From Clerk to CFO: How to Get Ahead in Your Corporate Accounting Career

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checkAs an accounting clerk, it may seem like you’ll never be able to move up to a CFO position, you can do it if you work hard and dedicate yourself to furthering your career. Many CFOs started off as accounting clerks and worked their way up, and you can too. The major factors to keep in mind when furthering your corporate accountant career are education and internal promotions.

Education in Accounting

The first key to furthering your corporate accounting career is education. You should always be working towards a specialist certification, a bachelor’s or a master’s degree if you don’t have one. Specialized training can be a great way for accounting clerks to get ahead in their careers, as it allows them to learn more about the different types of corporate accounting. Getting specialized accounting training can allow you to move from being a general accounting clerk to a payroll clerk, a bookkeeping clerk, a payment processing clerk or an accounts receivable specialist.

It’s easier to get an education while working than you think. Many companies want to see their employees succeed, and they will often offer tuition reimbursement or other incentives for their employees to get further training in their fields. Even if you already have years of formal education in accounting, you can always benefit from further education. Many CFOs at major companies have master’s degrees in accounting and even other fields like business or law.


Leadership skills are often neglected by employees when they are in a position which doesn’t require it. However, as your career in finance and operations progresses, leadership skills become more important. Even if your position does not require management, understand that leadership and strong public speaking and presentation skills are interwoven. Be sure to develop strong public speaking skills by joining Toastmasters or similar organizations around you. Additionally, to progress your career, consulting opportunities are very good opportunities to flex your presentation skills and creative thinking. Top financial executives often come from “Big 5” type companies and have a lot of experience consulting with senior management and giving advice and presentation. If you have never worked in a “third party” consulting or auditor role, you might wish to seek this out for your next position.

Internal Promotions

Another thing to remember about moving up in your corporate accounting career is that many promotions happen from within the company. Experience in the field is very important for any kind of career, so stay with your current accounting job while you keep your eyes open for better positions. Even if you have an entry level accounting job, you can get promoted if you consistently over perform and pay attention to new positions opening up in the accounting department. Even if you only make a lateral move, your new position can keep you fresh and give you experience in a different type of accounting.

The typical career path for a corporate accountant begins with becoming a senior accountant who supervises accounting clerks in a department. The next step on the corporate accounting ladder is the position of internal auditor. Internal auditors control and test the accounting information systems within a specific corporate area such as budgets or financial accounting. From there, an internal auditor can become an internal audit manager or an accounting manager who perform internal audits of all the accounting information systems within a company. After gaining experience as an accounting manager or internal audit manager, you can get promoted to controller and then CFO. While it may seem like a long career path, you can get there with hard work and dedication to your career.

By Marie Larsen