Corporate accountants play a crucial role in businesses: They keep track of the money.
A thorough accounting of a company’s revenue and spending can help it maintain its financial stability. A corporate accountant’s thoughtful analysis of an organization’s finances helps it plan for long-term growth.
Besides keeping business executives aware of their companies’ financial performance, corporate accountants are key to keeping companies in compliance with government regulations. Corporate accountants help ensure that accounting strategies are in line with generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP).
People exploring corporate accounting do well to consider earning an advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in accountancy. The in-depth knowledge of a master’s degree program offers a solid base for embarking on a corporate accountant career.
What Is Corporate Accounting?
Corporate accounting deals with business aspects that have to do with money — which can include almost anything.
In a small firm, corporate accountants may handle all the accounting tasks, while a larger company may employ a staff of corporate accountants to split the work.
Corporate accountants help the business manage its day-to-day finances. They make sure that accurate financial records are kept and comply with policies that accounting organizations and government regulatory agencies have laid out. Accounting principles and processes include GAAP, International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.
Maintaining accurate data is important not only for compliance but also for making data-driven decisions. Executives depend on accurate, relevant financial reports.
Corporate accountants often rely on software programs. Software programs assist in all phases of accounting: preparing budgets, creating reports, identifying patterns, highlighting trends, and making forecasts.
Popular accounting software for corporate accountants working in small businesses includes FreshBooks, QuickBooks, Sage 50cloud, and Zoho Books, according to PCMag.
For larger businesses, PCMag lists NetSuite, Acumatica, AccountMate, Denali, Traverse, SAP Business One Professional, Sage 300, QuickBooks Desktop Enterprise, and Microsoft Dynamics GP.
Public Accounting vs. Corporate Accounting: What’s the Difference?
Public accountants and corporate accountants have some key distinctions.
Fundamentally, a public accountant usually works for an accounting firm that provides accounting services to other businesses and organizations. A public accountant likely works for several client companies for over a year.
A corporate accountant, sometimes called a private accountant, works full time for a single company, typically one that makes or sells goods or services, such as cars, insurance, or dry cleaning. The corporate accountant handles only that company’s accounting tasks.
Public accountants and private accountants are similar in that they have much the same education, training, and certifications.
Contrasting Schedules of Corporate and Public Accountants
Public accountants can be employed both inside and outside of client companies. They may spend days, weeks, or months at a client site, depending on the job scope. They may travel for extended periods.
Public accountants tend to be busiest between January 1 and April 15, the tax deadline. The rush of work during tax season can lead to extended hours and more time on the road.
Corporate accountants usually have routine business hours in the same office, and deadlines loom large for them. Performing monthly, quarterly, and fiscal closes, as well as preparing reports, can keep the corporate accountant working extended hours. Crunch times aside, corporate accountants can usually depend on set hours.
Specialization and Versatility
Corporate accountants in bigger companies may specialize in a certain area of accounting, while those in smaller firms may have to be more versatile and perform a variety of accounting tasks. Corporate accountants become familiar with the accounting needs of their company and, by extension, its industry. They may find other job opportunities at similar companies or those with similar accounting procedures.
Some public accountants focus on one accounting area, such as tax accounting, and handle that area for multiple clients. Other public accountants work in a wider range of accounting areas for several clients.
Public accountants advance their careers in their accounting firms as they move up through the ranks to a partner or an executive position. Another common employment path in accounting is for a public accountant to gain experience with various clients and then take a job in corporate accounting, perhaps for a previous client.
Whether an accountant falls under the corporate or public accounting label, it doesn’t hurt to have a certified public accountant (CPA) certification. For some tasks, such as making reports to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the CPA certification is required.
In considering the differences between public accounting vs. corporate accounting, people who value variety may prefer the public accountant role. On the other hand, people who prefer a stable routine may prefer the corporate accountant role.
The Role of the Corporate Accountant
Corporate accountants are crucial to the businesses they work for because chief executives and boards of directors base decisions on the financial information they provide.
Working with executives and managers, corporate accountants prepare budgets that guide the company throughout the year. They keep an eye on how the company’s performance tracks against the budget and can alert executives when changes are needed.
Corporate accountants work with others to set company strategy, helping executives understand how more money can be allocated for each project.
In bigger firms, corporate accountants may manage a staff of accountants, each with an area of responsibility, such as taxes, accounts receivable or accounts payable. Corporate accountants in smaller companies can handle most, if not all, of the accounting tasks.
Corporate accountants in public companies prepare for audits, which public accounting firms conduct. Audits certify that the company’s books are accurate and comply with regulations.
A Corporate Accountant’s Daily Tasks
On a daily basis, corporate accountants pay vendors, bill customers, and track accounts receivable and accounts payable. Other responsibilities include working with lenders and ensuring that payments are made on time.
Corporate accountants gather the information generated by the business’s operations to compile longer-term reports on a company’s financial status. The accountants can spot trends and develop and implement accounting strategies that help the company take advantage of positive trends and counteract negative trends.
An important task for a corporate accountant is preparing and filing financial reports, including those for regulatory and tax purposes. These reports typically show how much money a business has spent and collected monthly, quarterly, and annually.
What’s a Corporate Accounting Salary?
The median annual compensation for a corporate accountant is $57,600, according to the compensation website PayScale, which tracks salaries. A corporate accountant with less than a year on the job earns a median annual compensation of more than $50,300. A corporate accountant with 20 years or more of experience earns a median annual compensation of $62,300.
The geographic location where a corporate accountant works can make a difference in salary. Cities with salaries higher than the national median are San Francisco, New York, and Houston, according to PayScale.
An accountant’s skills can make a difference in salary as well. PayScale reports that higher than median pay is correlated to financial reporting and general ledger accounting skills.
Other Corporate Accounting Jobs
Jobs in corporate accounting have various titles, depending on their specific duties and experience.
In most businesses, accounting managers develop and put into practice financial reporting and analysis systems. Specific duties can include preparing and monitoring budgets and taking action if problems arise. Typically, an accounting manager is a mid-level manager whose tasks include hiring and training accountants. The median annual compensation for an accounting manager is about $72,300, according to PayScale.
Accounting directors supervise staff accountants. They can be liaisons between managers and other parts of a business and the accounting staff. Some of the accounting directors’ time is devoted to using accounting software to process and analyze financial results.
Among accounting directors’ assets should be knowledge of accounting software and basic accounting rules and procedures. Accounting directors should have at least a bachelor’s degree, be CPAs, and have a degree of accounting experience. PayScale reports the median annual salary for an accounting director is around $104,500.
Financial controllers (government financial officers are known as comptrollers) oversee a business’s financial functions, which include accounting, budgeting, and auditing. Among controllers’ duties are generating financial reports, documents, and statements. Financial controllers usually prepare reports destined for regulatory agencies.
Required education levels for controllers are bachelor’s degrees and higher. As with most accounting roles, the more certifications, such as a CPA, the better. Employers look for controllers with up to a decade of experience and that includes time in supervisory roles. The median annual salary for a financial controller is around $84,100, according to PayScale.
Chief Financial Officer
The chief financial officer (CFO) is the top manager of a company’s financial operations, occupying a spot in the executive suite with the chief executive, president, and other senior managers. The CFO oversees accounting operations and presents financial information to senior executives.
The job’s responsibilities include managing cash flow, planning, performing analysis, and making recommendations for better financial and overall corporate performance. The CFO maintains accounting skills and uses communication skills to educate others about the company’s finances. CFOs earn a median annual salary of around $135,700, according to PayScale.
An Organization’s Strategic Backbone
Few jobs in a business are more integral to its performance than accountants. They keep track of the numbers, which are the foundation of a business. Accountants need to know more than how to find their way around a balance sheet; they need to use financial data to help executives and managers make the best decisions.
Ohio University’s Online Master of Accountancy program provides an opportunity for professionals to advance their accounting careers. You will develop the skills and expertise that corporate accountants count on every day. Courses offered in the curriculum, such as Advanced Managerial Decision Making, Advanced Auditing, and Assurance Services, and Accounting for Executives, help students develop the skills and expertise that corporate accountants count on every day.
Discover how Ohio University’s Online Master of Accountancy can prepare you to excel in corporate accounting.
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Houston Chronicle, “Public Accountants vs. Corporate Accountants”
Houston Chronicle, “Responsibility of a Financial Controller”
Houston Chronicle, “The Role of Accounting in Business”
Investopedia, “Chief Financial Officer (CFO)”
Investopedia, “What Management Accountants Do”
PayScale, Average Accounting Director Salary
PayScale, Average Accounting Manager Salary
PayScale, Average Corporate Accountant Salary
PayScale, Average Financial Controller Salary
PCMag, “The Best Enterprise Accounting Software”
PCMag, “The Best Small Business Accounting Software for 2020”