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A Beginners Guide to Starting a Successful Revenue Accounting Career

June 18, 2024
“revenue

A revenue accountant’s median salary was $78,000 in 2022. That’s not too shabby. But if you’re ambitious, not just about the money but also about leading your company’s finance function, we hear ya!

We’re transcending into a work ecosystem where data is on the cloud and mundane tasks are automated. The reason? Automating repetitive tasks gives people more time to focus on more strategic tasks. For revenue accountants, this means using revenue recognition software to automate day-to-day tasks so they can focus more on strategic revenue-related analysis and growing their career.

In this guide, we discuss how to start your accounting career, the typical career path to becoming a CFO, and ways to propel your revenue accounting career forward.

What is Revenue Accounting?

Revenue accounting is the process of recording, analyzing, and reporting revenue transactions in compliance with the applicable accounting standards. The process includes recording revenue transactions into your books, raising invoices, and recording, tracking, and reconciling accounts receivable.

As per accounting rules, such as ASC 606, you can only record revenue when specific conditions are met. These conditions differ based on the accounting standards applicable to you. This is why you need a revenue accountant—someone who understands these specific conditions and has adequate accounting knowledge can pursue revenue accounting as a career.

The Difference Between Finance and Accounting

Accounting involves recording transactions, preparing financial statements, providing accurate financial information, and ensuring regulatory compliance. On the other hand, finance is about maximizing shareholder value, making informed investment and funding decisions, managing risks, and optimizing financial performance based on the reports from the accounting team

Accounting:

  • Maintains records for audits
  • Records all financial transactions
  • Ensure compliance with tax and accounting rules
  • Focuses on historical financial data
  • Tracks income, expenses, and assets
  • Reports on financial results to stakeholders
  • Prepares financial reports like balance sheets

Finance:

  • Evaluates investment opportunities
  • Creates budgets and financial plans
  • Collaborates with other departments
  • Provides insights for decision-making
  • Tells financial stories backed by data
  • Forecasts future financial performance
  • Aims to improve financial performance
  • Analyzes trends and data to make predictions

Certifications to Become a Revenue Accountant, but Not Required

You don’t need a specific certification to become a revenue accountant. However, you do need accounting—specifically revenue recognition—knowledge. That’s why the following certifications can be your key to a successful career in revenue accounting:

  • CPA (Certified Public Accountant): CPA is the most recognized accounting certification in the U.S. If you have a bachelor’s degree with specific coursework, you can pursue the CPA certification. While CPA is not necessary for a career in revenue accounting, it’s a great value add.
  • CMA (Certified Management Accountant): CMA focuses on management accounting and financial management skills. Remember that a bachelor’s degree and two years of relevant experience are required to complete the CMA certification. You also need to take continued education lessons to maintain the certification. The CMA coursework gives you all the knowledge you need to start your revenue accounting career.
  • Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA): CGMA is a global management accounting certification offered jointly by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). The coursework focuses on strategic management accounting and financial reporting and analysis.

What Do Revenue Accountants Do?

Revenue accountants are responsible for recognizing revenue according to applicable accounting standards. A revenue accountant’s top priorities include compliance with ASC 606 or IFRS 15 and GAAP, revenue reporting, and auditability of revenue records.

A revenue accountant is also responsible for other day-to-day revenue-related tasks, such as:

  • Managing contracts and contract changes
  • Managing revenue schedules
  • Reconciliation of accounts receivable and revenue accounts
  • Revenue reporting and analysis
  • Implementation of internal controls related to revenue accounting

A Revenue Accountant Tech Stack

Here are a revenue accountant’s most indispensable tools:

  • Excel spreadsheets: Accountants use spreadsheets for a wide range of their day-to-day responsibilities. For example, they use it to track variances in revenue, forecast revenue, find patterns and anomalies in revenue data, and maintain schedules to track fulfillment of performance obligations.

  • Contract management: Revenue accountants use contract management software to create a centralized repository of contracts, standardize contract language and terms, and create an audit trail.

  • Revenue Recognition Software: Revenue recognition software is a revenue accountant’s assistant—it takes care of all your mundane tasks, such as automatically recognizing revenue in compliance with ASC 606 or IFRS 15, allocating standalone selling prices, and managing variable considerations. Top revenue automation software like RightRev can entirely replace Excel spreadsheets. In fact, it can streamline the quote-to-revenue process, minimize errors, and reduce audit costs.

  • ERP: ERP integrates various business processes, including accounting, finance, and human resources. It provides a centralized platform where you can manage financial data and operations, both of which are crucial for revenue recognition and reporting. A company’s general ledger typically lives with an ERP system.

Typical Career Path

Here’s the typical career path in revenue accounting for those hoping to earn their seat in the “C suite”:

Revenue Accountant > Director of Revenue > Controller > CFO

Revenue Accountant

Becoming a revenue accountant is your first step to a career in revenue accounting. While working as a revenue accountant, you’ll gain hands-on experience in revenue recognition and applying relevant accounting standards. The next step in your revenue accounting career could be becoming a revenue accounting manager—the person who manages revenue accountants.

Director of Revenue

As a director, you’ll lead the revenue accounting function, oversee the implementation of revenue accounting standards, manage audits, and advise on complex revenue transactions and strategic initiatives. As the leader of revenue accounting, you’ll gain valuable skills, such as executive leadership, strategic decision-making, and the ability to manage large-scale projects and audits.

Controller

If your skills and knowledge extend beyond revenue accounting to areas like financial reporting, compliance with accounting standards, and internal controls, you may be promoted to Controller. As a controller, you’ll lead the accounting department and acquire leadership, strategic planning, and communication skills as you deal with key managerial personnel and other stakeholders.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

CFO is the most desired position for most people working in accounting and finance. If your performance as a Controller is excellent, the board may decide to promote you to CFO. As a CFO, you’ll lead the entire finance function, including accounting, treasury, and investor relations. You’ll play a key role in the company’s financial strategy and ensuring overall financial health. As a CFO, you’ll develop skills like executive leadership, broad financial expertise, and strategic planning.

How Revenue Accountants Can Advance Their Career

To advance your career as a revenue accountant, you must:

  1. Develop the Right Skills

Early in your career, you will develop the technical skills you need to do accounting, but you must also develop analytical and communication skills. Being able to translate complex financial data into narratives and a story that can be easily understood will set you up for the next step in your career.

This ability to tell the story behind the numbers will help others understand the financial health and direction of the business, and make it easier for them to act on your recommendations.

By combining technical proficiency with strong analytical and communication skills, you’ll be well-equipped to move beyond the basics of accounting and take on more strategic roles. This combination will set you up for success in higher-level positions, such as financial analyst, controller, or CFO, where you will be expected to provide strategic insights and guide decision-making processes. 

  1. Discover Tools to Streamline Your Accounting Process

You must also develop proficiency in accounting software and ERP systems. Leaning into software solutions that automate revenue recognition and other day-to-day tasks gives you the freedom and time to focus on developing those other skills. Think about the time you’ll save by automating tasks you spend hours on as a revenue accountant—such as allocating prices based on performance obligations—and the amount of time you’ll save by automating them.

Here’s what a revenue automation solution like RightRev can do for you:

Automate processes based on revenue rules: You can configure revenue rules for traditional and modern revenue models in RightRev. This enables RightRev to identify performance obligations in contracts and apply the relevant revenue treatment for each performance obligation.

Contract modifications: RightRev allows you to make contract amendments and reallocate revenue without manual effort.

See how Contract Modifications work

Create journal entries: RightRev creates journal entries that can be sent to your GL based on your preferred frequency.

Revenue reporting: RightRev offers out-of-the-box dashboards and hundreds of revenue metrics to enable ad-hoc reporting. You also get revenue waterfall reports that provide visibility for planned and recognized revenue.

Additionally, many accountants have been able to turn their accounting expertise into working for consulting partners or being a subject matter expert at an accounting software company.

  1. Become a Partner

Automating day-to-day tasks using revenue automation software allows revenue accountants to spend more time becoming better partners to their colleagues.

For example, revenue accountants can partner with the members of the FP&A team and offer them insights into revenue trends, forecasting, and budgeting. Similarly, partnering with members in sales, billing, and finance and better understanding how you can help the company’s overall goals can make you a valuable asset to the company.

  1. Network

Networking with professionals who work in revenue accounting is a great way to put yourself out there and stay on people’s radar for any opportunities. To build a professional network:

Propel Your Career Forward by Learning Automation

If you’ve already started your revenue accounting career and you spend your entire day manually recognizing revenue and making changes to reflect contract modifications, you won’t have enough time to focus on developing the skills needed to take your career up a notch.

Use RightRev to automate your revenue recognition processes. RightRev’s comprehensive feature set helps you automate the most complex contracts, modifications, and variable considerations. With RightRev taking care of repetitive tasks, you’ll have more time to focus on developing your career—building a network, getting certified, or learning how to communicate with stakeholders. Request a demo today to learn more about how RightRev can help.

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AUTHOR

Alissa Camarillo

Director of Marketing, RightRev

Alissa is a SaaS marketer who leads RightRev’s marketing efforts by sharing the company’s voice and highlighting the potential that accounting teams can achieve through process automation and technology.

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