The complexity of the accounting function lends itself to a number of challenging leadership opportunities. If you are interested in pursuing an advanced accounting degree from the UAB Collat School of Business, it’s important to understand what types of careers might await you post-graduation.
These career paths are often associated positive growth rates for educated and experienced professionals who can bring industry knowledge, strategic thinking, and detail orientation to the job. Salary ranges for these positions vary due to miscellaneous parameters, such as geographic location, company size, company revenues, scope of influence, and immediacy of hiring need, among others. Below, you will find brief profiles on four of the top careers in the management hierarchy, including salary and growth statistics as reported by Accounting.com and Salary.com:
1. Financial Manager
Average Annual Salary Range: $100,530 to $130,406 (2017 data)
Projected Growth Rate: 9 percent (2012-2022)
Reporting up to the Controller or CFO, the Financial Manager provides lower-level oversight of all of a company’s financial dealings. This includes financial planning and goal setting, financial analysis and reporting, investment management, and related functions. The role of Financial Manager ranks eighth (8th) in the Top 25 “Best Business Jobs for 2017” by U.S. News & World Report.
The technical skills and fundamental knowledge gained through a Master of Accounting degree can create a solid foundation for becoming an accounting leader in one of the above roles. To work toward these management roles, accountants should not only have experience and an advanced education, but also possess unique skills that will help them thrive as workplace leaders. General leadership skills are important, but even more important are specific skill sets like an ability to challenge the status quo, data-based decision making acumen, and more. These skill sets reflect the fact that today’s accounting managers must be willing to break out of the routines and rigors of a precision industry to explore new ways of thinking and doing business.
2. Auditing Manager
Average Annual Salary Range: $102,496 to $36,118 (2017 data)
Projected Growth Rate: 13 percent (2012-2022)
Whether conducting internal or external audits, an Auditing Manager should be detail-oriented when reviewing a company’s financial documents for potential discrepancies. They and their teams must be able to identify abnormalities and risk areas, as well as call out clear incidents of fraud and mismanagement. Today’s Auditing Manager should also have a firm grasp of automation and artificial intelligence technology as applied to the auditing function., as these are becoming fundamental tools in accounting and auditing. According to website CFO, “Machines and AI-enabled technology will streamline data acquisition challenges faced by auditors. AI will minimize the burdens of once time-consuming tasks of seeking out relevant information, pulling it out of documents, and converting it into usable formats. That will leave humans to review, analyze, and audit.”
3. Chief Accounting Officer (Controller)
Average Annual Salary Range: $150,187 to $220,402 (2017 data)
Projected Growth Rate: 9 percent (2012-2022)
The Chief Accounting Officer, aka Controller, has the responsibility for overseeing all activities involved in ensuring the proper financial management of the organization. Areas of accountability typically include budgeting, accounting, financial reporting, internal controls, auditing, and compliance. Successful Chief Accounting Officers tend to have a blend of both hard and soft skills, along with an understanding of business trends like outsourcing and automation.
4. Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
Average Annual Salary Range: $240,558 to $390,109 (2017 data)
Projected Growth Rate: 11 percent (2012-2022)
Working at a level above the Controller, Chief Financial Officers (CFO) are responsible for all activities associated with financial reporting. They direct teams to achieve established financial goals, manage budgets for adherence to financial plans, oversee company investment activity, mitigate financial risks, and subsequently deliver annual or other periodic financial reports. CFOs are often eligible for performance-based bonuses and incentives based on the company’s fiscal well-being.
Today’s Most Valuable Skill Sets for Accounting Leaders
Some skills sets to evaluate and consider as you pursue a management role in accounting include:
This includes watching industry-wide trends for new and “disruptive” business practices. For example, automation solutions and artificial intelligence technologies have entered the accounting space and can easily process larger volumes of data in shorter periods of time than humans. Knowing that this change is on the horizon can help accounting managers look for ways to sharpen their consultative skills and those of their team, in order to remain relevant once time-consuming tasks are machine driven.
Challenging the Status Quo
In a world that is moving too fast to keep up with, the status quo is already under siege. Taking on the role of “change agent,” which may not necessarily be a comfort zone for existing professionals, can help you grow into the future. Depending on your role, challenging the status quo might mean recommending new technologies, delivering more client-centric services, providing data in infographics versus charts, or any number of strategies with a purpose.
With so much data available, it is not a matter of interpreting data as much as it is a matter of knowing what data to interpret. Investing in high-powered data analytics software and services will typically give a good return in intellectual property. Predictive analytics, in particular, can provide basis for informed, data-driven accounting decisions.
Making Effective Decisions
This is one area where slow and steady still wins the race. Taking the time to explore all options, weigh the cost/benefit, and identify potential risks can avoid costly mistakes. Accounting professionals can excel as careful and thoughtful decision makers based on their analytical skills and tendency toward risk avoidance.
Aligning with Teams and Clients
Accounting managers need to have an understanding of their external and internal clients’ expectations, needs, and goals. Being sensitive to how a customer views data might help you present important statistics and talking points in a different fashion. The same goes for knowing what employees want in terms of training, flexibility, incentives, and other programs. Helping employees align with the bigger picture of what the company does for others – “putting a face on the business” – can also help with greater job satisfaction levels.
As we all learned as children, there is an opportunity to learn from each interaction and experience. In the world of accounting that can mean hearing of (and investigating) an innovation that can help you do your job more efficiently, seeing a piece of data that changes the way you view a certain customer, or coming across a new opportunity to grow your career. Being curious also helps you identify risks, analyze successes, and adjust to challenges with a closer eye.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Master of Accounting
With the experience and skill sets, people who have true passion for the strategy and business of accounting have the potential for a bright future ahead. Advanced education and certifications, such as a Master of Accounting from UAB’s Collat School of Business and CPA credentials, can help you work toward leadership roles in this evolving field.