What are the Different Accounting Roles?

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  • Written By: Osmand Vitez
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2019
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Accounting is the way most businesses keep score of their operational performance. Rather than using subjective measures to gauge performance, accounting allows for a straight forward measurement in terms of profit made and money owed. Many accounting roles exist in the business environment. Clerks, staff accountants, supervisors, and controllers are the most common roles in an accounting office. These individuals handle tasks such as accounts payables or receivable, posting journal entries, signing off on ledgers and journals, setting accounting policy, and creating financial directives for the company.

Working as an accountant does not necessarily require a formal college degree. Individuals can obtain a position working as either a bookkeeper or accounting clerk, which are often the lowest positions within an accounting office. Accounting clerks can post entries, review invoices, handle customer inquiries, reconcile accounts or manage journals in the accounting ledger. These accounting roles often need direct supervision from an individual who has a degree and/or professional accounting license. Bookkeepers and accounting clerks may be unable to handle complex accounting tasks, as they do not have the educational background for this process.


Staff accountants are the next level in terms of overall accounting roles. Most organizations employ staff accountants to handle the bulk of financial transactions. Staff accountants can post journal entries, create reconciliations, prepare financial statements, close the accounting ledger and prepare or complete any ad hoc projects given by supervisors and managers. While these tasks are very similar to those of a bookkeeper, the difference comes from the perception among the accounting roles. During an external audit, companies will degreed staff accountants have a better chance of passing any questions regarding questions on the ability of their accountants handling financial transactions.

Accounting roles also require a mid-level manager to oversee accountants. Supervisors will often oversee bookkeepers and accounting clerks, while accounting managers will oversee an entire division of accountants. For example, a senior staff accountant can double as a supervisor over staff accountants, bookkeepers or clerks. Accounting managers will oversee an entire group or division of accountants, such as accounts payable, general accounting, fixed assets or treasury analysts.

Controllers are often the highest position in an accounting office. A controller will set the accounting policy for the office and oversee all actions by the other accounting roles. This position is also the liaison between internal and external communication. Auditors who review the company’s financial information will work with the controller to create the schedule and complete the process. Executives and upper-level management will also rely on the controller to prepare and review financial statements for the organization, which represents the financial health of the company.


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