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Accounting Professional vs. Financial Manager

by KJ Henderson

Accounting professionals and financial managers prepare financial records and develop strategies to ensure that their businesses are in top financial health. Although some of their responsibilities overlap, many of the duties they perform are unique to their respective professions.

Accounting Professional Job Titles

Many accounting professionals boast job titles that specifically describe the accounting function they perform. For example, government accountants are employed by local, state and federal authorities to examine the records of government agencies and the private businesses they regulate. Internal auditors are employed by private businesses to identify and minimize financial inefficiency and fraud. Management accountants analyze and prepare documents that are used by financial managers to make strategic business decisions. Lastly, public accountants provide accounting services, such as tax preparation, to third-party individual and commercial clients.

Financial Manager Job Titles

Like accounting professionals, financial managers are given specific job titles to describe exactly what they do. Credit managers, for example, direct a financial institution’s credit business, such as credit card loans and mortgages. Cash managers, meanwhile, oversee a business’ liquid cash flow. Controllers prepare important financial reports, such as balance sheets. Many of these documents are required by regulating government agencies. Insurance managers and risk managers mitigate loss to a business though the use of actuarial science and insurance policies, respectively. Treasurers or finance offers are responsible for a business’ overall budget.

Occupational Differences

The job duties carried out by accounting professionals differ from those of financial managers. Financial managers are the most senior numbers professionals in their organizations, reporting directly to executive management, such as the chairman, CEO or president. Accounting professionals, on the other hand, are junior to mid-level employees who report to financial managers. In addition, the salary paid to accounting professionals is much lower than that of financial managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2010 that the median income earned by accountants and auditors was $61,690. The top earner in this professional made more than $106,000, while the lowest made less than $39,000 per year. Financial managers, on the other hand, were paid much more, with an overall average income of $103,910. Although the lowest 10 percent of those in this field boasted salaries less than $57,000, the top 10 percent made more than $166,000.

Occupational Similarities

Accounting professionals and financial managers are similar in that they are the financial backbone of their organization. As a result, the educational qualifications to join both fields are the same. At minimum, both professionals must possess a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance or a related major. In addition, candidates who have a master’s of business administration degree with a concentration in accounting or finance are especially desired. Some accounting professionals and financial managers who work for publicly traded companies prepare reports that will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In these instances, both professionals are required by law to possess a Certified Professional Accountant license, which is issued by a state’s Board of Accountancy.

About the Author

KJ Henderson has more than a decade of HR and talent acquisition experience. He has held roles at a Fortune 100 investment bank, a media conglomerate and at one of NYC's largest executive staffing firms. He currently heads recruitment sourcing at a major movie studio. He read literature at Oxford.

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