Not-for-Profit Accountant: Job Description & Career Requirements

Discover what type of work a not for profit accountant performs. Learn about education and skills necessary in addition to salary and employment outlook to decide if this is the right career choice.

Career Definition for a Not-for-Profit Accountant

Not-for-profit accountants participate in responsible financial management of nonprofit organizations according to specialized financial rules that pertain to nonprofit organizations exclusively. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most advocacy, grant-making and civic organizations, under which most nonprofits fall, are small organizations with less than two dozen employees. Not-for-profit accountants work with donors, vendors, agency staff, management and board members. Their responsibilities include monthly reconciliations like accounts payable and receivable, bank and investment accounts and expense accounts. They also oversee incoming donations, asset management and depreciation, grant management and reporting tasks. Not-for-profit accountants may participate in development of financial policies and controls.

Education Bachelor's degree in accounting or finance
Job Skills Attention to detail, communication, record keeping
Median Salary (2015)* $67,190 for accountants and auditors
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% for accountants and auditors

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Not-for-profit accountants hold a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. Some nonprofit accounting jobs require CMA (Certified Management Accountant) or CPA (Certified Public Accountant) credentials, plus several years of related experience or a master's degree. Not-for-profit accountants may earn Certified Nonprofit Accounting Professional credentials through the Not-for-Profit Services Association. Not-for-profit accountants must study financial management and reporting, internal controls, IRS rules and regulations for nonprofit organizations, fiscal systems, budgeting and how to use accounting software.

Skills Required

Not-for-profit accountants must demonstrate attention to detail and good record-keeping skills to meet state and federal tax and nonprofit regulations. Not-for-profit accountants also need outstanding communication skills for working with front-line staff, management and board members, plus vendors, community donors and others.

Career and Economic Outlook

Accounting and auditing employment is predicted to grow 11% for the decade 2014-2024, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported in May 2015 that accountants and auditors made a median annual wage of $67,190.

Alternative Careers

Listed below are a couple of other options for careers in finance:

Budget Analyst

For those interested in creating the budget for an organization and making sure expenditures fit within the spending boundaries set, consider becoming a budget analyst. These professionals collaborate with management to come up with reasonable financial plans, approve and track spending, anticipate future financial needs, search for ways to make money go further and create detailed reports. A bachelor's degree in a field such as finance, accounting, statistics or public administration is necessary to work in this profession, but some private-sector employers will require a master's degree. The BLS projects a 3% increase in the number of job opportunities for budget analysts between 2014 and 2024. In 2014, close to 61,000 budget analysts worked in the U.S.; their median wages in 2015 were $71,590, according to the BLS.

Accounting Clerk

If working in the accounting field is desired but accountant education requirements seem daunting, becoming an accounting clerk may be a better career move. Accounting clerks record the details of deposits and spending transactions, review numbers for accuracy, file receipts and reports, make sure bills are paid, watch activities in banking accounts and prepare checks for deposit. Because much training occurs on the job, accounting clerks only need a high school diploma to qualify for employment. Employment for all accounting, bookkeeping and auditing clerks is expected to shrink by 8% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS, and the 2015 median salary for these clerks was estimated to be $37,250.

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