Exploring the Accounting Career Path: Roles, Salaries, and Progression

An overview of the various roles within the accounting profession, the salaries associated with each role and the account career progression path within the field.
Online student looking at computer

Are you interested in exploring a career as an accountant?

At Xavier University, we offer a robust Accounting Undergraduate Major (BSBA). Available as a four-year program or a five-year professional accountancy program, our accounting majors graduate with the skills they need to succeed in accounting, information systems, cost management, taxation, or auditing. 

But before you take the plunge into your education, you may want to familiarize yourself with the accounting career path.

In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at the various roles within the accounting profession, the salaries associated with each role, and the account career progression path within the field. We will also explore the skills necessary to thrive as an accountant and the pros and cons of pursuing a career in accounting. 

What Does an Accountant Do?

An accountant is a financial expert who specializes in the management of financial records, statements, and transactions. They help businesses, individuals and organizations maintain accurate financial records and ensure that all financial activities are in compliance with government rules and regulations. Professional accountants perform a variety of tasks, including preparing financial reports, analyzing financial information, and providing guidance on financial decision-making.

One of the primary responsibilities of an accountant is to keep track of financial transactions. This involves recording all the financial activities of the business, such as sales, expenses, and receivables, as well as payments made to vendors, suppliers, and employees. Accountants use specialized accounting software to manage these transactions and ensure they are properly categorized, recorded, and reported.

In addition to keeping financial records, accountants also prepare and analyze financial reports. This includes creating balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statements. These reports help business owners and managers understand the financial health of their businesses and make informed decisions regarding financial management.

Accountants also play an important role in tax preparation and compliance. They help businesses and individuals prepare and file tax returns, ensure they are in compliance with tax laws, and advise clients on how to minimize taxes.

Why Should You Be an Accountant?

There are plenty of reasons why you should consider a career as an accountant. Here are just some of the advantages of choosing this important career:

  • Stability: One of the main reasons is the stability and growth potential of the accounting field. Accounting is a fundamental component of every business and organization, ensuring that all financial information is accurate and up-to-date. This means that there will almost always be a high demand for skilled accounting professionals in the job market, providing job security and numerous opportunities for career advancement.
  • Versatility: Another reason why you should pursue a career in accounting is the versatility of the field. As an accountant, you can work in a wide variety of industries, including public accounting firms, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private corporations. Additionally, job opportunities in the accounting field continue to expand into new areas such as data analytics, sustainability reporting, and information technology.
  • Benefits: A career in accounting also offers attractive perks, including competitive salaries, bonuses, and comprehensive benefits packages. Additionally, many accounting firms and companies offer flexible schedules, allowing for a better work-life balance.
  • Personal development: Lastly, pursuing a career in accounting provides the opportunity for personal and professional growth. Accountants are constantly learning new skills and adapting to changes in the industry, which allows for professional development. Additionally, accountants are valuable members of their communities, using their expertise to assist in financial planning and charitable organizations.

Accounting Hierarchy and Progressing within The Role

Within the field of accounting, there is no shortage of opportunities for advancement. Although career trajectory may vary depending on the particular firm, most accounting jobs follow a common hierarchy that defines various roles and levels of responsibility as accountants gain experience and progress in their field. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common roles in accounting and the responsibilities associated with each.

Entry-Level Associate

An entry-level associate is typically responsible for basic bookkeeping tasks and financial statement preparation. They may also assist with tax preparation and perform other administrative duties as needed.

Senior Associate

Senior accounting associates take on more complex accounting responsibilities, such as financial analysis and audit preparation. Senior associates may also be responsible for supervising the work of entry-level associates.

Accounting Manager/Project Leader

Accounting managers or project leaders are responsible for overseeing a team of associates, managing complex accounting projects, and supervising financial and tax reporting. They may also be responsible for developing new accounting policies and procedures.

Senior Manager/Director

Senior managers or directors in accounting have significant responsibility for the financial health of the company. These leaders are responsible for managing a team of accounting professionals, developing financial strategies, and ensuring compliance with accounting regulations.

Managing Director

Managing directors are responsible for the entire accounting department of a company. They set financial strategy, manage all accounting operations, and ensure that the company’s financial health is secure.


Partners are at the top of the accounting hierarchy. Accountants in this prestigious role are responsible for managing clients and developing new business, as well as providing leadership and direction to the entire firm. You may also be responsible for developing new accounting techniques and policies.

Accounting Salaries

Accounting salaries can vary widely depending on your level of experience and the specific area of accounting in which you work. Entry-level positions typically earn between $45,000 and $55,000 per year, while senior executives and partners can potentially earn salaries that exceed $500,000 per year.

Skills For Accountants

Accounting is a complex and dynamic profession that requires a diverse range of skills to succeed. As an accountant, it is important to possess not only technical accounting knowledge, but also strong communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills. Here are some of the top skills required for successful accountants:

Attention to Detail: Accountants must have a keen eye for detail to accurately prepare financial statements and identify errors.

Analytical Thinking: The ability to analyze financial data, identify trends, and draw conclusions from financial reports is critical to the success of an accountant.

Communication: Accountants must be able to communicate complex financial information to clients, colleagues, and stakeholders in a clear and understandable way.

Technology proficiency: As technology continues to reshape the accounting profession, it is crucial for accountants to have a good understanding of accounting software and other relevant technology tools.

Problem-solving: Accountants are often faced with complex issues that require creative problem-solving skills, especially when dealing with auditing and taxation.

Time management: Accountants must be able to manage their time effectively and multi-task to prioritize work and deliverables.

Ethics and integrity: Accountants must always operate with high ethical standards, integrity, and confidentiality as they handle sensitive financial data.

Pros and Cons of an Accounting Career Path

As with any career path, there are both pros and cons to pursuing a career in accounting. Here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages to consider.


Choosing a career as an accountant has numerous advantages, including:

• High demand and job security

• Good salary potential

• Opportunities for career advancement

• The ability to work in various industries

• The potential for flexible work arrangements

• The ability to be self-employed and work remotely

• The opportunity to make a positive impact on clients’ financial well-being

• The chance to continuously learn and develop new skills.


Some potential drawbacks of working as an accountant may include:

  • High-pressure work environment
  • Repetitive tasks
  • Long hours, particularly during tax season
  • Difficulty in staying up-to-date with industry laws and regulations
  • Lack of creativity in the job tasks
  • A need for strict adherence to deadlines and accuracy

However, it’s important to note that these pros and cons may vary significantly between particular accounting roles and particular accounting firms. As with any career, professional accountants can expect a mixture of experiences in their work.

Overall, a career in accounting can be an excellent choice for those who are interested in finance, taxation, and business strategy. With a range of potential opportunities available and the potential to earn high salaries, it is certainly a career worth considering for those who have the necessary skills and attributes.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career as an accountant, see what Xavier University can do for you. At Xavier, we’re driven by a dedication to the common good and the education of the whole person. As a Jesuit Catholic university, we prepare students for a meaningful life of work, service, and personal fulfillment with a rigorous education rooted in the liberal arts tradition. Request information about our Accounting Undergraduate (BSBA) to learn more about the curriculum, coursework, and your future at Xavier University.


What are the levels of accounting positions?

There are various levels of accounting positions, including entry-level accounting clerk or bookkeeper, staff accountant, senior accountant, accounting manager/supervisor, and chief financial officer (CFO). Some companies may have additional levels or different titles for these positions, but these are the most common levels in accounting.

What is the path after earning an accounting degree?

After earning an accounting degree, there are various paths that one can take such as public accounting, corporate accounting, government accounting, non-profit accounting, entrepreneurship, or pursuing further education such as obtaining a Master’s degree in Accounting or obtaining a professional certification such as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).

Other Resources from Xavier University Online