Successful accounting and finance firms offer a mix of services including audit and assurance, tax planning and risk consulting. Regardless of the exact combination of services, most firms utilize a similar billing structure and organizational chart. The size of the firm may affect the type of duties performed in each role. For example, an associate at a large firm may only work on certain parts of an audit, whereas at a small firm an associate may complete an audit start to finish.

Entry Level Associates

Entry level accounting and finance associates often join a firm after obtaining a Bachelors or Masters degree. Typical titles include risk associate, audit assistant or tax associate. The associates perform most of the detailed work on audits and tax returns. Auditors spend time at client sites, document findings and assist with audit work papers. Tax staff prepare tax returns and research basic tax issues. Risk associates evaluate the client internal controls and information systems.

Senior Associate

After three or four years of experience, many associates advance to a mid level position of senior associate. Senior auditors assign tasks to junior audit staff and prepare the client financial statements. Mid level risk consultants have a similar role, but with a focus on information systems rather than financial information. Tax seniors dig deeper into tax planning and potential tax savings for their client.

Senior Managers

Individuals with six or more years of experience usually hold a senior manager position. Managers direct their respective teams and serve as the main liaison to their clients. At this level, audit managers work on the more complex parts of client financial statements and ensure proper footnote disclosures are in place. Tax managers work on more unusual tax issues and approve the corporate tax return. Consulting managers conduct more complex analysis of projects and departments and ensure all necessary controls are in place.


Partner is the highest and most coveted position in an accounting and finance firm. Partners typically buy equity in the company and receive a lucrative share of profits. However, only a minuscule percentage of individuals that enter a firm reach this level and make strategic decisions regarding the direction of the firm.