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How do I Become a Senior Financial Accountant?

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  • Written By: Sheila Shanker
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2016
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To become a senior financial accountant, a four year degree in accounting is usually required. It is common for a staff accountant to move up to this position after three to five years on the job. In most countries, many senior accountants have master degrees and/or are certified as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Management Accountant (CMA®). Most have excellent computer skills, especially with spreadsheets, the number one tool for many professional accountants.

Plans to become a senior financial accountant should include acquiring a variety of experience in certain areas. You could become senior accountant in accounts receivable, accounts payable, or in the general ledger area. The key in getting into a senior role is to be able to learn and perform tasks so that you are able to train others. It is not uncommon for senior accountants to supervise staff accountants and clerical workers, making good communication skills a must.

If you have a four-year degree and some experience in accounting or bookkeeping, the next step is to prove that you can do senior-level work. Senior financial accountants know why they perform certain tasks and how those tasks relate to other accounting processes. They are aware of the theory behind the work and do not need to be trained on basic accounting processes. Senior financial accountants ask questions about their work to make sure they understand what they are doing and why.

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Senior accountants usually perform work associated with financial audits, including special schedules and reconciliations. They may work directly with auditors and answer questions about financial processes and accounting issues, such as reasons for adjustments, discrepancies, account analysis, and reports. They have the experience to understand audit questions and respond to them in a professional manner, avoiding overly emotional responses or immature remarks. They may need to research issues or to get answers from staff personnel.

If you are serious about becoming a senior accountant, you should look for challenges at work and ask questions to really learn the processes thoroughly. You should become familiar with the general ledger and how it works in generating computerized reports. The closer you are to generating financial reports, the better your chances to become a senior financial accountant. If you are working in accounts receivable, for example, learn how the accounts receivable transactions affect the general ledger. There are many ways to gain a senior position, and the combination of education and experience provides many with the path to this job.

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