations.

Financial Accountants often work with a team to audit the company’s financial operations, identifying areas for improvement in efficiency and cost reduction.

They analyze financial data to assist in budget planning and financial forecasting.

They also deal with tax-related tasks, preparing tax returns, and ensuring the organization pays the correct amount of tax.

A crucial part of a Financial Accountant’s role is liaising with internal and external auditors and dealing with any financial irregularities as they arise.

They may also review the company’s systems and analyze risk.

The financial information prepared by the Financial Accountant is used by managers, stakeholders, and other decision makers to guide strategic business decisions, so accuracy and attention to detail are crucial aspects of this role.


Essential Financial Accountant Skills

  • Financial Reporting: It is crucial to be able to prepare and present financial reports, such as balance sheets and income statements, for company management and shareholders.
  • Financial Analysis: The ability to analyze financial data to assess company performance, identify issues, and make recommendations for improvement is essential.
  • Accounting Principles: A thorough understanding of accounting principles, including Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), is essential for maintaining accurate financial records.
  • Financial Software: Proficiency in financial software such as QuickBooks, SAP, and Oracle is important for efficient and accurate financial management.
  • Regulation Compliance: An accountant must be aware of and comply with financial regulations and laws to avoid legal implications and ensure ethical business practices.
  • Excel: Mastery of Excel and similar spreadsheet software is indispensable for a financial accountant for data analysis and financial modeling.
  • Budgeting: The ability to develop, implement, and manage budgets is crucial for forecasting and controlling costs.
  • Auditing: Knowledge and experience in auditing practices helps in detecting discrepancies in financial data and ensuring compliance with accounting standards and regulations.
  • Communication: Clear and concise communication is vital for explaining complex financial information to non-financial colleagues and stakeholders.
  • Attention to Detail: Accounting work requires a high level of precision. Errors can have serious financial and legal implications.
  • Problem-solving: Accountants often need to identify and resolve financial issues, requiring good problem-solving skills.
  • Time Management: Accountants often work with tight deadlines, making good time management and the ability to prioritize tasks crucial.
  • Ethics: Accountants have access to sensitive financial information and must act with integrity and confidentiality.
  • Tax Knowledge: Understanding tax laws and regulations, and how they apply to the business, is vital for effective tax planning and compliance.
  • Teamwork: Financial accountants often work as part of a team, so the ability to collaborate and share knowledge effectively is important.


Financial Accountant Career Path Progression

The Foundation: Junior Financial Accountant

Your career journey generally begins as a Junior Financial Accountant.

This is a phase of learning and assimilation, where your responsibilities may include basic bookkeeping, preparation of financial statements, and assistance in financial audits.

Here are some tips to succeed in this role:

  1. Continual Learning: Update yourself with the latest financial regulations, standards and software.
  2. Seeking Guidance: Don’t hesitate to ask questions from your seniors and learn from their experience.
  3. Active Participation: Show dedication and take responsibility for the tasks assigned to you.


The Ascent: Financial Accountant

With more experience and confidence, you will step into the role of a Financial Accountant.

You are expected to handle more complex financial reports, perform budgeting tasks, and take an active role in tax preparation and filing.

Here’s how to flourish in this stage:

  1. Problem Solving: Improve your problem-solving skills by tackling challenging financial issues and helping in strategic planning.
  2. Collaboration: Embrace teamwork and communicate effectively with your colleagues and other departments.
  3. Attention to Detail: Emphasize on accurate and timely reporting and compliance with financial regulations.


Reaching New Heights: Senior Financial Accountant

The next level in your career journey is the Senior Financial Accountant position.

At this stage, you are acknowledged for your expertise and leadership within the team.

You may take on supervisory roles, guide financial decision-making, and drive financial projects.

To excel as a Senior Financial Accountant:

  1. Mentorship: Share your knowledge and experience with junior accountants.
  2. Strategic Thinking: Think beyond numbers and consider the financial health and strategy of the organization.
  3. Leadership: Lead by example and inspire others with your commitment and problem-solving abilities.


Beyond the Horizon: Finance Manager and Beyond

As your career advances, you may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as becoming a Finance Manager, Director of Finance, or even Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

Each of these roles demands greater responsibilities, leadership, and strategic decision-making.

Here’s what to focus on:

  1. Financial Leadership: Drive financial strategies and guide the financial direction of your projects and teams.
  2. Management Skills: If you transition into management, hone your leadership and communication skills to guide your team effectively.
  3. Innovation: Continue to innovate and stay at the forefront of financial trends.


Pinnacle of Success: Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

You may reach roles like Chief Financial Officer at the pinnacle of the financial accounting career ladder.

Here, you’ll be responsible for shaping the overall financial strategy of the organization, making critical decisions, and managing larger teams.


Financial Accountant Salary

Entry-Level Financial Accountant

  • Median Salary: $45,000 – $60,000 per year
  • Entry-level financial accountants typically have 0-2 years of experience and may hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance.


Mid-Level Financial Accountant

  • Median Salary: $60,000 – $80,000 per year
  • Mid-level financial accountants usually have 2-5 years of experience and often take on more complex responsibilities such as auditing, budgeting and financial forecasting.


Senior Financial Accountant

  • Median Salary: $80,000 – $100,000 per year
  • Senior financial accountants possess 5+ years of experience and are responsible for strategic financial planning, overseeing junior accountants, and making key financial decisions.


Financial Controller / Accounting Manager

  • Median Salary: $90,000 – $130,000+ per year
  • These roles require significant accounting experience and often involve overseeing all aspects of an organization’s accounting functions, financial reporting, and regulatory compliance.


Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

  • Median Salary: $150,000 – $250,000+ per year
  • This top-level position requires extensive financial and management experience, and involves setting financial strategies, risk management, and financial planning for a company.


Financial Accountant Work Environment

Financial Accountants typically work in office environments, which can include small accounting firms, large corporate finance departments, or government agencies.

They may also work remotely or offer their services on a freelance basis.

Their work schedule is often standard business hours, Monday through Friday, although tax season or end-of-year reporting can require additional hours.

Financial accountants spend a significant amount of their time working with computers and various accounting software programs.

Their role can also involve frequent communication with other departments, clients, auditors, and regulatory bodies.

Many financial accountants, after gaining enough experience and knowledge, may decide to start their own accounting firm or consultancy service.


FAQs About Becoming a Financial Accountant

What qualifications do I need to become a Financial Accountant?

To become a Financial Accountant, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field.

Some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree in accounting or a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration in accounting.

You also need to have in-depth knowledge of accounting principles and laws, as well as skills in financial analysis and reporting.

Many companies prefer accountants who are certified, such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in the United States.


How long does it take to become a Financial Accountant?

The time to become a Financial Accountant can vary based on your educational path and career goals.

A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete.

If you decide to pursue a master’s degree, that’s another one to two years.

Also, acquiring professional certifications like the CPA requires a specific period of work experience and passing a series of exams, which can take an additional 18 months or more.

All in all, you can expect to spend six to eight years to become a fully qualified Financial Accountant.


Can I become a Financial Accountant without a degree?

While it’s technically possible to enter the field without a degree, the vast majority of Financial Accountant positions require at least a bachelor’s degree.

This is because the job entails a deep understanding of complex financial laws, principles, and practices that are usually learned in a formal educational setting.

However, if you have extensive experience in bookkeeping or financial clerking, you may be able to progress in your career and work your way up to an accountant role over time.


Is Financial Accounting a stressful job?

Financial Accounting can be stressful at times, particularly during the end of the fiscal year or tax season when the workload can significantly increase.

The job often involves making critical financial decisions and meeting strict regulatory reporting deadlines, which can be challenging.

However, many accountants find the work rewarding and enjoy the problem-solving aspects of the job.


What is the job outlook for Financial Accountants?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for accountants, including Financial Accountants, is expected to grow at a rate of about 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.

As the economy grows, more accountants will be needed to prepare and examine financial records.

Additionally, as financial regulations and tax laws become more complex, the demand for skilled accountants is likely to increase.




And that’s the bottom line.

Venturing out on the path to become a financial accountant is no minor undertaking, but it’s unquestionably fulfilling.

Equipped with the right qualifications, knowledge, and resolve, you’re ready to make a significant impact in the financial sector.

Bear in mind, the journey may be demanding, but the possibilities are endless. Your financial strategies and insights could lead to the next major revolution in business and finance.

So, take the plunge. Immerse yourself in learning. Connect with industry experts. And above all, never stop analyzing.

Because the world is waiting to see what you can accomplish.

And if you’re seeking personalized assistance on kick-starting or progressing your career in financial accounting, look into our AI Career Path Advisor.

This complimentary tool is designed to provide tailored advice and resources to assist you in effectively navigating your career path.

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