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How To Become An Operational Accountant: Degree & Career Guide

Have you ever wondered what goes into running a business? We often admire business owners of well-established businesses for the hard work and consistency that goes into the operations and processes of an organization, but we often forget that the business owner may not be experienced in the elements that comprise a business.

It is for that reason that business owners usually hire people who are experts in their particular field, to apply their knowledge to the business operations of a particular company.

When it comes to running a business, an important part of that business is the financial operations. It is therefore extremely important to have an operational accountant on board to help the business owner carry out the financial processes of a company.

To become an operational accountant, you would first need to obtain your bachelor's degree, gain experience, obtain your certification, and you may even consider pursuing a graduate degree.

Let us take a closer look at the role of an operational accountant and why it is important for a business to have one on its team.

What Is An Operational Accountant?

An operational accountant executes inward-facing duties. Their primary role is to assess financial data and records to establish viable budgets, and to manage the financial and payroll aspects for all company employees, and they use this financial data to plan for the company's future, financial and otherwise.

Operational accountants may look at the same financial data as other accountants, but they use this data to establish projections for the company's internal operations.

What Do Operational Accountants Do?

Operational accountants will assess the financial data of a company to determine the growth projections of the company, assess how long a company has to be profitable, and to make sure that a company has the potential to grow in the years to come.

When you think about payroll operations, it may not seem like something straightforward. You just have to count the hours that someone works and pay them for that time, right? Unfortunately, it is far more complicated than that.

When you are doing the payroll of a company, you also have to assess the leave days that are available to the employees, both paid and unpaid days, you have to calculate if any of these leave days have been used and how this would affect their salary.

Additionally, you'd also have to assess if there are any deductions that need to be considered and taken off from the employee's monthly salary, and you would also have to calculate the employer and the employee contributions.

You would also have to assess the budget of a business in great detail, and in most cases, it would be up to the operational accountant to decide where the business would need to make budgetary cuts.

Steps To Become An Operational Accountant

Step One: Obtain Your Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming an operational accountant is obtaining your bachelor's degree in accounting, finance, or in business administration. Through your degree, you will not only gain a theoretical understanding of financial and accounting processes, but you will also be exposed to the essential skills you will need to be an operational accountant.

You will need to have critical thinking skills, analytical skills, and the ability to conceptualize and understand multiple thoughts while assigning sufficient funds to each operational function.

Step Two: Gain Experience

Whether you are gaining experience through an entry-level role, or through an internship, you would need to gain this experience to effectively apply your theoretical understanding to practical application.

This will also be beneficial to you in that you will usually work under the expertise of a senior and experienced operational accountant.

Step Three: Obtain Certification

Once you have gained your bachelor's degree and the appropriate experience, you would need to check your state requirements for you to become a certified public accountant (CPA), a certified management accountant (CMA), or a chartered financial analyst (CFA).

Once you are certain that you have met the minimum requirements, you are then eligible to sit for the examinations to obtain your certification. Thereafter, once you have proven to be successful, you will be certified to assume the role of an operational accountant.

Step Four: Gain State Licensure

The last step for you to take before you can start your job search is to obtain your state licensure. Once you have completed this final step, you can then begin the application process and start searching for your ideal dream job.

How Much Does An Operational Accountant Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), accountants and auditors earn a median annual salary of $77,250 and a median hourly rate of $37.14.

The BLS also states that there will be a projected 6% growth in the employment of accountants and auditors in the next decade.

What Skills Do I Need To Be An Operational Accountant?

You would need to have analytical skills, critical thinking skills, superior communication skills, and the ability to work as part of a financial team.


Is An Operational Accountant A Good Job?

Considering that you will be in a sturdy and long-term profession with consistent growth and a great opportunity for upward mobility, being an operational accountant is a good career path to follow.

What Are The Prospects For Growth In This Field?

If you consider enrolling for a graduate degree program such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or for your master's degree in accounting or any related field, you will be able to climb the career ladder much faster than if you just have a bachelor's degree.

Also, having a master's degree grants you access to senior-level roles instead of the prospect of starting at an entry-level role.

How Long Does It Take To Become An Operational Accountant?

It can take around seven years to become an operational accountant as this is the general amount of time it would take to complete your degree, gain experience, and obtain your certification and license.


Being a key role player in making sure a company is fully operational takes a lot of hard work and skills. If this is the direction you are hoping to go in, if you are mathematically inclined, and if this is where your natural inclination leads, then being an operational accountant is a great career path for you.

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