Over the past decade in domestic E&P there’s no combination of skillsets that have been as consistently high in demand and low in supply than the Accounting and Finance disciplines. Year in and year out, the call for experienced upstream oil & gas financial and accounting professionals has been steady and sometimes downright frenetic. 

In upstream accounting the demand for an accountant who can work in operations, revenue and joint interest billing far outstrips the number of professionals in industry. The problem is not going away, as there’s an aging population of experienced talent, and the nationwide dearth of accounting professionals and CPA’s is exacerbated when looking at the oil & gas industry. 

Most small operators supplement their in-house staff with an outside CPA firm with expertise in upstream oil & gas accounting, but even that solution is fraught with issues, as the CPA firm is often overloaded with work and has their own staffing issues around finding experienced talent. 

Financial Analysts are somewhat easier to locate and hire, as there are more young professionals building a skillset in upstream financial analysis. That said, an operator seeking to hire a 2-8 year experienced financial analyst with in-house E&P experience will find a low quantity of solid candidates and surprised by base salary and bonus expectations. 

Let’s break out the skill sets we’re discussing: 

Staff Accountant: Upstream oil & gas accountants cover a wide range of functions including JIB (Joint Interest Billing), Revenue, Operations, Property, Tax, and AR (Accounts Receivable) /AP (Accounts Payable). Depending on the size of the company, a Staff Accountant will be specialized in just one of these disciplines, or in smaller E&P firms, you’ll see an accountant cover all facets of the company’s oil & gas accounting needs. 

A JIB Accountant will typically review, code, and process JIBs. This includes verifying coding is accurate and all costs being billed are allowable per joint operating agreements (JOAs), disputing items that are not allowable, making inquiries for any inaccuracies, and identifying and communicating any Working Interest discrepancies. Other responsibilities include maintaining monthly allocations within firm’s chosen accounting software (Quorum, Excalibur, Wolfepak Enertia), tracking prepayments/cash calls made to and received from non-operators and applying prepayments to appropriate JIBs.

A Revenue Accountant will record revenue related transactions for monthly financials reporting, prepare oil and gas sales to process revenue through the company’s accounting software system, as well preparing ONRR (Office of Natural Resource Royalty) reports. The Revenue Accountant will perform account reconciliations for revenue, royalty, and tax accounts, will complete revenue general ledger account reconciliations and journal entries and will book non-operated revenue sales information. There’s also extensive interface with the Land Department to ensure accurate recording of properties and related components. 

Production Accounting is often a blend of accounting, regulatory, data analysis and reporting of revenues and royalties. Production accountants receive information from the field, land administrators, joint venture analysts, marketing and financial departments in order to perform monthly entry, analysis and reporting requirements of their role. Production Accountants work with volumes of oil, gas and water produced from the wells, inventory at facilities and distribution from the facility including revenue, division of ownership and royalties. The information the Production Accountant produces is critical to company operations, management and financial reporting. It is the juncture where operational data is translated into financial bookings. 

A Property Accountant handles accounting for a specified set of oil & gas properties, including all details involving royalties, allocation and taxes. Performing accounting reconciliations, monthly revenue allocations, and resolving production discrepancies all fall under the Production Accountant. Also, many Property Accountants conduct reporting and analysis of capital, LOE (Lease Operating Expenses), and other month-end/year-end processes. 

The title of Accounting Manager is typically granted to an experienced accountant in any of the disciplines just outlined. The title change often accompanies the addition of supervisory responsibilities, although perhaps not in a direct-reporting relationship with more junior accountants. You can also think of the Accounting Manager as a Senior Accountant, but with an additional emphasis on mentoring. 

The Controller is responsible for working in all oil & gas accounting disciplines and also will manage the work of others. Importantly, the Controller will oversee and manage the annual audit process with external auditors, and will collaborate with executive leadership to analyze, implement change and continually improve the operations of the accounting team.

Controllers must collaborate and build a strong internal working relationship with operational leadership and across the company’s technical teams. Typically reporting to a VP of Accounting, or in smaller companies, the CFO, the Controller is the most senior hands-on accountant in the firm, and often holds a CPA. 

Holding an undergrad degree in Finance or Economics, the Financial Analyst works adjacent to the accounting group, but functions very differently – and don’t ask them for tax advice, as they’re typically not skilled in accounting functions. The Financial Analyst prepares financial reports, budgets, analysis, and market research. They prepare periodic reports and analysis on production, LOE, and capital expenditures, identifying and explaining variances to company leadership. A solid Analyst will provide recommendations for improvement based on data and trend assessments, will assists the Asset Teams with AFE maintenance, deliver calculations of monthly accruals, and often are responsible for compiling and submitting cost estimates by project AFE. 

As for Compensation, we did not receive an adequate number of responses from Staff Accountants, Accounting Managers, Controllers and Financial Analysts to illustrate detailed Base Salary and Cash Bonus data. However, there was enough participation to create “Salary Bands” for these four skillsets. The illustration is below, and the data, mirrors what our recruiters see in the domestic marketplace, meaning we have strong confidence in these numbers. 

Base Salary Expectations for Years of Experience: 

1-4 yrs 5-10 yrs 11-20 yrs 21+yrs
Staff Accountant $70-$80k $90-$132k $105-$138k $130-$140k
Acct Manager N/A $155-$140k $130-$155k $135-$165k
Controller N/A $135-$165k $150-$195k $155-$210k
Financial Analyst $75-$110k $105-$145k $130-$180k $155-$200k