When most people think about junior and senior accountants, they would be hard-pressed to describe the differences in their job roles besides the obvious point that one is more experienced than the other. However, while the job roles share a common ground, each role supports the employer in different ways. Junior accountants focus more on bookkeeping and recording financial transactions, while seniors take a more strategic role and look "beyond the numbers."
What They Do
A junior accountant is an entry-level position in a finance team that requires less than five years' experience in the field. Duties vary, but generally, the junior is responsible for recording the organization's financial transactions, posting journal entries, managing payroll taxes and updating financial statements. A senior accountant is more concerned with the integrity of the accounting — making sure that everyone follows the proper accounting rules. She also takes a more strategic role in managing the company's finances, which means looking at beyond the raw numbers and suggesting ways to reduce costs, increase revenue and improve the company's bottom line.
Where and How They Work
You'll find both junior and senior accountants working for the government, individuals, nonprofits and corporations in just about every industry sector. The main difference is, a junior accountant would be support staff to the larger finance team and supervised by a senior accountant. After a few years and depending on his performance, a junior may move up into a senior role. Senior accountants, by contrast, typically have more autonomy and are trusted to know the proper way to handle accounting procedures and client requests. A senior accountant might lead a team of junior accountants within a large finance team.
What Credentials They Have
Accountants typically need a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related subject like math, economics or finance. Junior bookkeepers with an associate's degree may sometimes transfer to a junior accounting position if their employer is willing to support the switch. While still relatively junior, most accountants start working towards a certification such as the Certified Public Accountant or Certified Management Accountant designation. These certifications prove an accountant's professional competence and some employers require them before they will promote the accountant to a senior role.
How Much They Are Paid
If you lined up all accountants from the lowest paid to the highest paid, the person in the middle would earn $68,150 in 2018. Not surprisingly, a senior accountant would expect to sit at the higher end of the scale. In terms of the numbers, a junior accountant can expect to earn around $56,000 per year rising to $70,000 per year by the time she has 10 years' experience. The top 10 percent of accountants make $120,910 annually, but these types of wages typically are reserved for those with 20 years' experience or more.