Understanding Accounting Position Titles and Department Hierarchies

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Two men discussing accounting charts

Accounting teams often range in size from one or two-person teams to large teams of dozens of accounting professionals within sizable corporations. Likewise, accounting firms are entities that exclusively perform accounting and auditing tasks and also need some type of organizational structure to establish roles, responsibilities, and authority. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in accounting should understand the basic authority structure they may encounter within an accounting firm or department.

Accounting Position Titles: An Overview

The roles within an accounting operation (whether an accounting firm or a division within a corporation or government entity) could vary depending on the type of organization, accounting needs, personnel, and other factors. In fact, the number of technical titles within the accounting job market and the responsibilities that accompany each one varies widely. However, there are several standard accounting roles that you can anticipate finding almost anywhere you look. The following exploration will explain these common accounting roles and will include the accounting job titles one would most likely encounter while searching for accounting positions.

Accounting Clerk

Accounting clerks are also often responsible for daily reporting, filing, and recordkeeping tasks. However, accounting clerk roles sometimes include other responsibilities which may include data entry, payroll, processing bills and invoices, and daily transactions. Like file clerks, they would report to a higher-ranking accounting professional within the division or firm.

Accountants and Analysts

Accountants and analysts have almost always undergone more schooling than clerks and bear responsibility for the correctness and proficiency of their work. The records they prepare are often used not only internally for strategic or evaluative purposes within the company but might also be used to file taxes, submit to independent boards or organizations, or shared with stockholders or investors. Depending on the size of the organization, it may employ only one accountant or it could have enough work to keep a large team of accountants and analysts busy.

Accounting Managers

As previously mentioned, the hierarchy that exists within any particular company depends on the size and scope of their accountancy needs. However, larger companies may employ from one to several accounting managers as part of their accounting team. Often in large companies that need multiple accounting managers, their responsibilities are divided by accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll or internal duties.


A controller or director position exists in larger accounting operations. This type of position is often used when a company has multiple facilities or locations. A controller would typically be responsible for all accounting activities that happen at his or her facility. The controller(s) or accounting director(s) usually report directly to the organization’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO).

CFO/Vice President

Large corporations employ a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Vice President of Finance to manage all the financial aspects of the business or operation. This person would relay the financial reports, analyses, and projections developed by the accounting team to the rest of the executive team, including the Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In large corporate hierarchies, a vice president of accounting position may also exist below the CFO depending on the volume of duties and management necessary to perform necessary accounting and financial functions. At top levels of accounting management, the ability to translate figures and numerical data into usable information is imperative so as to inform the direction and long-term strategy of the company. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ summation of a top executive’s position, executive-level professionals must possess the ability to determine the organization or company’s direction and then execute those directives and financial executives are no exception.

Roles within the accounting field vary widely. Entry-level positions might require only general education and do not bestow significant responsibilities. However, positions that fit higher on the chain of command within the accounting hierarchy require more education, certification, experience, credentials, and the ability to assume more responsibility as one ascends through the ranks. Since the field of accounting includes such a wide range of positions and work types, exploring the various opportunities available within accounting will help you determine the most advantageous educational path to reach your career goals.

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Numbers are the foundation of any business — and no one knows numbers better than accountants. But to succeed as a financial professional in today’s competitive landscape, you need more than numerical know-how; you need the expertise to conduct analysis and leverage data to drive business decisions. That’s exactly what the online Master of Accountancy from Ohio University prepares you to do.


Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Top Executives”
Chron, “Accounting Hierarchy in the Workplace”
The Balance Careers, “Accounting Careers: Options, Job Titles, and Descriptions”