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Accounting Careers: Speaking the Language of Business


Name: Toni Miller
Job Title: Accounting Manager
Where: Kent, WA – USA
Years of Experience: 15
Education: High school and some college
Annual Salary: Interested in accounting careers or an auditing career? See PayScale’s Research Center to learn more about careers in accounting and accounting salaries.

Accounting involves more than just crunching numbers. Businesses use accounting methods to translate their day-to-day activities into financial variables, and then analyze issues such as efficiency and productivity. The idea of analyzing financial information may cause some people to yawn, but accounting careers can be both challenging and rewarding. In this Salary Story, you’ll meet Toni Miller, an accounting manager who plays an important role in her company. Actually, her job involves several roles and numerous responsibilities, as Toni describes in the following interview.

Toni offers advice on how to prepare for an accounting career and what to expect from an accounting manager position. She gives an insider’s look at what accounting careers are really like and discusses the top challenges she faces on the job. If you’re a problem-solving whiz looking for a career in finance or business, don’t miss this interview!

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Job description of an Accounting Manager:

I work for a small, family owned wholesaler. There are four individuals in my department. I oversee the day-to-day accounting operations. I manage accounts payable, accounts receivable, general ledger, bank accounts, payroll, financial statements and other duties as assigned. I’ve worked myself into the position as the “go to” person, due to my willingness to help and my longevity with the company.

Some of my daily tasks include: reconciling bank accounts and managing cash flow for inventory purchases, reviewing accounts receivable to make sure we are billing our customers correctly, and reviewing accounts payable to verify we are expensing payments into the correct general ledger account. There are many opportunities to help the bottom line in the reviews I do. I also end up doing some human resource work. The accountants in small companies usually end up with the HR functions. And I compile the financial statements each month.

PayScale: What motivated you to pursue an accounting career?

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I started my career in accounting by accident. Originally, I wanted an active job. I joined the Coast Guard and thought I’d be a rescue swimmer or something exciting. Due to physical limitations, I ended up behind a desk. Accounting was one of the few choices available. But it’s turned out to be a good thing. I ended up starting in the accounting field and learning as I went along. What has motivated me to continue is the wide range of work that accounting careers permit. With accounting careers, people can work at an entry-level position, be a CFO, or work anywhere in between. All businesses need accountants. So, there’s a lot of variety to choose from in accounting careers.

PayScale: What do you love about being an accounting manager?

I love that I have to problem solve. By the time a problem reaches me, there is usually no simple fix. I have to use my knowledge and judgment to lead to a best outcome solution. I like the challenge this presents. And, when I need a break from problem solving, there are always routine tasks that need to be completed.

PayScale: What are the biggest challenges you face as an accounting manager?

The biggest challenge is making decisions. I thought accounting careers were black and white, but they aren’t. The other challenge is staying focused when the job gets redundant.

PayScale: What advice would you give to those interested in accounting careers?

The number one thing a person should do is take a basic accounting course to learn “debits and credits.” A person needs to understand “debits and credits” if he/she has any ambition of moving up in the field.

PayScale: What’s the most amazing thing you’ve seen as an accounting manager?

The most amazing thing is seeing how accounting is able to provide information that helps steer the company in the direction it needs to go to be successful. In my job, basically everything the company does is broken down into data. From there it can be easily analyzed to see how the company is performing in different areas, which in turn signifies the directions in which to move.

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